How High-maintenance Guests Become Repeat Customers

By Rita Anya Nara Author, The Anxious Traveler | March 02, 2014

In working with travelers who have emotional health problems, I've connected with a number of people who I can only describe as high-maintenance. This personality type feels their needs are more important than others, can't be easily pleased, expect perfection every time, and usually have expensive taste – even if they happen to be staying at a budget hotel. The high-maintenance personality can be disapproving, snobby, and unappreciative, with an infuriating sense of entitlement and oblivion to almost everything except their long list of "must-haves." While the majority of high-maintenance guests are women – and most of us can think of the last one that walked through the door in a pink blaze of problems and perfume – there are plenty of high-maintenance drama kings out there who exhaust every possible convenience you offer within 24 hours of check-in in (plus a few things you wouldn't ask of your best friend, much less your host).

So, why should you bother even trying to pursue this subsector of clientele? For one thing, they usually like to travel, so you're going to keep running into them. Second, they're an available market, if you will; plenty of hotels and individuals just aren't going to put the effort into wanting them back. Finally, high-maintenance guests are usually at their worst the first time you host them, and their behavior becomes more tolerable once you (and they) know what to expect. If you're already expending the effort to make a high-maintenance guest happy the first time around, it makes sense to keep them as an investment.

First, here are some truths about high-maintenance guests...

They're looking for dependable and consistent service as much as the average guest. Think about what keeps your typical customer coming back: trust in your brand, prompt resolution of their concerns and problems, professionalism with a personal touch, and reliability. The high-maintenance guest is looking for more or less the same when deciding if your hotel can be their "home away from home." In fact, the predictability of your good service may be the only platform on which all their needs and wants can balance without toppling over.

They want to get to know you. Yes, high-maintenance people have an oft-deserved reputation for being self-obsessed, and selfish. They're also inquisitive by nature, and just because they're into airs doesn't mean they seek the same in others. For a personality type that values conquests and appearances so much, the high-maintenance person craves a personal connection more than you'd think – and more so than what we think of as "difficult people."

They often have a lot of influence. High-maintenance people like to announce to the world what kind of service they're provided. They don't necessarily have a lot of friends, but they usually have a lot of people who listen to them, either through their social circles, blog, or online hotel review sites.

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Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.