Guest Service and Customer Perception

By Lily Mockerman Founder, Total Customized Revenue Management | October 22, 2017

When beginning the search for a room, guests already have certain ideas of the class of hotel they’ll consider, amenities that they expect, and the price they’re willing to pay. They also have an idea of how the room will be used, special considerations they will require, and how they want the experience to play out. Hoteliers need to be able to anticipate these guest expectations, even though the value perception for one guest is totally different than another, to be able to not only meet them but exceed them, and to align prices with the potential guest’s budget.

As in so many industries, hoteliers must remain cognizant of the often-dramatic changes in customers’ desires. Some of the major, recent shifts are the need for flexibility, knowing how technology can draw a guest, and replacing outdated amenities with local experiences. Let’s explore what some of these trends look like in today’s world.

Today’s guest wants flexible check-in and check-out, guestroom furnishings which can be adjusted to the guest’s reason for travel, and food and beverage options. I foresee this customer expectation of flexibility as changing a hotel day from the standard 3 p.m. to noon the next day, to booking by period – 24 hours, 12 hours, etc. The guest room landscape will also change to having flexible seating and flexible flat surfaces (tables/desks/shelving). Customer expectations have already changed the food and beverage area, resulting in options for lobby food and beverage service, grab-and-go offerings, and flexible hours of operation.

The luxury chains will be the first to adopt many of these expectations. Luxury properties must adjust to keep the top-paying guests satisfied, which then filters down through the scales as luxury sets the pace for emerging guest trends. As changes are adopted by upper or midscale classes, the change ripples both upward and downward as other chains rush to keep up.

In addition to flexibility, continuously updating technology is essential. In one survey, 65% of U.S. hotel guests felt that technology was key to their experience. When accustomed to being able to click through their day at work and at home, guests may not be willing to have to navigate their stay in a “pencil and paper” manner. Of course, free Wi-Fi is a given, but wider range access points and upgraded upload/download speeds are becoming the norm. In fact, Wi-Fi is such a basic expectation these days that perhaps some of the guests surveyed had not even considered it when contemplating “technology,” leading to what would seem to be a low 65% rating. Today’s traveler carries, on average, three to five devices, so the strength and bandwidth of the internet connection becomes essential.

For example, I was traveling for a conference and stayed with a major brand hotel. Unfortunately, they were having issues with their Wi-Fi, which brought my work, involving webinars and VOIP conference calling, to a standstill. I was forced to cancel the remainder of my reservation and pay more for another hotel in a heavily compressed city, simply to have access to these basic technological needs.

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Coming up in August 2018...

Food & Beverage: Millennials Rule

The Millennial Generation has surpassed the Baby Boomers to become the largest living generation in America, and their tastes and preferences are being reflected in the Food & Beverage industry. In general, Millennials insist on more natural, healthier, less-processed food and beverage sources, and in part, this inspired the farm-to-table movement. However, now the trend is becoming even more pronounced and hyper-local. Millennials no longer simply want to know their food is farm-to-table, they want to know which farm, and where it's located relative to the community. As a result, hotel F&B directors are redesigning entire menus to feature area brewers, wineries, and family farms. Not only is this a proven way to satisfy Millennial tastes but it also opens the door for hotel guests to enjoy immersive experiences such as tours and excursions to local farms and breweries. Also, thanks in no small part to Millennials, coffee consumption is at an all-time high. In response, F&B directors are creating innovative ways to enhance the coffee experience for guests. Nitro-brewed coffee, cold brew, lattes on draft, and the introduction of unique milk options are part of this trend, as are locally sourced coffee beans where available. Millennial influences can also be found in the Craft and Artisan Cocktail movement where the same preferences for locally sourced and high-quality ingredients apply. One leading hotel even offers a drink menu featuring liquors infused with herbs recommended by experts for their health and well-being benefits. The August issue of the Hotel Business Review will document the trends and challenges in the food and beverage sector, and report on what some leading hotels are doing to enhance this area of their business.