Think about all the times you’ve stayed at a hotel. What you are probably thinking of are the experiences and memorable moments, not the room, the bed, or the food. Researchers have observed a phenomenon over the last decades which shows a shift of interest from the product to the experience.
A home away from home
Have you ever asked yourself why hotels are always one of your first concerns when planning a vacation? Of course part of the reason is that you need a bed to sleep in, but what you really are looking for is a home away from home for those days. Hotels that only focus on the products just don’t make the cut for travellers. Hotels don’t need to be regarded as a supporting function of a trip anymore. Instead, they have to contribute to what makes a trip special and unique.
A personal touch
The key term which you have to focus on is personalization. What you need to keep in mind as a business in the service industry, is that, just like each guest has different needs, everyone has different preferences. That means that surprises or treats loved by one person might not be appreciated by another.
Now, you may ask yourself: how do I make sure to provide my guests with an experience?
We have some tips which will make your guests remember their stay for a lifetime. These tips are easy to implement for hotels of all sizes and categories and can be applied even if your hotel does not have the experience mindset yet.
When making a reservation, whether it be for a room or a table, you should always ask whether the guests are celebrating a special occasion at your property and write it down in the guestfolio. Depending on what is being celebrated, you can prepare suitable decorations or presents. An engagement or a honeymoon can be the right occasion to place flowers and a complimentary bottle of champagne in the room, a birthday for cake or balloons. By doing this your business immediately becomes part of the guest’s special day and, when they think back to that occasion, they will immediately connect your property with fond recollections.
Preparation is key
To always be ready for such occasions your business should always keep colourful balloons, champagne bottles, extra desserts, birthday candles and sparklers in stock. It is handy to have a dedicated section in the storage for special occasions. For further organizational reasons, the décor and supplies should be kept divided by occasions, so that every employee responsible for the set-up, knows exactly what is to be put in the room. Balloons, candles and sparklers can be bought in large quantities on Amazon so as to always have them readily available. Champagne can be ordered together with your regular beverage order from your usual supplier and chosen depending on your budget. Whether it is served in a restaurant or sent to the room, if you choose to give dessert, such as a slice of cake, make sure to always have extras in the kitchen, which are not needed for sales.
Surprises set up in the room, are very simple to organize. As soon as your organization becomes aware of a special occasion, it is to be written down in the note section of the guestfolio. A useful format is Occasion, date. Instruct the housekeeping staff, responsible to set up the decorations, to always check that section and decorate the room accordingly.
Presents and activities for children
Your organization will know beforehand, based on the guestfolio, how many children will be arriving for each reservation, giving you time to prepare something special for them. If the children are happy, so are the parents, so you need to have something planned to make their stay special. Everyone has been either in a restaurant or a hotel lobby with tired children screaming, crying, or just, generally, being very wound up. Nobody benefits from these situations: the parents get stressed, other guests get annoyed and the company ends up with unhappy guests. Therefore, by keeping the kids entertained you can improve everyone’s experience.
You can for example provide them with activity sheets, crayons, and drawings. They can be placed as a welcome package in the room, handed at the beginning of the check-in, or upon their arrival at the bar or restaurant, to make sure they are immediately entertained. There are many websites where you can download and print fun activities for all ages for free in English or in Dutch. Furthermore, as a present, you can place toys on their bed before arrival, such as a teddy bear. What cannot miss in any family-friendly hotel are amenities for kids, such as small bathrobes and slippers or toothpaste and toothbrushes for kids. These can be provided by your usual amenities provider and can thus be kept in line with your other amenities.
Calling guests by their last name
Up until this point, you might have the impression that you can only create an experience by giving things away for free or planning big gestures, but that is not the case at all. The secret lies in the tiny details. A simple gesture such as having the staff call the guests by their last name can have a big impact. By not just being approached with a Sir/Ma’am, the guest feels like they are actually valued, not just another guest among many.
All requests which guests have should be noted down in the guestfolio, also in the note section. For example, if a guest asks for additional pillows, it can be noted down, and the next time they visit the hotel, the room will already be equipped with more pillows. Gestures like these will make them want to come back over and over again because they know that they are treated with special regard and everything they need will already be available.
This also applies to other aspects. Imagine staying in a hotel for a week. On the first morning, at breakfast, you order your daily cappuccino. Every morning for the rest of your stay, as soon as you sit down you get your cappuccino without even asking for it. Also housekeeping can participate in this personalization by paying attention to details. If you have a selection of five different tea flavours in your room, but only drink the Earl Grey tea, you will surely be pleasantly surprised when you find extra Earl Grey tea bags, left by housekeeping.
You might be worried about how you can implement this new experience-oriented mindset in your team. The best example can be taken from Ritz Carlton, known for its culture built all around service. The Ritz Carlton believes that its staff can only treat the guests exceptionally well if they are also highly valued. Therefore, through actions and statements, such as their motto: “Ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen”, they place the team on the same level as the guests, demonstrating to them how fundamental they are in the company. Knowing they are appreciated, motivates them to treat not only their co-workers, but also the guests, exactly like they would like to be treated, creating an ambiance all around the best service.
Lastly, Ritz Carlton has a unique set of values, which every employee is taught through training and expected to fully live up to. By teaching values, instead of living by strict SOPs, employees will know how to act in every situation and will think of creative and unique, non-standardized ways to wow their guests. An example of this way of thinking is the stuffed giraffe which was forgotten at a Ritz Carlton in Florida and returned with a photo album of the giraffe’s adventures and a letter thanking the child for leaving it to help them in busy times.
For tips on how to motivate and reward your team to be customer-centric read these articles: 6 best ways to reward your customer service team and Rewards and recognition ideas for customer service.
Practice makes perfect
To cover the theoretical aspect, LinkedIn learning offers a great variety of e-courses on how to improve all soft skills necessary to work in the service industry. The courses are not free, however very beneficial, as they can be done by every employee individually, without needing someone to lead the training and having to free everyone from work to attend trainings at the same time. However, as what is expected from the staff here are soft skills, it is important for all apprentices to be able to practice.
To get a simulation of real-life experiences, a good way to train is by doing role plays of unique situations and letting the employees handle them, in combination with the theoretical approach. For each topic, research what situations are common and elaborate scenarios based on that. One of the most important and challenging topics is complaint handling. Many articles can be found about the most common complaints. A popular complaint in hotels is a dirty room. Based on that you can make up an exercise where one employee plays the guest who complains about the bedsheets being stained and the other needs to deal with the complaint, while fully representing your business’ values.
“Many grand gestures can be made and will surely make for an incredible experience, but coming up with many small gestures, individually thought of for every single guest, like the aforementioned, are what really make the stay special, and most importantly, personalized.”
Auteur: Ruby Danon