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The Devil Is In The Details: A Strong Guest Focus Equals Profit
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At last it’s time for cooler weather and the hustle of what for many is budget season. This is an important time as a General Manager to take a step back before another year gets underway, to take time with your executive team to reflect on what it takes to not only capture new business but retain existing business. What is the elusive “it” factor that makes boutique and independent hotels stand out above the chain affiliates? Top hotel management firms may suggest costly ways in which this can be done, but what guests want is nothing more than to be cared for as a person and enjoy a genuine experience.
We are sensorial beings and our experience is dependent upon each individual’s perception. Translated, this means everything our guests hear, see, smell, touché and taste creates an opinion which leaves an impression. A guest experience can be ruined if, despite all else being perfect, they encounter a foul odor, rough towels, a bad meal or a disrespectful employee. An untold number of details can go wrong and lead to a negative experience, but as an independent or boutique hotel, this is where we can rise head and shoulders above our branded and chain competitors.
Take time to think about “the details” within your property that could make or break critical elements at each point of guest contact… or when there is no contact at all. The touch points are obvious; just walk through your pre-arrival to post departure process from end to end, beginning with the energy of your sales teams in the field and reservation agents on the phone, a smile and acknowledgement upon encounter, attention, service, creativity and quality of food and beverage provided in restaurants and bars, by housekeeping and by your staff at meetings and special events. Similarly, time spent in preparation before and after guest encounters set the stage for positive lasting impressions.
Standard operating procedures and established processes are critical to the smooth operation of a hotel. But as hoteliers we can’t become robotic and desensitized. We must do more. We must take a genuine interest in the welfare, comfort and enjoyment of our guests and truly think about their needs and wants in order to consistently improve in a meaningful way. An effective way to condition yourself this way is for department heads and their teams to conduct a sensory audit.
These sensory perceptions are important and too often overlooked. Aristotle (384 BC - 322 BC) is credited with first classifying the five senses that has developed into a science in virtually every other industry. These sensorial experiences can be discovered within each department of your property and can completely transform a guest experience and their perception of your hotel.
As an example, let’s look at event catering; prior to the arrival of the first guest, the food presentation has to be beautiful (sight); there should be a hint of the evening’s cuisine in the air (smell); the food should of course be delicious (taste); music should be appropriate to the event (sound) and the china, glass, silver and linens should have a nice feel (touch). If one piece is off, it can completely diminish the others.
How does this translate in a department that is not necessarily seen? A reservation at a hotel can be made a number of ways: online, over the phone directly to the hotel, through a travel agent, wholesaler or another provider. All of these are all important avenues to make a reservation and each will reflect on your property. How can they be improved?
Sight, make sure your website booking widget, collateral and any other forms of visual representation reflect your property well
Sound, when the connection is made with an agent, all sounds should be clean and clear
Touch, Are your guests “touched” by name on arrival or elsewhere during their stay?
Post-visit contact should be considered just as important as the arrival and stay experience. Studies have shown that the initial cost to acquire a guest is more than the cost to retain them. Technology has greatly improved our ability to keep in touch and communication can arrive in their email inbox right after check out. Add a personal thank you email from the property’s General Manager, (not the hotel management firm), with a request that they complete a short post-visit evaluation and maybe an incentive to rebook directly. When it is time for their return trip, the cycle kicks in for: pre-arrival correspondence, stay and departure, and post trip follow-up. If the cycle is maintained this will go on for many years to come.
Combining the desires of your guests with your hotels’ resolute attention to details will make guests want to return to your hotel where they know you have what they are looking for and TRUST you will take good care of them during their visit.
Patrick Goddard is the COO of Trust Hospitality (TH), operator and investor in hotel assets throughout the USA, Caribbean, Latin America and Europe. A top hotel management firm, TH’s administers over a half-a-billion dollars in hospitality real estate worldwide.
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