Know Your Guests: Respect and Reward Them

Guest satisfaction begins with a complete understanding of your guest. This not only includes their needs, wants and expectations, but also who they are, where they hang out, what appeals to them, etc. If you don’t know your customers, then how can you consistently meet their needs?

How often do you dig into your property management system or loyalty program data to look at your guest demographics?  Are most of your guest reservations single occupancy, couples or families?  Do you know if they’re traveling on business or pleasure?  Is the mix different on weekdays versus weekends?  Where are the reservations coming from? If mostly OTAs, which ones?  What kind of cars do they drive? What type of foods sell best in your restaurant?

The more you know about your ideal customer, the more you can address their needs. And, if you know what they like, you can find where they hang out (online) … and then you can advertise to them. For example, if you know that your guests are generally health conscious, then it would make sense to offer healthy food options, a fitness room, or maps for walking or jogging.  Similarly, you could attract new customers by advertising your hotel’s unique amenities on health blogs or communities.

Looking at your internal data is a good start, but that’s only the beginning. You still need feedback from your guests.

One easy way to get to know your guests is to talk with them. While this may seem obvious, it happens less than you might think. Consider building smart questions into your customer service training. For example, when your guest checks in, you might ask them if this is their first visit to the hotel. Why? A first time guest may need more information than a repeat guest. A new customer may want to know the hours of the restaurant, where the fitness room is, etc. Conversely, sparing your repeat guest the usual litany of hotel info is respecting their time.

Consider having your General Manager in the lobby during peak times to personally interact with your guests. Imagine how important your guest will feel if your GM is handing out fresh baked cookies, shaking hands and asking questions. This isn’t just about perception, either. A well trained manager might learn of an issue and solve it BEFORE the guest goes home and posts a negative review.

Surveys are another great way to get valuable feedback. You can, and should, survey your guests on a regular basis, both during and after their stay. Take some time to craft questions that will provide the insights you desire. The merit of a question is ultimately how it will be used and what level of insights it will provide. For example, asking a guest to rate the functionality of the room, rather than the decor, offers a different insight. Questions with numeric ratings are quick for the guest, but then there’s the question of what those values really mean. Open ended questions can allow for greater insights, but too many may be a turnoff for your guest.

Encourage and embrace customer feedback. Listen to them and make adjustments in training as needed. Customer feedback is a gift – even when it’s negative. Think about it. If a guest complains about their experience, they may be exposing an issue in your product or service. If you don’t know about a problem, how can you fix it?  Whether it’s an isolated issue with one guest, or a systemic issue that could affect many, you’re better off knowing about it.

Make calls to the guest room to check on them. Many hotels call the room only minutes after the guest checks in, but is that the right time? A call later in the day, or on the second night, might provide a greater insight into how you’re doing. Better to uncover an issue during the stay so you can resolve it, then afterward when it’s too late.

Monitor social networks and listen to what your customers are saying, both about your property, and in general. Pose questions to your guests on social networks. Considering an upgrade to your TVs? You might ask your guests if they’d prefer TVs that enable them to stream their own content versus more channels on cable.

The OTAs are a distribution source, but these are your customers. Build systems into your process to encourage feedback and build loyalty. Offer pre-printed cards for customers to complete to make feedback quick and easy.

In the end, the more you know about your guests, the better you can serve them. Stop guessing.  Analyze your data and use that information to pose questions to your guests.  Talk with your customers, embrace their feedback, and make adjustments as needed. Build in systems and processes that provide meaningful touchpoints, encourage feedback, and build loyalty.

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