It's a hotel industry truism, nothing keeps guests coming back more than making them feel special. But what creates that feeling? It doesn't necessarily mean having a lavish, luxury, 5 star hotel, with a Michelin star restaurant and an Olympic sized swimming pool to boot. With just a few simple changes in your overall approach to customer service, you can let each guest know they are the main focus when staying with you. This in itself creates a warm, professional environment, both your guests and staff will love.
Whether you're a mom-and-pop-run bed and breakfast or a large luxury hotel, the following 5 habits will make each and every one of your guests feel special, valued and cared for.
1. Pay attention to the little things
It's the little things which make or break a hotel stay. The texture of your linens, the wattage of your light bulbs, the welcoming smile at reception. All these little details combine to create an overall experience that's either absolute harmony, or completely off-key.
It’s advisable to stay at your own hotel every now and again, and pay careful attention to the physical experience you have. Are your beds are comfortable? Are your standard number of pillows and towels enough for the average stay? Are your thermostats set at a comfortable temperature? Are your rooms spotless, clean-smelling, and well-lit? Is everything, from the room service guide to the remote, easy to find? If you can’t answer a resounding “Yes” to each of these questions, then you need to pay more attention to the little things.
Small conveniences matter. The easier and more comfortable those little things are, the fewer obstacles you've put between your guest and a good experience. All of this accumulates to your guest knowing that you care about their comfort and happiness.
2. Offer free amenities—but only ones that matter
A gift isn't quite a gift unless it's something your guests want or need. Which is why some free amenities are not only a waste of your money, but they may actually get in the way of an otherwise streamlined and enjoyable stay. Just because an amenity is free, doesn't mean it will make a guest feel special and cared for. On the other hand, providing something they want or need, such as the free straw hats and beach totes that Mexico's Capella Ixtapa provides, can make your entire guest experience shine.
Pick a few key amenities that see a lot of use, whether it's in-room WiFi, or an extra hearty breakfast buffet, and offer them free of charge. Whatever you choose, be sure not to skimp on the quality, free does not trump good, and your returning guests will notice the difference.
If you feel that offering a consistently used amenity for free will put you in financial trouble, it's better to raise your room rates by five or ten dollars a night, to cover your amenity cost, and be generous with the free WiFi or the high-end coffee at breakfast. Room rates rise all the time, and increasing them by as little as $5 in order to give away a truly needed amenity is absolutely worth it. Your guests will think so too.
3. Be a host, but also a guide
Visitors are curious, it's why they've visited a new town, city, or even country. In the hotel industry, we’ve long surpassed the point of offering guests a uniform, just-like-home experience. Today's travellers expect more. They are fascinated by authentic, local experiences, and they expect your staff to know the best things to see and do.
As Chris Christensen, the host of the Amateur Traveler Podcast says, "Think about what you would do if your best friend was staying with you, but you couldn’t get off work to take them around personally. Certainly you would want the food to be pleasant, the room to be clean, but beyond that you would want to show off your city.”
Go beyond the tourist brochures or standard attractions, and do some real research on what's good in your neighbourhood. Every city has some local gems that everyone should experience during their stay with you. Whether it's that hole-in-the-wall restaurant with the best dumplings in town, the street where all the up-and-coming art galleries are, that little square that all the best street artists and buskers play, knowing that your hotel is a fountain of local knowledge makes guests feel welcome and appreciative.
4. Be accessible to every kind of guest
You've built a guest experience that's welcoming, warm, and full of ideas to show off the best of what's around. But how does that experience change if your guest has a young family, if they are elderly, or is they have mobility issues?
We don't always design our guest experiences with retirees, families with children, guests with dietary restrictions or mobility issues in mind, but these are some of the most common travellers. Proactively adding allergy lists on room service menus, tourism options that include walk times or distances, a wheelchair-accessible taxi service, diaper-changing facilities, kid-friendly activities and attraction suggestions and multilingual staff, helps your guests know that they are valued and cared for, regardless of whether they fit a particular mold. It's these little considerations that can make sure a guest will tell everyone they know about the fantastic service you've delivered.
5. Listen, respond, and care
Making guests feel cared for and valued ultimately comes down to one thing; a responsive staff who listens to concerns and proactively makes things right.
As Alex Berger, owner at VirtualWayfarer.com says, "By focusing on not just being attentive and responsive, but pro-active, inclusive, engaging, and by offering simple utilitarian things free you build a lot of goodwill, which goes a long ways towards improving a person’s stay.”
Ultimately, hospitality is all about relationships. What makes guests feel special is the quality of the relationship you create with them, and whether they want to come back to see you. Your guests not only want to feel heard, but they also want to see something being done about what they have shared, and quickly. Guests are only with you for a short amount of time, so if they complain there’s no hot water in their shower, or that their toast arrived cold, then you need to act upon those comments at that exact moment, and strive to quickly resolve the problem.
Create a culture among your staff where being available to guests, taking personal responsibility for their positive experience, and showing sincere friendliness become automatic. When we treat our guests as valued, important people, they'll know they truly are.