We live in a world today of seemingly endless possibilities, one in which companies must relentlessly innovate to meet rapidly changing expectations. This is especially true in hospitality, where the bar is continually being raised for the guest experience. So, why is it that guest satisfaction increased by only 2 percent from 2015 to 2016? That’s according to J.D. Power’s “North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study,” and there are many similar statistics out there.
The way I see it, hoteliers need to refocus on delivering a strong culture of service excellence that makes guests feel special and appreciated. This is something that should go beyond amenities, in-room capabilities and loyalty programs. After all, what happens when guests are no longer excited by your property’s perks? What happens when they suddenly become standard?
The answer is simple: they’ll seek a brand that connects with them on a personal level.
This isn’t to say that evolving one’s brand isn’t important. Advanced capabilities will surely improve guest satisfaction; however, the last true differentiator among hotels today is the ability to individuate and deliver one-of-a-kind value. This is exactly why 80 percent of guests would rather have their experiences dominated by “authentic and sincere interactions” than streamlined, automated service.
Here are five ways hotels can deliver a stronger culture of service excellence to improve the guest experience:
1. Recognize guest intentions/motivations: Did you know that the top travel motivation for Gen Xers and Baby Boomers is to relax and unwind, yet for millennials it’s to have new experiences? How about the fact that summer vacations, multi-generational trips and weekend getaways were prioritized by 95 percent of domestic travelers last year? Knowing these details makes a significant difference in the quality of service you and your teams deliver.
2. Use data to deliver high-touch experiences: The explosion of big data has transformed life as we know it. Hoteliers should use this information to amplify in-person experiences, not replace them. At the end of the day, service excellence should strike the perfect balance between high-tech and high-touch. Keep in mind that 83 percent of millennials want hotels to use data about past travel purchases to deliver a more personalized experience, yet only 62 percent of Gen Xers and 57 percent of Baby Boomers feel the same.
3. Don’t make loyalty membership a numbers game: Research shows that satisfaction is significantly higher among guests who are loyalty program members, yet not all are ready to join the club. Today, only 39 percent of millennials belong to a rewards program, compared to 56 percent of Gen X and 66 percent of Baby Boomer guests. Work to understand customers’ varying perceptions and, above all, act with sincerity. For example, research shows that younger guests are driven by value proposition and expect hotels to make a stronger case for the benefits of loyalty programs.
4. Manage by walking around: That’s right, supervisors. Get out on the floor and see for yourself what’s happening on your property. Show that you’re able and willing to get in the weeds to improve guests’ experiences. This is a trusted grassroots approach, driven by the understanding that you must lead by example. After all, the best way to deliver a strong culture of service excellence is to show others how it’s done.
5. Communicate: It’s that simple. Do whatever it takes to keep you and your team in constant communication, whether it’s using old-school methods like walkie-talkies or cutting-edge collaboration tools. The sincerest form of service comes from people who genuinely care and feel they can make a difference. Your team can’t act in the customer’s best interest until they understand, and they can’t understand until they have the right information. When you and your team are constantly in-the-know, delivering excellent service becomes effortless.
In the words of Einstein: “Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.” Nearly 70 percent of travelers today say they see little to no noticeable difference between hotel chains. Delivering exceptional service—the kind that makes guests feel valued—is the only thing that will truly set your brand apart. Consider the many ways that your hotel can be delivering a stronger culture of service excellence.