Weird. Scary. Frustrating.
It’s hard to choose just one word to describe 2020. However, if you’re a hotel owner staring at the books, you might just say, “Vacant.”
Undoubtedly, the COVID-19 situation has impacted businesses of all types. However, the hotel industry may have weathered the toughest blows.
According to research conducted by McKinsey & Company, global occupancy rates were less than 15 percent for luxury hotels and around 40 percent for economy hotels in May. The report states the hotel industry might not return to normal booking levels until 2023.
Experts suggest self-driving day trips will make the first comeback for both business and leisure travel. Conferences, industry events, and international travel will take a little longer to return to normal levels. However, questions remain unanswered: How can hotel managers best manage evolving customer expectations over health and safety concerns? And what other actions can they take to improve guest experiences and remain competitive throughout the reopening process?
In this article, we’ll address both topics. While there is no “recovery magic bullet,” you can set your facilities up for success by prioritizing the following guest experience enhancements:
How to Improve Hotel Guest Experiences in 2021
1. Update Safety and Sanitation Procedures
The most important action hotels can take to improve guest experiences right now is updating safety and sanitation procedures. Most of the 3,498 U.S. travelers surveyed by McKinsey in April said it would take “additional health and safety measures” to get them traveling again.
Survey respondents said, “intense room cleaning” (e.g. UV light disinfection) was the top action they wanted hotels to take. Other requested safety and sanitation procedures include:
- Offering free hand sanitizer to guests.
- Letting rooms sit 72 hours before cleaning.
- Additional cleaning downtime in between stays.
- Employees wearing personal protective equipment.
- Issuing free, personal protective equipment to guests.
- Having fewer seats in bars and lobbies.
- Automated, touch-free checking processes.
- No housekeeping during guests’ stay.
Regardless of how viable some of these requests are, the overall theme is clear – customers want to feel safe and will have heightened expectations around sanitation efforts. Consult with recommended guidelines, and decide what makes the most sense for your unique locations, facilities, and guests. The easiest way to implement new standard operating procedures (SOPs) is with a smartphone task-management system. MaintainX is one such platform that allows facility managers to assign business sanitation checklists.
2. Quickly Respond to ALL Reviews
When considering how to improve hotel guest experiences, many general managers overlook the obvious—listening to guest feedback and doing something about it! How much do hotel reviews matter? According to one study, TripAdvisor ranks hotel online reviews ahead of personal recommendations, tourist board websites, and guidebooks as the most trusted source for travel planning.
A whopping 79 percent of users are more likely to book a hotel with a higher rating when choosing “between two identical properties.” Additionally, 52 percent of users would not book a hotel with no reviews.
However, that’s not even the most interesting tidbit: travelers will pay more to stay at a hotel with better ratings rather than a hotel with a better brand name! In other words, your response to both positive and negative reviews will make lasting impressions on prospective guests that influence their booking decisions.
Tips for Answering Reviews:
- Keep it simple.
- Say thank you.
- Personalize your responses.
- Mention planned upgrades, when relevant.
- Don’t lose your temper over bad reviews.
- Address issues ASAP with a plan.
- Use proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
Here’s how the general manager at Holiday Inn Express Waikiki responded to a recent positive review on TripAdvisor:
Here’s how the same GM responded to a slightly negative review:
In both responses, the GM began by thanking the reviewers for their business. Next, he restated the primary feedback given to demonstrate the review was both appreciated and understood.
In response to constructive feedback, the GM apologized, before summarizing how the hotel planned to remedy the situation. Finally, he concluded with a soft promise to do better: “We hope you will give us a chance to redeem ourselves the next time you are in the area.”
The most popular hotel review sites are TripAdvisor, Expedia, Google, and Facebook. You can use a software program like Review Trackers to monitor and respond to reviews from multiple sites in one place.
3. Follow-Up After Booking (ASAP)
Excellent customer service begins before check-in. Consider updating your booking SOP to include an email follow-up. Your automated email should thank the guest for choosing your establishment and ask them if there is anything they need to make their accommodation comfortable.
Provide examples of reasonable requests, such as an extra cot in their room, a dinner reservation, or room temperature request. Ensure your guests that hotel staff will do everything possible to make them feel at home. Just make sure you actually follow through with the requests! This small personal touch makes a memorable first impression that often leads to unprompted positive reviews.
4. Offer The Technology Guests Want
What is the first thing hotel guests do after checking in? We’ll give you a hint: it rhymes with tie-dye! Free WiFi is no longer considered a luxury; guests expect the convenience of switching their smartphones’ settings.
According to a Hotel Internet Services (HIS) survey, 90 percent of hotel guests cite the ability to access WiFi as “very important.” Your hotel’s Internet bandwidth should be equipped to handle a large number of wearables, smartphones, and laptops.
If you already offer free WiFi, consider upgrading your technology stack with voice search, streaming TV services, and guest experience apps. Leading hotel mobile apps include features for requesting late check-out, ordering room service, and booking dinner reservations.
5. Execute a Realistic Preventive Maintenance Program
Every financially savvy hotel operation begins with a well-executed hotel maintenance program. Not only does the regular servicing of important facility assets ensure guests are comfortable 100 percent of the time, but it also reduces the costs associated with downtime.
According to one study, 24 percent of all guest complaints are related to room temperature. Translation: One down HVAC unit in the month of July, could lead to a plethora of negative reviews that hurt your hotel for months to come. To make matters worse, a failed unit causes early replacement costs.
Use a Computer Maintenance Management System (CMMS) to create, schedule, and assign PM work orders; track asset information; enhance compliance, and improve worker communication. Today’s best CMMS options are smartphone compatible, user-friendly, and scalable. This means that PM tasks won’t fall through the cracks because team members receive mobile alerts, and managers receive confirmation of task completion.
- Heating, Ventilation, and Air Condoning (HVAC)
- Electrical infrastructure
- Plumbing components
- Kitchen machinery
- Landscape technology
You can also use your CMMS to schedule soft maintenance tasks, standard operating procedures, and regulatory compliance protocols.
6. Provide Extra Customer Service for Repeat Guests
Assuming you’re doing a great job with the aforementioned steps, you will begin to receive repeat bookings. Consider going the extra mile to show your appreciation to your beloved patrons, in the form of:
- Welcoming guests by name at check-in.
- Providing complimentary food baskets in their rooms.
- Upgrading their stay to luxury rooms when available.
- Offering complimentary drink tickets to the hotel bar.
Who doesn’t love being treated like a VIP once in a while? The easiest way to keep track of repeat guests, and their unique preferences, is with the help of Customer Relation Software (CRM). Use the guest notes section to record personal tidbits like allergies, personal interests, and occupations. Just imagine arriving at your favorite resort to find your favorite memory-foam pillow and Netflix waiting in your room!
7. Personalize Communications With a CRM
Finally, don’t stop at personalizing guest experiences—customize your communication based on guest profiles. For example, you might automate email sequences that upsell with room upgrades and/or dining specials.
The easiest way to stay organized is with customer relationship management software (CRM). The platforms allow hotels to further automate their communications with guests. GMs can create a perfectly timed email sequence to upsell that guest with a room upgrade or personalized dining offer.
Simplify Hotel Maintenance With MaintainX
It’s going to take a while for hotel occupancy rates to return to pre-COVID numbers. But that doesn’t mean hotel owners and general managers shouldn’t consider how to improve hotel experiences for the future influx of guests looking forward to traveling.
You can get ready by updating safety and sanitation procedures, monitoring and responding to online reviews, upgrading device technologies, organizing preventive maintenance programs, sending personalized post-booking emails, and providing repeat guest rewards.