It is often thought that to engage your guests, you simply must speak with them. While it is true that engaging the guest in conversation technically falls under engagement, what most hoteliers try to achieve is a level of engagement that will actually help the hotel meet its current and future business goals. That means increased revenue per guest, good guest reviews and repeat business.
Real guest engagement is the act of somehow getting the guest to feel an emotional connection with the hotel that is so positive that the guest will do something in the hotel’s interest in the future. The big challenge in the hotel business is that if you simply meet the promises that you make, it may not be enough to create that emotional connection. Operational perfection is great, but, in many ways, simply creates guest satisfaction. Yes, you want a satisfied guest. But anything less that satisfied is actually quite bad. A guest expects a clean room, decent water pressure, staff friendliness, enough towels, etc.
To foster an emotional connection, you need to create guest delight. So the housekeeper that arranges the child’s stuffed animals in a clever way (like a tea party setting) when the family is away for the day is doing something above and beyond the mere cleaning of a room. It creates a special and personal experience for the family.
Besides creativity, other principals of ‘delight-driven’ staff culture are the fine arts of listening and responsiveness. This isn’t simply talking to the guest. This is pursuing an opportunity to listen and serve. In the ideal world, the guest doesn’t have to go looking for staff to communicate needs – the staff should be always at hand. And the meeting of such needs should be prompt.
As a hotel manager, how do you “institutionalize” such actions so that your staff is always creating delight? Besides being always on the lookout for stuffed animals, this falls to training and tools. As this is a hotel technology blog, I won’t go into the importance of service training, but I will talk about the tools that facilitate a delight-driven service culture.
When it comes to listening and responsiveness, the first thing you need to do is be where the guest is. That means getting out from behind that front desk. Mobility. Not just in the lobby, but in the hallways, by the pool, in the driveway or even at the airport. But remember, when you get the guest’s request, the clock is ticking. So it is best to be able to drop the request right into your hotel PMS and then route it directly to the staff specialist who can support the request. That means a communication system where no matter where they are, staff members can be notified of a request and communicates requests status instantly. No we are not talking about walkie talkies. Yes, they provide instant communication, but they don’t provide any kind of activity log. If the guest has requested the same thing before, or has requested a number of things throughout their stay, that information is critical to understand and act on. And if you have a returning guest, that information can facilitate anticipatory service where you are bringing them the extra pillows before they even ask.
So your mobile-enabled PMS is carried with staff members all over the hotel facilitating the listening process. And that PMS is providing historical context to the request and routing instructions. The guest is served faster and more accurately and therefore is delighted that the hotel staff are going above and beyond for them. As a manager, you have now provided the tools that, by their very existence, are a catalyst for better service. And by listening, anticipating and responding quickly, you will have gone beyond guest satisfaction and will have created guest delight.