Here are some simple ideas I came up with today for improving guest experience that won't involve a meeting with the bank manager. It doesn't matter whether you run a 5 star resort or a guest house — these suggestions will help get you better reviews.
Cut Down the Crap at Check In
Nothing is more annoying when checking in to a hotel than to be asked for all my personal information again when it's just not required. Almost always the person behind the desk will just say 'Oh just sign at the bottom don't worry about all that other information!'.
In which case, why does this form even exist? Surely check in forms can and should be simplified to contain only the information required for that particular guest.
And of course as much information as possible should already be filled out. After all — you already know the guest's name and other details so why make them go through a rigmarole at check in? People are almost always tired and hungry when they are checking in.
The last thing they want to do after enduring an erratic taxi trip to the hotel is to start filling out forms.
Making check in a quick and painless experience also helps keep check-in lines short. This means guests that arrive get an instant welcome rather than being relegated to a check-in line.
It means more time for chit chat with guests, and to make them feel truly welcome.
I have observed that some hotels still have those horrible rope barriers. Banks were smart enough to get rid of those things ten years ago. And yet they can still be found at hotel receptions everywhere.
What is the first thing you think of when you see a rope barrier? Queuing ... and nobody likes queuing. If your guests are queuing you have staffing or operational problems that should be addressed first, but herding them like cattle in a stock yard is not the solution.
Clear Directions after Check-In
Nothing is more frustrating after being handed your room key than trying to understand someone else's verbal directions.
There are two types of people in the world. Those that like getting directions from other people, and those that just want to look at a map. I am in the latter category and I never listen to people giving me directions, so I never bother asking...
How much information do you think the tired and hungry guest is going to remember by the time they reach their floor? Assuming they even find where the lifts are!
What's more — even if the front desk staff have perfect English as their first language — there is no guarantee the guest does.
I checked into 5 Star Palazzo Versace Gold Coast for my wedding a few years back and it took me a good five minutes of walking around trying to look like I belonged there to even find the elevators. I gave up and went back to reception feeling defeated.
This happens absolutely everywhere and it's totally avoidable by giving guests a very specific map of just their floor and where their room is located on that floor. Not a giant map of the entire hotel. Just my floor thanks!
Please show on the map using language agnostic symbols the exact lift I need to take and where it is in relation to the reception — not just a 'take that lift over there'.
In my experience, that lift is not as easy to find as you think it is. It's easy when you know how, but many guests struggle to find the lift let alone their room.
On this information sheet (which I would recommend being A6 in size) you can also have a list of the location of facilities such as fitness, spa, restaurants, cafes and business centres. These are all profit centres that should be brought to the attention of guests from the moment they check in (not when you hope they read that massive compendium).
Also include your standard check out times, reception hours and other important information, along with your address for guests calling a taxi.
Think of it as a mini map of the property or a cheat sheet — something that I can place in my wallet and refer to.
And please write my room number in large letters on this piece of paper. Don't bother writing my room number on the sleeve that contains my key.
Because I am probably going to throw that away the moment I get into the room — so it's useless. My key will go straight into my wallet, and then when I get back to the hallway at 1AM in the morning I have already forgotten my room number!
Every Hotels Red Hot Marketing Spot
People travel frequently in hotel lifts especially if they are tourists or at a resort. The lift is the perfect place to advertise special promotions or events happening in the hotel. It should also contain a very clear list of where facilities are located by floor with enticing copy. There is no point having that beautiful roof top swimming pool if guests don't even know it exists.
One of the reasons hotel gyms are never full is simply because many guests don't realise they even exist and not reminded. The number of times I have gotten lost trying to find the hotel gym which is buried down the end of a corridor somewhere is alarming. In the end I normally ask at the Beauty Spa which is always 'somewhere in the vicinity' of the actual fitness facilities.
Probably the simplest, easiest and most cost effective way to increase revenue at your hotel restaurants is by getting professional photography of your restaurants and having these feature in lifts together with any special offers or at least an indication of the pricing. This is not the place to feature the entire menu, but guests want a taste of what is on offer.
They may just forego their plans to walk around the neighbourhood and take the lift directly to the restaurant floor, especially if the photography whets their appetite!
And please do have a very clear indicator of where the reception or lobby is on the lift menu. If you need to, engage the services of a sign writer but don't expect them to come up with a plan. Do a careful, considered and complete analysis of your lifts and think of it from a guests perspective who is a first time visitor and hasn't got a clue where anything is.
This is also the time to consider using language agnostic symbols to indicate a swimming pool or gym in addition to English words — for those that don't read English. This is far better than translating everything into Chinese, Russian, Spanish, French, German etc...
People always feel awkward in lifts and often their phones won't work so they have nothing else to do except read your promotions. Take full advantage of this red hot marketing spot in your hotel!
Have Electronics Set Correctly & Labelled
Resetting and optimising electronics for a better guest experience is something that housekeeping can do as part of their routine.
Air Con should be set to a comfortable temperature of between 21-23 degrees Celsius. The alarm clock should be checked for the correct time and alarm switched off.
Guests fumbling around to set the alarm will often accidentally change the clock time by a few minutes until they realise they aren't doing it right.
Television can be set to an appropriate channel for the type of hotel (business hotel - Sky News etc).
Finally, every hotel needs a list of television channels clearly displayed on a card next to the television and on bedside tables. No excuses, no exceptions. This should ideally be laminated or replaced frequently as it will get grimy and dirty very quickly.
Trying to locate my favourite TV channel on an unfamiliar remote control by scrolling through each channel one by one is so painful it makes me cry. And yet it is mostly budget to mid range hotels that provide a convenient channel list in my experience.
But do make sure you add a recurring task every 3 months to ensure those channels are actually correct. Quite often where hotels do have these cards the information is out of date.
Often pay TV channels (especially in South East Asia countries for some reason) will change around the channels and this can wreck havoc with your channel lists.
Finally consider using replacing TV remote and Air conditioner remote control batteries in advance of them going flat, or using rechargeable batteries. At the very least housekeeping should check they work properly with every new guest checking in.
This is because there it is not uncommon for the previous guest to steal the batteries before checking out.
Turn Negatives into Positives
The next time a guest has a maintenance or housekeeping issue, and after this has been fixed, you can leave a small card on the bed with:
- An apology to the guest for the inconvenience.
- A statement that this problem has been fixed but that the guest is urged to contact reception again if the problem persists or is still not to their satisfaction.
- A small chocolate bar or chocolates left with the note.
- Signed by the person who resolved the issue.
Not only does this make the guest aware the problem has been fixed, but it turns a negative into a positive experience and may actually turn a faulty remote control into a 5 star review on TripAdvisor.
Unable to Service Your Room Cards
If housekeeping was unable to service the room due to the do not disturb sign, many guests will still be annoyed even though it was technically their fault.
Sometimes you just can't win right?
Well you can rectify this problem by leaving a "Sorry We Couldn't Service Your Room" card under the door with the phone number of housekeeping, and the latest time they can call to request service, or towels or whatever else they need.
This means guests can continue doing whatever they were doing... and make a direct request later if they really need their room serviced or extra toiletries etc.
Making these simple changes will have an immediate impact on the customer experience. They can be implemented quickly and for almost no real cost, which is even better.
Chris Jack is the editor of Locus Focus and a professional hotel photographer based in Brisbane with over 20 years experience in digital marketing. He also hosts the weekly "Sharper Hotel Marketing" podcast.