There is an easy way to improve the signage in your hotel in a proactive way. A hotel is a hectic environment that receives many guests and visitors on a daily basis. Most are hotel guests, but some may be visiting for functions or events.
Unlike other destinations such as local malls, for most visitors to your hotel they will be new to the environment. This creates anxiety for the guest even before they enter your lobby. For guests arriving with luggage it's easy to see their intentions.
But there are many other people that visit your hotel that do not wear a sign around their necks telling you what they are looking for.
All staff should be trained to notice the signs of lost or confused guests in the lobby and to ask them if they need help before they even realise it. But I recommend to our clients taking a more proactive approach. During Locus Focus Consulting we ask selected staff to write down every guest interaction they have over the course of a week.
This one audit will reveal problem areas in your hotel where signage can be improved preemptively. In a sense, you are anticipating where future guests will get lost by recording all requests for directions thus identifying the trouble areas.
This is best done over the course of a week. What we normally do is ask staff to make notes during the week of everyone that asks them a question and then reveal that at the end of the audit including the exact location where it was requested.
We can use this quantitative data along with our own audits and inspections to determine areas where signage can be improved.
We also conduct scenarios where we role play being a guest with a specific "task" in mind which could be finding the bathroom, checking in, locating the lifts or emergency exits. This role playing allows us to walk in the shoes of a guest and identify areas for signage and communications improvement.
It will also reveal other areas for improved communications with guests. For example, for a larger hotel, resort or cruise ship you might consider printing small pocket sized maps that can be given to guests asking for directions. That way if the distance is too far to lead them there, you can mark on the map with a pen the target and also a "you are here" cross so guests can get their bearings.
Often if you explain directions to a guest along the lines of "Oh that's easy ... just head down that corridor, second on your left, you can't miss it!" then guests will simply say thank you and move on, embarrassed to admit they actually either weren't listening or misunderstood your directions. Giving them a mini map solves all of these problems.
Lead your Guests - Don't Tell or Point
When a guest does ask for directions this if course a great chance to turn a small frustration into a positive experience. Simply train your staff to lead the guest to their destination.
This is the practice of many top luxury hotels including the ultra luxury Capella Resort. The Capella service states to "Escort guests until they feel comfortable with the directions or make visual contact with their destination."
I last experienced this at the Sheraton Singapore during a recent stay. I simply asked where the restaurant was, and instead of being instructed the staff member led me all the way to the restaurant, and of course introduced me straight to the Maitre De who then seated me.
This was also the perfect opportunity for the staff member to engage me in conversation on the way and make me feel welcome.
Not only may I have not found the restaurant so quickly by myself, but it also meant that I wasn't really able to "back out" of going to that restaurant.
Had I not been escorted there I probably would have perused the menu beforehand and possibly decided to go somewhere else. By being ushered right into the restaurant and into the care of the Maitre D - I was unlikely to say "Can I just look at the menu please?".
Imagine how delighted and impressed I was with this gesture and how welcome I felt. That was the most memorable aspect of the experience for me. I couldn't tell you what I had for dinner - but I can certainly remember how the staff at the Sheraton went the extra mile.
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.