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Welcome Anywhere Property Managment System > Blog > Managing a hotel

The future of guest experience

You can be forgiven for acquainting the idea of "change" with the word "radical".  Often change is punctuated by a glitter cannon.  In software terms, innovation is celebrated, advertised, and delivered with a great big neon arrow.  Yet, when we think of innovation, we rarely think "hotels".

But that doesn't mean that hotels aren't evolving.  In fact, the guest experience is constantly being transformed.  Here are 3 things that subtly change the hotel experience.

The eco-friendly guest experience

You can say a lot about millennials.  You can (if you’re that way inclined) ridicule their dress, their music, and their outlook on life.  But there are two things that are important to remember:  they’re the future customer of every industry, and they tend to care a lot more about certain aspects of modern life – particularly when it comes to the environment.

Travelers are acutely aware of their carbon footprint.  Moreover, they're consuming products that openly offer the same values.  That includes the hotels they book.

Hotels that responsibly source recyclable goods, or make an obvious effort to conserve energy in rooms are making an impact.  Expect more air-conditioning units that turn off when you're absent from the room.  Don't be surprised by paperless hotels and downloadable restaurant menus.

The good news? An eco-friendly guest experience is desirable.  It's also cost effective.

The fully connected experience

It starts with those Wi-Fi-media-infused coffee machines.  You know the ones - they tell you the latest on Trump's wall whilst you’re waiting for your latte.  It's a small addition but its' an important one.  The guest experience is only augmented by more connectivity.

Some hotels are already using smart televisions to deliver special offers to their guests (whether they’re in their room or busting reps in the gym).  Now the hotels are wrapping their loving arms around the technological revolution, it will move in leaps and bounds from here.

I’m not suggesting toasters that play Radio 1.  But it stands to reason that we may see tablets installed on tables wherein you can place orders, or play Angry Birds.  Technology, in all industries, is becoming more prevalent.  Subtly, the hospitality industry is putting more and more of the guest experience online.

The "more personalisation, please" experience

It's becoming a buzzword isn't it?  Personalisation.  Somehow, the world is automating everything to the point that we only see a human when they’re running back from the bathroom.  Yet, we crave a more personalised experience.

PMS platforms are working hard to make sure that they’re offering a service that indulges the nuanced idiosyncrasies of their guests.  In the office, behind the singular receptionist, the PMS is humming and clicking.  Using the data that their system harvests, hotels are now working towards creating as many guest experiences as there are bookings.

Smart televisions provide rooms with engaging and targeted content aimed directly at the individual guest.  Expect more of this.  Expect recommendations rooted in the online experience and brought to life in your hotel experience.

Wrapping up

You’ll notice that there’s nothing radical above.  Hotels are already moving into the future. And there are no flying cars or AI driven androids.  That is the art of the guest experience; a hotel’s motivation and direction summed up in one word…

Seamless.

Nothing glamourous.  No glitter cannons.  These changes are drawing hotels into providing an experience that can't easily be separated into distinct clunky steps.  Just one fluid experience that relaxes the guest.

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We can write teaching-gran-to-suck-eggs articles about being customer focussed on repeat until they become white noise.  And it stands to reason; your hotel's warm and friendly experience will always be top priority.  However, you can't provide warmth or friendship if there's nobody booked in to experience it.

You're still running a business, after all... right?

Those doors need to swing open; heads need to hit pillows.  Your hotel may have a parade of loyal customers coming back to you every time they're in the area, but how often do they visit?  You still need a murderously good room rate strategy for your hotel.

Here are a few ideas to get as many guests as possible through your door.

Adopt Pyschological Pricing

This might just be the oldest trick in the book - but still one of the best.

We know there's no tangible difference between £99 and £100.  When you have time to weigh it all up and talk about it, there isn't a lot of value that can be found in the £1 you're losing.  But when people are comparing prices, £99 looks a lot cheaper.

In fact, it looks almost £10 cheaper!

Keep an eye on the competition

If your hotel's struggling to get people through the door, there's a good chance that it might be happening to other hotels in your area, and some of them may have tried to counteract the quiet period by creating low rate strategies.

It's always good to know what your competition are doing.

By using your PMS, researching OTAs, or by using social listening techniques on Twitter and Facebook, you can keep tabs on them.  If a competitor's basic room price is lower than yours, then combat it.  Can you lower your price to match?  Can you add something of value to your own room to capture the interest of potential guests?

Offer packages

Is your hotel just a building full of beds?  Does it have a restaurant in which you could add a set price for a meal? A free breakfast, perhaps?  If your hotel can add value to the customer's stay, then go ahead and create the ideal package for your guests.

Even if there's little extra you can offer, you can create great experiences by partnering with other businesses in the area.  Between you and the local golf course, for instance, can you work together and create a package with great value?  And what about local attractions and museums?

There's always opportunity to add value to your customers stay, whether you have extra facilities or not.

Implement a length of stay strategy

Is your hotel in a bustling city?  Is there a local festival or attraction happening?  Could it be that there is so much to do that it might just take more than one night to make the most of the trip?

A convincingly low price on multiple nights might just tempt your guests into elongating their visit.  Even if this sounds like you're losing money on the room, you may just make up for it at the bar and restaurant.

Wrapping up

For some hotels, standard room rates are as much a fixture of the hotel as that great big tree in the car park.  However, some things shouldn't be quite so immovable.  By using real-time data, and creating tantalising offers you could still drag people through the door.

Look at your pricing strategy often.  In fact, look at the OTAs and GDSs on a near daily basis to see what's happening in the market.  I am sure, with one of these strategies, you'll be filling your hotel in no time!

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So, here it is; 2019. Another new year. Time to pack away the Christmas tree (unless you’re doing the whole ’twelve days’ thing), and start the new year with a bang.

But how do you do that as a busy independent hotelier? With chain hotels continuing to pop up everywhere and brands such as Airbnb redefining guest expectations, what new year’s resolutions should you be making?

The good news? They’re pretty simple and don’t require any immediate action - just a promise to yourself, the hotel and its team that you will make headway on them as 2019 progresses.

Review your hotel tech

Hotel technology evolves at a rapid pace. In fact, it’s so fast-paced that you can be forgiven for lagging behind a little as an independent hotelier.

However, there are a few areas in which you might need to invest if you’re to continue providing a range of services and an experience that befits the modern guest.

Pay particular attention to the following:

  • The property management system (PMS): is it web-based, reliable and fully integrated with both your website and the OTAs on which you rely? Does it connect to your other hotel technology such as your POS system?
  • In-room guest services and entertainment: you don’t have to spend big here - the simple addition of USB plug sockets might be enough to satisfy the digital needs of your guests, but if budget allows, perhaps 2019 is the year you finally upgrade the in-room TVs to be fully on demand and add complimentary iPads to rooms, complete with a bunch of boredom-busting apps for the duration of guest stays. Have a look at last year’s guest feedback on TripAdvisor to spot areas where you might be lacking.
  • The restaurant: can you accept online bookings for your restaurant? If not, you might be missing out on a raft of reservations; people are far more inclined to book tables digitally nowadays.

Schedule some events

Staging events at your hotel is a great way to find new revenue streams.

Advertising yourself as a wedding and conference venue is no longer enough. What about running networking events for local businesses, or cooking competitions hosted by your talented head chef?

Live music, social dining experiences and tie-ins with local events can all be explored this year and might just result in a host of corresponding room bookings and new advocates of your property.

Turn your website into a conversion machine

Hotel websites are no longer simply digital brochures - they’re designed to bring in more bookings for the property; lots more bookings.

They can only do this if they’re set up for conversions in the same way an online store is. And if that sounds a bit cold or lacking in the personal touch for your hotel, you might need to leave some of your preconceptions at the door.

When you buy something on Amazon, it’s hassle-free; they’ve mastered the online shopping experience. The same should go for your hotel’s website. If someone wants to book a room, they should be able to check availability and rates and place their reservation as conveniently as possible.

It should be just as simple on whatever device they have to hand, and fast no matter how weak their connection.

Try out your online booking experience with the mindset of a guest in a hurry for a decent room at a decent rate. If you get frustrated, it’s time to look for a new platform.

Touch base with your OTA reps

Yeah, let bygones by bygones and all that - it’s the new year!

The relationship between independent hotels and OTAs has always been rather tetchy, but OTAs aren’t going anywhere and with January hopefully making you feel more reflective, now is the time to get back in touch with your OTA reps.

If you don’t hear from them regularly, be proactive and seek out their help. For all you know, there could be much better ways to manage your listing and there might even be new tools you can use to optimise your presence on such sites which could result in better placements.

Make 2019 the year you foster a healthy relationship with the OTAs you rely on. Challenge them but accept their help when it’s offered. Combined with a conversion-tastic hotel website (see tip above), this is the best strategy for a stellar online presence that will result in plenty of profitable bookings.

Wrapping up

What’s your hotelier new year’s resolution? What have we missed?

Tell us what you’ll be doing this year to bring in more bookings and draw guests away from the big name competition by commenting below!

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In episode 12 of the Welcome Systems podcast, we're joined by two award-winning hoteliers - Frances Meeres Young of Stoberry House and Struan Lothian from Knockendarroch Hotel and Restaurant.

Having both picked up prestigious awards from the Good Hotel Guide this year, we decided to quiz Frances and Struan on what it takes to become a successful independent hotelier in the digital age.

This is a must-listen for any hotelier who wants to know how to raise occupancy, develop a consistent yet personalised service and make the most of the wonderful technology available today.

Find out more about Stoberry House by clicking here

Find out more about Knockendarroch Hotel and Restaurant by clicking here

https://soundcloud.com/user-568165456/the-welcome-systems-podcast-ep12-knockendarroch-and-stoberry

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Online travel agencies aren’t going anywhere - let’s get that particular fact out of the way immediately. That means savvy hoteliers will continue to pay commission for the new bookings generated by sites such as Booking.com.

But that’s not a bad thing. You see, if you’re running one of the latest channel managers for hotels, you’ll benefit from a set of tools that make online distribution a cinch.

Such tools provide you with something rather invaluable: more time to work on your direct booking strategy. And, with that in mind, here’s four direct booking strategies you should be working into your 2019 hotel marketing plan:

1. Ensure your website is mobile-friendly

How often do you encounter websites that don’t work properly on your smartphone? You have to pinch to zoom and read text and, nine times out of ten, you’ll hit the wrong link as you try and navigate the site.

In a 2017 survey by Google, 89% of people confirmed they’re more likely to recommend a brand after a positive mobile browsing experience. How compatible is your hotel’s website with smaller screens? If it’s a frustrating experience, make 2019 the year you go fully mobile-first with your web presence.

2. Reach out to existing guests

The guest email addresses you collect could hold the key to a significant uplift in return bookings.

With an email marketing platform such as Mailchimp or Campaign Monitor, you can finally make use of those email addresses in 2019 by sending tempting offers to stay with you again. And, if your PMS allows you to filter and export specific sets of customers (by business or leisure and demographical data, for instance), you can send highly relevant emails to people who are most likely to engage with them.

Oh, and the good, old-fashioned telephone and snail mail aren’t bad ways to reconnect with old guests, either!

3. Build a rate strategy from past performance

Providing you have a PMS that offers deep analytical data on your guests’ past staying habits, you should be able to create a rate strategy for 2019 that’s influenced by past performance.

Look for your most popular rates by booking channel and try and identify those which were most often booked directly. You clearly got something right, whether it was the inclusion of some free extras for booking direct or the name you chose for the package.

The more you study last year’s performance, the more you’ll be able to spot direct booking trends that will help inform the hotel’s rate strategy for 2019.

4. Find something unique about your hotel - and promote the hell out of it

Every independent hotel is unique. For some, that uniqueness is obvious (the presence of giraffes as dinner guests, for instance), while for others, it’s a little more subtle - but equally compelling.

Whether your property is supposedly haunted by a ghost, once played host to a celebrity or played a minor supporting role in an episode of Dr Who, make a big noise about it next year.

Booking via OTAs is a relatively soulless experience, simply because every hotel is listed in a near-identical fashion. When people reach your hotel’s own website, they want to be drawn into your world, and one of the best ways to achieve that level of engagement is to highlight the one thing that makes your property unique.

Don’t be shy - shout loud and proud about whatever it is that makes your hotel special and have some fun with it; create a special menu or stay package based on the unique element.

Wrapping up

You have the time to undertake the direct booking strategies above, even if it feels like the clock is forever ticking against you.

The trick lies in making your direct booking strategy a vital task that’s present on every day’s to-do list. Find the time, and you’ll find more guests who are willing to come straight to your website rather than book via OTAs. It’s that simple.

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A couple of weeks ago, we asked UK hoteliers what they’d like to buy their hotels for Christmas.

It only seemed fair. After all, on the 25th December, we all get to open our own presents - so why shouldn’t the fabulous hotels that can be found in every nook and cranny of this country get a little treat, too?

Well, we received a whole bunch of requests for Santa (some unpublishable), and we’d like to share the best with you today. Anonymously, of course…

All my hotel wants for Christmas is…

…“A new washing machine”

Clearly, this hotelier (and probably the guests) are a bit fed up with less-than-fragrant washing. Or perhaps the spin cycle has broken (which is understandable - hotel washing machines are hard workers).

…“New staff”

We’ll just leave that one there.

…“A new chef”

And… we’ll leave that one there, too.

…“A drop in VAT”

The 20% VAT rate paid by UK tourism businesses is one of the highest in Europe, and there has long been a campaign to see it slashed to 5%. There’s even a website that encourages those within the industry to rally against the high rate. Can Santa help?

…“A visit from Santa with chocolates for all the staff on Christmas morning”

This seems entirely justified. Long hours and early starts means sugar is a vital pick-me-up for hotel staff, and Christmas means you can eat as much of it as you like - as early as you want in the day!

…“A week off”

Run out of holiday allowance? Maybe Santa can have a word with the person in charge of HR.

…“Christmas off”

More hotels are now opening over the Christmas period as people search for alternative ways to spend time with their family during the festive season. Unfortunately, this desire to leave the cooking and clearing up to someone else inevitably means the responsibility falls on the shoulders of hospitality professionals.

…“A refurb of the reception to create the best first impression”

It’s the first impression most guests get of your hotel, and while it might be a big ask, we’re sure Santa will understand and be able to call on his friends in the trade.

…“Faster internet”

Super-fast broadband is still struggling to make its presence felt across the entire UK. Santa might have his work cut out with this one.

…“The car park resurfaced and spaces made bigger”

We can only assume that the later part of this request is in response to the increasingly massive SUVs and 4x4 ‘Chelsea Wagons’ people are filling their drives with these days.

…“More direct bookings”

We hear Santa knows a thing or two about channel management, so he’s probably in a great position to help out with this particular request.

…“More weddings and event bookings”

Have wedding and event bookings slowed in your hotel? These remain two of the hardest market segments to crack as an independent hotelier.

…“Room refurbs finished quicker”

With guest expectations continually rising for the in-room experience, it’s not unusual for hotels to refurbish rooms more regularly. But, yeah, wouldn’t it be nice if the paint dried a little quicker and the carpet guy turned up on time?

…“Wi-Fi and coffee machines in all guest rooms”

This sounds suspiciously like a guest request, but as these two things are essentially the fuel of life, who are we to question them?

…“A Christmas party for the whole group”

Depending on the hotel group in question, that’s probably one hell of a Christmas party. Although, we’re sure Santa can pull some strings (particularly those of the finance director’s purse…).

…“A staff coffee machine”

Yeah - why should the guests get all the coffee tech? As any hotel worker will know, attempting to get through a long shift without at least a couple of decent coffees is virtually impossible. Ok - harder.

…“Elves to come in and take over at Christmas so the staff can have time off”

Imagine how cool a hotel run by elves would be. This is our favourite; we’ll ask Santa to push it to the top of his list.

Let’s see what Santa brings on Christmas Day morning, eh?

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Providing friendly, outstanding customer service is one of the key responsibilities for a hotel receptionist.

Unfortunately, if that’s the career path you’ve chosen, you’ll inevitably encounter the odd angry guest who is absolutely appalled with the level of service provided by the hotel.

While it may not be your fault or have anything to do with your specific role, you, as a front-of-house representative, are probably going to be the first port of call when people have a complaint.

Here’s how to deal with them when they stomp angrily towards the front desk.

1. Listen calmly

Without interrupting the guest, allow them to explain the situation. Listening to them will give them space to explain, and giving them the chance to express their views, should calm down the situation.

A problem shared is a problem halved, and all that…

2. Address them personally and show attention to detail

It won’t take you five seconds to reference the guest’s details on your hotel PMS. And, with that information to hand, you can directly interact with the guest and give them a more personal response to their issue, based on the details of their stay.

This should make them feel acknowledged and as though resolving their problem is important to you.

3. Apologise

Even if the problem has nothing to do with you, apologising to the guest is the best way forward – no matter how hard it might sometimes feel to do so.

This will let the guest know that you empathise with their situation and that you care about resolving the issue as quickly as possible. It also demonstrates that the hotel knows when it might have made a mistake, and that might even result in a favourable online review when the dust has settled!

4. Don’t allow emotion to affect your response

If you struggle to deal with people shouting or are likely to become emotional if someone is angry towards you, that could cause further problems in the communication between you and the angry guest.

Allowing yourself to remove any personal emotion from the situation will help you deal with and resolve the complaint as quickly as possible.

Remember, the guest is more than likely not angry at you, but at the service, so try not to take it personally - that should help you manage the situation professionally and efficiently.

5. Ask a relevant member of staff for help

Quickly decide if you can resolve the issue yourself, and if not, notify a colleague who’s in a position of greater authority. Remember, though - you should only pass such a problem onto another employee if the situation extends beyond your control.

If a more senior pair of hands is needed, it’s important to remember that you haven’t failed. In such instances, their level of authority will help deal with the angry guest quickly and take the problem off your hands.

Wrapping up

As you progress through your career as a hotel receptionist, you’ll find that each angry guest encounter is unique. You’ll also find that they’re few and far between, but by using our tips above, you’ll ensure a swift, positive resolution every time.

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As hotelier problems go, this one is pretty epic.

You’re busy (really busy) but you have absolutely no idea why. As far as you can tell, it isn’t anything to do with the season, there’s no local events on, and your competitors, by comparison, appear to be struggling.

What’s going on? Why are you so awesome at this hotelier lark?

Hospitality is a funny beast. You’ll have periods where you are inexplicably busy and, unfortunately, the same goes when occupancy drops. Sometimes, there’s no rhyme or reason for it, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take a closer look at what’s going on.

Chances are, you’re getting something (or several things) right. And we’d like to give you a head start on your investigations.

People have heard they’ll be getting a great experience

A great guest experience beats a simple bed for the night, hands down, and if you’re personalising the service you offer customers, word will soon get around.

To you, this is the stuff you do each and every day; it comes naturally. But to other, less discerning hoteliers, the idea of using a PMS to its full potential and leveraging guests’ personal and stay data to offer tailored experiences will feel like too much work.

Think about it - you’re not just a hotelier; when people check in, they’re also given detailed information about the area and a reminder that the team is always there for them should they need any assistance in making the most of their time.

The pre- and post-stay emails and text messages you send out are also making a real difference. Guests who stay at your hotel feel welcome, looked after and as though their booking has been tailor-made for them. And you know what? They’ll share that experience with their mates, family and the entire world on social media.

You reward guests

The rewards programme you set up a few months ago may have been a bit of a punt, marketing-wise, but perhaps it’s now starting to take effect.

Once again, as word spreads about the value of being part of your closed group of guests (better rates, room upgrades and whatever else you may have dreamed up for members), people will start to look your way as opposed to the chains.

You’ve nailed the room amenities

Nope, not to the desk…! You’ve nailed your approach to room amenities.

Wi-Fi is free (yes!), each TV offers entertainment on demand, and the money you invested in that keycard system that accepts entry via guest smartphones has all but replaced the need for physical cards.

The process of checking in, using the room and getting stuff done in the hotel when you’re a guest is seamless, fast, efficient and - most importantly - enjoyable.

This stuff really matters.

Your online booking process is mega easy

Lastly, one of the key reasons you’re experiencing consistently high occupancy rates is because you offer a great online booking service on your own website.

Direct bookings are hard to come by in an age where OTAs dominate the online hospitality marketplace, but guests aren’t stupid - they’ll shop around and visit hotel websites before making a decision. It just so happens that yours features an online booking platform that’s a cinch to use and on par with anything the OTAs have to offer.

Wrapping up

This isn’t a fluke - you’re definitely getting something right.

Use our pointers above to suss out where your secret sauce lies… and make some more of it!

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By going the extra mile as a hotelier, you’ll create experiences that guests share far and wide.

It’s a super-simple yet highly effective marketing strategy; you do what you do best and let guests do the talking. Thanks to the power and reach of social media, their effort alone will ensure your hotel lands in the news feeds of countless potential guests without a penny of marketing spend.

All that’s required is some time and ingenuity. Oh, and the following list of small yet brilliant touches that create a great, personalised guest experience:

1. Destination tips

Destination promotion is increasingly being used by hotels across the world to boost occupancy.

By talking about the area in which your hotel is located and providing insider tips on how to get the most out of a stay, you’ll attract the attention of guests who are seeking an authentic, local experience.

This strengthens your brand reputation, proves you’re about far more than just a bed for the night and raises your authority online.

You needn’t spend any money on destination promotion, either, just blog regularly about things to do in your town, city or village and include destination tips in your welcome packs.

2. Provide customer care on Twitter

This might sound a bit too corporate for your independent hotel, but customers expect businesses to respond to their criticism or praise on Twitter - no matter the industry.

For instance, if a guest has a less than enjoyable stay at your hotel and decides to make their feelings known on Twitter, they’ll probably mention you in their tweet. And this is great (no, really!), because it gives you the opportunity to jump into the conversation, reply and show the world that you care about the service you provide.

Be active on Twitter. Complaints will hopefully be few and far between, but aside from dealing with incoming flak, make sure you thank people who say nice things about your service. Search for hashtags relevant to your area, too, and get involved; demonstrate your knowledge of the area and give your hotel that all-important personality online.

3. Leave handwritten notes

In an age of social media, instant messaging and smartphone addiction, handwritten letters are unique, satisfying traditional and - most importantly - engaging.

Why not delight your guests by leaving handwritten notes in their room? If you’re abiding by GDPR rules and ethically collecting data about them, you could say happy birthday, invite the guest to try an update to the restaurant dish they enjoyed last time or simply thank them for staying at your hotel.

This requires minimal effort, yet is the kind of gesture that might make its way onto the social media feed of the guest you’ve delighted.

4. Surprise guests with in-room treats

During the booking process (be it online or over the phone), ask guests if they’re celebrating anything during their stay. Engagements, anniversaries and birthdays are common reasons for getaways, therefore if you’re aware of the special date, you can grab the opportunity to leave a little surprise in the room.

A complementary bottle of champagne, flowers or box of chocolates won’t break the bank, but will put a huge smile on the faces of guests who are in the mood for celebration.

And they won’t forget it!

5. Use a modern PMS

All four tips above can be undertaken without technology, but you’ll save considerable time if you have a modern PMS from which to gather the required data.

Personalising a guest experience starts with their profile on your PMS. The more you know about a guest, the more you can build a stay for them which will feel entirely their own. Old PMSs that don’t offer comprehensive guest profiling, GDPR compatibility or integration with guest feedback platforms simply don’t cut it anymore, and you don’t need to spend a fortune to upgrade, thanks to cloud computing.

Wrapping up

What have we missed? If you’ve experienced success by personalising your guests’ experiences and don’t mind sharing them with the world (hey, we’re all in this together, right?), let us know in the comments section, below!

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