Creating guest experiences

Sorry - bad news. A room is no longer enough for your guests. They want more. Accommodation simply doesn’t cut it in a world where ‘experiences’ are becoming the norm.

But what is an experience, and how does it relate to our industry? Surely, the only experience you need to deliver guests is one of relaxation, comfort and waiter service?

Not any more.

The modern guest expects to be entertained, have access to tech comforts they’re used to at home and receive the occasional surprise.

In this post, we’re going to look at how accommodation providers can turn their service up to 11 by creating unique, unforgettable guest experiences.

The simple stuff counts

Hotel experiences don’t have to be tangible - they can be delivered in the most subtle of ways with just a few simple tactics. We’ve picked out three that’ll endear you to your guests:

  • The pre-arrival phone call. What better way to surprise a guest than to give them a quick call a few days before they arrive? In a digital world with limited human contact, a ringing phone never fails to raise an eyebrow, and if you’re on the end of it thanking the guest for their booking and providing useful information for check-in time, they’ll remember the experience fondly.
  • The surprise act of kindness. Imagine a regular guest entering her room to find a bottle of bubbly and a ‘thank you’ card lying on the bed. Or the Xbox you occasionally place in rooms in which you know kids are staying. Random acts of kindness in hotels go a long way and are great ways to encourage social media posts about how wonderful your establishment is.
  • Free room upgrades. If someone checks in late and you’ve got a couple of premium rooms left unsold, always use the opportunity to issue an unexpected, free room upgrade. Savvy guests will know this trick and ask for the upgrade themselves, but those that don’t will revel in the wonderful experience of checking into your hotel and getting a better room for free. Sure - it is still 'just' a room, but it’s far better than the one they were expecting.

Working with local businesses

Depending on your hotel’s location, you may have a fantastic opportunity to strike up a deal or two with local businesses. Perhaps you’re near a golf course, theme park or historic attraction - whatever it may be, a chat with the bosses may result in a joint marketing campaign and consolidated offering for customers.

If you can combine a hotel stay with a discounted round of golf, free child passes to a theme park or cheaper entry to the local castle, you’ve got an awful lot more to say when advertising your rooms.

Talk to your neighbouring businesses - you’re all in this together, after all.

Using technology to create guest experiences

Technology is ubiquitous and increasingly affordable. With relatively minor investment, you can create guest experiences by taking advantage of the gadgets they love. Here’s a few ideas:

  • In-room TV on demand. Netflix and other services offer a near bottomless pit of boxsets and films in which people can indulge and such services are more accessible than ever to hotels. Make sure you rooms offer them and make a big deal about it when describing your rates.
  • Loaded-up in-room tablets. Tablets chock-full of games, movies and magazines will always be well-received. And, thankfully, there are a huge range of low-cost Android devices to choose from, lowering the barrier to entry for this particular guest experience.
  • Video games. We noted this above, but it bears repeating - the presence of a games console in a hotel room remains relatively unique, so before they become ubiquitous, add as many as you can to yours. They don’t have to be the latest and greatest, either - in fact, go retro with something like a SNES and a copy of Mario Kart, and you’ll win over plenty of guests.
  • Lighting and climate control. In-room technology and business management systems are getting smarter by the day and if you can turn your rooms into something Tony Stark would be proud of, you’ll create a futuristic experience guests will love. Speak to your suppliers - intelligent lighting, climate control and sensors that personalise rooms for guests are becoming more commonplace on the market.

Wrapping up

Creating guest experiences isn’t always about making more money from your rooms (although you could arguably up the room rate for the tech options above). The most important aspect is gathering a loyal following - guests who come back for more and tell their friends just how considerate and inventive a hotel you are.

Have we missed something? If you’ve had success offering guest experiences and don’t mind sharing your secrets - let us know in the comments section below!

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Vaping in hotels

We’re forever being told that the hotel industry is changing at a rapid pace, but what does that really mean?

Is it the increasing influx of celebrity-owned and endorsed properties? What about the meteoric rise of services such as Airbnb? And are online travel agencies really set for world domination (if they haven’t already achieved it)?

Sometimes, the smallest of revolutions have the biggest impact, and the real trends to watch out for are those that arrive with every guest that walks into your reception area.

Guests are the harbingers of change. They drive hotel strategy, encourage adoption of new technology and force revenue managers of independent hotels to come up with ever more inventive ways to tempt them away from the big chains.

Unfortunately, such change isn’t always easy to spot, and if you’re unaware of emerging trends amongst hotel guests, they’re likely to creep up unawares and take you by surprise.

For a hotelier to survive and thrive in the modern world of hospitality, they need to be ready for the following 5 guest habits that are already taking hold:

1. The BYOD revolution

There was a time when hotel’s provided PCs in reception areas. Remember that? Perhaps you’ve still got one and, if you have, can you remember the last time anyone sat down to use it?

There’s a good chance it was some time ago. The ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD) revolution has had an impact on businesses of all kinds and nowhere is it more prevalent than in hotels. Most guests will now come armed with their own tablet or laptop and they’ll almost certainly have a powerful smartphone in their pocket.

That means every email, web browsing and media consumption duty they intend to undertake at your property will most likely be carried out on their own device. This makes solid WiFi an absolutely essential investment and the order you’ve just placed for those expensive LCD TVs rather questionable.

2. Self-check in aficionados

If you’ve taken a flight abroad within the last few years, chances are you’ll have checked in before you reached the airport. Doing so is convenient, saves time on the day and removes one item from what is usually a colossal to-do list.

While the number of things a guest will have to do upon entering your hotel doesn’t quite match that of an international flight, the ability to check in days before the stay is something that is becoming increasingly attractive.

Hotel booking systems that offer or intend to offer integration with the new wave of door locking solutions make this possible. A guest books online, receives a notification that check-in prior to their arrival is open and, if the option is taken, receives a digital key that resides on their smartphone. All they have to do on arrival is head straight to their room, open the door with their phone and begin the process of relaxing. Simple.

Even if you’re focused on offering a personable service at your hotel, an increasing number of guests will expect this kind of autonomy. Do you want to be struck off their list?

3. Wallet-free payers

Apple Pay and Android Pay are taking the UK by storm. If you’ve seen someone tap their phone against a Chip and Pin machine when paying for their weekly shop, you’ll have seen one of these services in action. It offers ultimate convenience, security and is arguably the future of payments.

Expect to see more guests approach your reception desk or bar without a wallet or purse. They’ll expect to be able to pay with their smartphone and it’s therefore essential you run POS hardware capable of accepting that type of payment if you’re to avoid any awkward “sorry, we don’t take that here” conversations.

Hint: if you’ve got a Chip and Pin machine already, it is almost certainly ready to accept Apple Pay and Android Pay. Speak to your card acquirer to be sure.

4. Luxury guests

Despite what remains a challenging economic backdrop, there’s still an awful lot of wealth in the world and as a hotelier, you’re likely to come into contact with an increasing number of ‘luxury guests’.

These are people who demand personalised services and every whim catered for. Servicing such people may not be your idea of fun, but if you have a hotel that has the resources to cater for ultra-expectant guests with extremely deep pockets, would you really turn down the opportunity?

5. Vaping

If you regularly spot people inhaling from what looks like a car engine component and, seconds later, exhaling a cloud of smoke any concert technician would be proud of, you’re witnessing the increasing number of people who ‘vape’.

It’s estimated that there are 2.8 million users of electric cigarettes in the UK. Chances are, at least one of the guests you welcome into your hotel today will be a vaper, and knowing how to deal with them is becoming increasingly important for business owners.

The devices aren’t illegal, nor are they toxic like cigarettes, but many hotels have taken the decision to treat them in the same way, excluding their use from within the hotel and politely asking that all vaping is carried out in the smokers’ area.

Whether or not you allow vaping in your hotel is entirely up to you, but take time to consider every side effect before you do. Will other guests be offended by the presence of cherry-flavoured vapour filling the bar area or do you encounter that many e-cigarette users within your hotel that it seems daft not to allow them to be used?

Summary

Act quickly on the above. Investigate each one and quiz the guests who exhibit any of these habits - they’ll give you a great steer on how to turn them into revenue-generating and crowd-pleasing endeavours for your business.

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[fusion_text]Triptease logo

Never heard of advertising your hotel on 'Metasearch'? Confused about TripAdvisor's InstantBooking feature? How about further exploring the ability to tempt guests to book direct by promoting loyalty schemes?

Today's blog of the week is a video piece by the guys at Triptease and offers some fascinating thoughts on the above topics. Could TripAdvisor be the unlikely key to a direct booking revolution?

Well worth a watch!

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[fusion_text]Clockwork logo

If you're a hotelier, you'll know that barely a week goes by when a guest doesn't take it upon themselves to point out a failing in your lovingly-crafted accommodation experience. A leaky tap, poorly-located breakfast table or the inability to tune into Sky Sports 4 are the kind of complaints that will rear their heads without warning and often prove tricky to address.

In our favourite blog post from this week, marketing gurus Clockwork run through the 10 most common hotel complaints. They include dated features, unwanted surprises, the age old topic of cleanliness and 'dodgy' guests themselves.

[/fusion_text][button link="http://www.clock-work.co.uk/blog/general/most-common-hotel-complaints-top-10?utm_source=Email+Campaign&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=32559-163082-July+2016+Newsletter+%282nd+Send%29" color="default" size="" type="" shape="" target="_blank" title="" gradient_colors="|" gradient_hover_colors="|" accent_color="" accent_hover_color="" bevel_color="" border_width="1px" shadow="" icon="" icon_position="left" icon_divider="no" modal="" animation_type="0" animation_direction="left" animation_speed="1" alignment="" class="" id=""]Read Article[/button]

 

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[fusion_text]Econsultancy logo

This week, our favourite hospitality-related blog post comes from Econsultancy and starts with the immortal line "Hotel stays can be incredibly frustrating".

Ouch.

So, what's got their goat up, then? As it turns out, a number of things - WiFi (that old chestnut), checking in, taxis and plug sockets are all put under the spotlight as things that need special attention for guests to have a pleasurable stay.

Well worth a read, if only to remind yourself that you're doing everything correctly.

[/fusion_text][button link="https://econsultancy.com/blog/68025-how-hotels-can-create-a-more-convenient-customer-experience/" color="default" size="" type="" shape="" target="_blank" title="" gradient_colors="|" gradient_hover_colors="|" accent_color="" accent_hover_color="" bevel_color="" border_width="1px" shadow="" icon="" icon_position="left" icon_divider="no" modal="" animation_type="0" animation_direction="left" animation_speed="1" alignment="" class="" id=""]Read Article[/button]

 

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