COVID-19: Winning Back Trust And Creating Safe-Havens Through Effective Communication
Find out how hospitality and lodging businesses can adapt their operations and communicate effectively to win back trust and create safe havens in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The key to building and regaining trust with your stakeholders, employees and customers is to be transparent and keep communication channels open. Here are a few tips on what to think about when it comes to your communication strategy.
- Inform your customers about how you're handling the crisis. Be clear about what you're doing to keep them safe. Let them know what to expect before they arrive for their stay, and what safety measures you're putting in place to make their stay as safe and germ-free as possible.
- Be empathetic and keep your communications truthful. Show consideration for those affected by the crisis and spell out what you're doing to minimize the consequences, not only for your customers, but also your staff members, partners and stakeholders. Talk about what you're doing to reduce lay-offs and minimize the fall-out. Make sure that you show that you care more about the well-being of people and the community than reaping profits.
- Be honest about how the crisis has affected your business. This includes both the good and the bad. Be clear about what services and experiences you're still offering (and which ones you're not) to help manage expectations ahead of time. That way, your customers won't be in for a surprise when they arrive.
- Reassure your customers that they will be taken care of. Show that they can trust your brand and the professionalism of your staff. Let them know that their health and safety is your top priority, and that you're doing everything in your power to protect them and look out for their best interests.
- Stay true to your brand. Reassure them that despite any changes to your operations, you'll continue to provide them with the same brand experience and service that they have come to know and love - even if it comes with some adjustments.
- Give them an outlet to voice concerns, complaints and ask questions. Set up a hotline or let them know which channels they can reach you on to get the fastest response. And of course, make sure that on the other end, the response is empathetic, understanding and accommodating.
- Be timely. Stay up-to-date with the latest developments and government regulations and keep your communications timely and relevant. Consider creating a platform or information point on your website and social networks to share updates and links to information sources.
Staying flexible with bookings and cancellations
While most customers are cancelling their stays due to travel restrictions, others are already planning for better times and are looking to book or re-schedule their stays for when the crisis has blown over. Here's what to consider when it comes to your bookings and cancellations.
- Offer refunds and vouchers. While it's not great for your bottom-line, offer your customers refunds for their pre-paid stays or vouchers for alternative dates. After all, it's not their fault that they had to cancel their travel, and if you punish them you'll be sure to lose their loyalty.
- Remove non-cancellable rates. As it's not clear when travel restrictions will be lifted, it's not reasonable to assume that customers will want to commit to non-cancellable rates. Consider removing your early booker or advanced purchase rates, offering super-flexible rates instead.
- Maintain your rates. Try to avoid reducing your rates, because although this might seem like a good short-term solution, it's very difficult to recover once market demand returns. Instead, look at how you can promote value-added offers or expand the flexibility of your booking terms.
In order to comply with new government regulations and ease insecurities of your travelers, you'll have to adapt the way you run your hotel and day-to-day operations. Here are a few things you should consider when it comes to reinforcing safety and security within your establishment.
- Sanitized arrivals and check-ins. The defense against the spread of germs should begin from the moment your guests arrive (and ideally even before). Consider switching to automatic doors, investing in protective equipment for all of your front-desk staff (including bell-hops) and running temperature screenings for new arrivals. Set up sanitizing stations in all public areas and ramp up cleaning and disinfection to make sure guests can stay germ-free when touching counters and pushing buttons. If you've considered switching to contactless initiatives, such as mobile check-in and digital keys, there's never been a better time.
- In-depth cleaning and health-monitoring. Needless to say, cleaning and disinfection of public spaces as well as rooms, high touch surfaces and back-of-house facilities will have to be intensified. Guests will want to have reassurance that they're staying in a clean space. You may want to consider investing in new technologies such as germ-detecting UV lighting in rooms, ozone generators or contact tracing.
- Single-use amenities. While it may not be in-line with their sustainability commitments, hotels may want to return to single-use toiletries instead of multi-use bottles to stop the spread of germs between guests. Same goes with non-essential amenities. For now, it makes sense to reduce the use decorative pillows, bed runners, newspapers and items stocked in minibars.
- New dining experiences. Social distancing will have to be respected in dining areas just as in public spaces, calling for new measures within hotel restaurants and bars. The number of tables will likely have to be reduced, and at least for now, big buffet spreads might have to be put on hold. Staff delivering food - whether it be at the table or for room service - will have to wear protective clothing and adhere to strict safety protocols. And if more guests choose to opt for in-room dining, perhaps rooms will need to be rearranged so they offer a more pleasant dining experience.
- Pools, spas and gyms. Other public spaces will have to be reconfigured, too. In gyms and spas, staff should be wearing protective equipment and thoroughly wiping down facilities after each use. Amenities such as headphones and fruit might also have to go, and spa menus might need to see a reduction of services offered to reduce the spread of germs. At the pool and beach, chairs should be spread further apart and attendants offering pool service should be making as little contact as necessary.
Preparing for the bounce-back
The tourism industry is incredibly resilient and will inevitably bounce back once the situation (and the demand) improves. While times are difficult now, it's worth remembering that nothing is permanent. In the same way, none of your operational changes should be permanent.
Stay flexible and make sure to revise weekly - or even daily - how to adapt your offering to comply with the latest government restrictions and recommendations on hygiene, safety and social distancing. Stay on top of the trends, take ownership of the situation. And if you can, do more than what's been asked of you. Show your customers that you're going above and beyond the call of duty, and that your company is strong and resilient enough to survive the crisis - possibly coming out stronger on the other side.
No matter what, keep the end-goal in sight. Keep trust in your brand high and make sure that your customers, employees and stakeholders all stay by your side while you ride out the storm.
About EHL Group
EHL Group encompasses a portfolio of specialized business units that deliver hospitality management education and innovation worldwide. Headquartered in Lausanne, Switzerland, the Group includes:
EHL Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne is an ambassador for traditional Swiss hospitality and has been a pioneer in hospitality education since 1893 with over 25,000 alumni worldwide and over 120 nationalities. EHL is the world's first hospitality management school that provides undergraduate and graduate programs at its campuses in Lausanne, Singapore and Chur-Passugg, as well as online learning solutions. EHL is ranked n°1 by QS World University Rankings by subject and CEOWorld Magazine, and its gastronomic restaurant is the world's only educational establishment to hold a Michelin Star.
EHL Swiss School of Tourism and Hospitality has been one of the leading hospitality management colleges for hotel specialists for 50 years. The school delivers Swiss-accredited federal diplomas of vocational education and training and of higher education in its 19th century spa-hotel in Chur-Passugg, Graubünden, to Swiss and international students from 20 countries.
EHL Advisory Services is the largest Swiss hospitality advisory company specializing in service culture implementation, business consulting, as well as the development and quality assurance of learning centers. EHL Advisory Services has offices in Lausanne, Beijing, Shanghai and New Delhi and has delivered mandates in more than 60 countries over the past 40 years.
Phone: +41 21 785 1354