Providing a Positive Experience Across the Entire Guest Journey
By Robert Reitknecht, Hospitality Leader and Guest Experience Expert
Twenty percent of hotel guests say their customer experience (CX) expectations are higher than they were two years ago. So, what's changed between now and then? Greater demand for quality, consistent service organization-wide. Consider these three real guest reviews I found on TripAdvisor:
· "The breakfast buffet staff was horrible. Whenever we would simply ask for some food to be restocked, they would scoff at us." (source)
· "There [was] a lady in the front office and whenever I asked something from her, the response was always very curt and rude." (source)
Each review addresses a specific area of business that failed to meet their expectations: a lack of communication between reception and security; a bad attitude among the buffet staff; an unaccommodating front office worker. Notice how none of these reviews contain blanket statements about the guest experience. These snippets come from long messages that are specific to certain issues and, more importantly, specific interaction points.
These reviews prove that superior CX must be delivered across every step, stage and channel of the guest lifecycle. Guest expectations should be met and exceeded at every interaction point. Memorable experiences should be delivered from start to finish, end-to-end.
This was a topic of discussion at Medallia's Experience '18 conference, which I attended May 15-16 in Long Beach, CA. The guest experience takes place across the entire hotel organization—property management, front desk, housekeeping, room service, concierge—yet many executives have a narrow focus.
If I could condense my 30+ years' industry experience into a few key takeaways, here's what I'd advise for providing a positive experience across the entire guest journey:
· The guest experience happens across the entire hotel, but the direction of that journey is set when a guest arrives. It is critically important to create a personal connection from the start and ensure everything is in place for a seamless arrival. For example, is the right room prepared by housekeeping? A 2016 study from hospitalityPulse found that only 5% of guests actually receive the room they book. Do guests have to wait for their room? Two-thirds usually do. Are they being recognized for their loyalty to your hotel? "Sometimes" was the majority response of loyalty guests when asked if they feel they get a better room assigned as a loyalty club member than a non-member. A lot of work goes into the backend to deliver an amazing front end experience.
· Remember those interaction points: I think guests would feel extremely valued if they heard their name mentioned at the gift shop, restaurant or from the housekeeper cleaning their room rather than simply at check-in and check-out. The term "guest" should be taken quite literally; you want every person who walks through your doors to feel like a cherished guest in your home. I always say, don't wait for your guest to ring the door bell and then ask what they want for dinner or hurry to prepare their room for them. Prepare for their stay, which is experienced across every facet of the property.
· Amazing guest experiences are driven by two things: culture and people. Do employees feel empowered to deliver game-changing service? Are they working together in a collaborative environment, or siloed by department? Do they feel fulfilled and motivated to deliver a memorable experience at every touchpoint? If even one employee disagrees, your end-to-end strategy falls short. People make the culture, and culture makes the experience. The experience is what leads to repeat business and increased spending (77% of customers claim to have chosen a product or service from a company because of good experiences they had with it).
When asked to think about their business interactions over the last 12 months, 33% of customers said "nothing particularly good or bad happened." Is this really what hospitality leaders want guests to think when reflecting on the interactions they've had with their brand? This is extremely easy to improve with the right culture, strategy and people.
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