When Does the Guest Experience Start?
By Mark Lewis-Brown, CEO & President of Vertical Booking USA
Think back to your last trip and the happiness, excitement and anticipation that you felt about it… Now think about when those happy feelings started.
Or was it the moment that you landed on the tarmac in your destination?
Or was it when you arrived at your hotel, credit card in hand, ready to check-in to your room?
Or, maybe, was it the minute that you decided to take a trip… even before you decided where you'd go… or when you'd go on the trip… or what you'd do while you were there?
For most, the thrill of travel starts the minute that the decision is made to take a trip.
Since 61% of travelers book their trip approximately three to four (or more) months prior to their departure date, that gives them lots of time to be excited - and, for smart hoteliers, lots of time to make sure that the traveler's trip is the best one of his/her life.
You're probably asking yourself: how is it possible to make sure that the traveler has the best trip of their life if he/she hasn't booked with my property yet?
Good question. I'm going to tell you… right now.
Booking engine upkeep
Just like with any consumer technology (i.e. cell phones, TVs, tablets, etc.), there are always new advancements in web design and booking engine technology so your property can't just create your website and booking engine, and expect that it will continue to function as needed, until the end of time.
The customer's booking experience can have a significant impact whether or not they book with your property and, if they do (which, let's be real, isn't very likely), it sets the tone for their stay; if it's frustrating and complicated to book a room at your property, the guest is starting the trip on the wrong foot.
You (or someone one your team) should be regularly going through the steps of booking a room on your website to ensure that the booking engine is easy-to-use, simple and straightforward, and offers a seamless booking experience.
If it doesn't, your property must update the booking engine, as needed, to ensure that your potential guests actually finalize the booking - and that it's a positive booking.
This isn't something that you can put off until a rainy day; do. it. now.
I've talked about the importance of eliminating all hotel fees but SO MANY hotels aren't listening. (INSERT ANGRY FACE EMOJI HERE)
HOT TIP: hotel fees are a sure-fire way to p*ss off your guests. Don't do it.
But you know what's even worse than fees? Hidden or undisclosed fees, which are only sprung on the guest at check-in.
And don't be sneaky about it; it doesn't matter if you did technically disclose the fees (in little, tiny font or only on a separate page that isn't a part of the booking path) because, if the guest isn't fully and completely aware of all of the additional fees prior to booking, you're guaranteed an unhappy guest (and, most likely, a bad review) - before the guest has even gotten to the room.
Everyone loves local tips
Once the booking is completed (and you have the guest's contact info), you have another opportunity to improve their overall travel experience, before the trip starts.
Think about what you'd want to know before arriving in a destination and share that info with your future guests via email newsletters or social media. Not only will this improve the guest's pre-trip experience, it can also create additional non-room revenue streams.
Information that you could consider sharing includes:
- Airport transfer tips & company recommendations. (Your property could offer this as an in-house, paid service or partner with a local company, in exchange for revenue sharing.)
- Packing lists.
- Recommendations on local attractions, including resources on where tickets can be obtained for each. (Consider creating a package of discounted tickets to commonly-visited attractions, as another pre-arrival offering.)
- Share any other information that guests coming to your destination should know before arriving (i.e. traffic patterns, weather, local festivals or events that may impact their stay, etc.).
In the end, your guest is much more likely to enjoy their trip, leave a positive review for your property and/or recommend it to friends and family, if their positive experience starts long before they've even arrived at the airport in their hometown (to start their trip).
Knowing that, why wouldn't you implement all of these tactics immediately?! There's literally nothing to lose - and a million possible positive outcomes, all of which will improve your property's rating and increase overall revenue.
That's the literal definition of a win/win scenario.
Mark Lewis-Brown, CEO and President of Vertical Booking USA, is a hotel industry veteran with more than 30 years of experience in the hospitality industry. At Vertical Booking, Mark is responsible for the commercial development of the company’s innovative CRS platform in North America and is involved in key decision making regarding the strategies and development of the group.More from Mark Lewis-Brown
About Vertical Booking
Vertical Booking is a leading, global reservation technology provider with hotel clients in more than 118 countries worldwide, offering solutions translated into 29 different languages and usable in all currencies. No matter the size of the property or group, Vertical Booking can provide a customizable reservation solution that supports the entire guest booking cycle, including a booking engine, GDS distribution, channel manager, OTA rate comparison tool and a reservation call center application, all through one unique dashboard. Because the solutions are module-based, hotels can customize the platform to only pay for the tools needed, keeping the suite of products affordable for everything from small boutique hotels to large groups and independent chains. Vertical Bookings solutions eliminate manual reservation input, inventory tracking and are fully integrated using 2-way XML connection, to ensure access to real-time reservation data.