Here’s an exchange a traveler recently shared on Twitter, recounting a quick but memorable check-in experience at a major branded hotel:
Me: I’m checking in
Him: Long day?
Me: Too long
Him: Here’s a voucher for the bar.
Yes, building loyalty can be that simple. Whether a property is branded, independent, large or small, a hotelier can make a guest’s stay a lot more memorable by anticipating their needs and personalizing the experience. And once a guest has had a positive experience, they’ll be much more likely to share that story on TripAdvisor, Yelp and other review sites. (For the record, the traveler in the above exchange made a point of tagging the hotel brand in the tweet.)
Offer the Unexpected
Making a guest’s stay memorable enough to be shared on social media doesn’t always have to be a huge gesture. Front desk agents should put themselves in the guest’s shoes and imagine what they would want in the guest’s situation.
If a hotel doesn’t have a bar where a weary guest can get a late-night refreshment, the front desk agent can offer a voucher for the grab-and-go stand, or deliver some fruit from the kitchen. Hospitality is more than just food, of course: A hotel can also keep a few umbrellas by the front desk for the staff to hand out in case of unexpected rain. The cost to the hotel will be minimal, however guests will appreciate knowing that the hotel team cared enough to keep them dry, or make sure they had something to eat before bed.
In his book Zombie Loyalists, entrepreneur and speaker Peter Shankman shared a story of his stay at The Ritz-Carlton, Dubai several years back. Upon returning to his room late one night, he found a fresh miniature tube of toothpaste in the bathroom with a note from the housekeeper. She had noticed that he was out of toothpaste, and took it upon herself to get him some more.
The gesture so impressed him that he shared the story on his social media platforms. As he wrote in Zombie Loyalists: “My social networks blew up, and the brand awareness of the amazing service at The Ritz-Carlton shot up a little bit as well. I personally know two people who made reservations at this specific hotel when they traveled to Dubai in the following months, and they both said this picture was what pushed them over the edge to do it. Cost to the hotel? Probably about 48 cents. Result? Well, let’s just say reservations at The Ritz-Carlton, Dubai aren’t cheap. How’s that for some customer service ROI?”
There’s another important element to the bar voucher story: The front desk agent didn’t stop to get approval from management before giving the guest the voucher. When hotel employees are empowered to make quick decisions, they can make a guest’s stay better and solve potential problems much faster.
The housekeeper at The Ritz-Carlton, Dubai knew that she could bring Peter Shankman some toothpaste because the brand allows every employee to charge more than $1,000 each day in order to improve any guest’s experience. That means that a busboy overhearing a complaint during breakfast can quickly have a complimentary bottle of champagne sent to a guest’s room, all without having to authorize the expense with upper management.
Of course, not every hotel can allow its staff charge $1,000 per day, but the principle is the same, even at lower price points. Empowered team members will find meaningful ways to make a guest’s stay better, and when guests are surprised and impressed, they are much more likely to share the story and encourage more people to make reservations.
Soon after the guest has checked out, the management team should be sure to follow up and request any feedback the guest might want to share. Most importantly, make it easy for them to share that story by including links to the property’s TripAdvisor and Yelp pages in the correspondence. Once they’ve been wowed with a great experience, they’ll have a great story to share that will encourage more guests to book a stay.
TripAdvisor also offers several tools to encourage interaction with guests such as Review Express, a tool that allows hoteliers to create and send emails encouraging guests to share their stories. TripAdvisor also has widgets for hotel websites and an app for hotel Facebook pages.
Connecting with guests is vital these days, and it’s vital for employees to feel empowered by management to make every guest’s experience positive. Also by following up after the stay, a hotel can see its online reputation grow and experience an uptick in reservations going forward. As in life, it’s the small things that matter most.