Best practice: How to excel in customer experience as a hotelier
Almost every company in the hospitality industry knows that the key to success is customer experience.
Moreover, customer expectations have transformed over the past two decades. Now, hospitality consumers want higher quality, customized experiences delivered with greater ease. This is because hospitality consumers’ expectations are increasingly defined by experiences outside of the industry. As Deloitte suggest in their 2017 Travel and Hospitality Industry Outlook, “Everyday brands such as Amazon, Starbucks, and Seamless...showcase their innovation and service to their consumers often – sometimes daily. Many of these brands are leading on the customer experience front and setting the bar high for consumers’ brand expectations.”
Therefore, it is essential that travel brands strive to meet modern consumer expectations. This is especially the case for hoteliers, as customer experience is what differentiates a hotel from its competitors. More often than not, a personal touch, attention to detail and a welcoming atmosphere are what defines a hotel’s USP. It is this attention to customer experience that makes hotel industry leaders the pioneers that they are. What is more, these approaches are transferable across sectors, including telecoms, financial services, and retail. Here, discover five examples of inspirational customer service to apply to any enterprise.
Best practice for creating personalized experiences
To deliver personalized services across an organization, hotels need to develop an omnichannel strategy. Once again, Deloitte’s 2017 industry report provides wisdom about how companies should approach this:
“Today’s hotel guests, for example, will define a brand by the quality of their experiences across a proliferation of touch points, including smartphones, desktops, wearable apps, over the phone, and on property. Brands, which make an effort to infuse elements of on demand, personalization, and authenticity into these channels will likely fare much better than brands which do not, generating more revenue by driving loyalty, positive reviews, social likes and shares, and word-of-mouth recommendations. Experience is now integral to core travel product offerings.”
Thus, implementing an omnichannel customer service strategy is an extensive undertaking. Therefore, it is essential that hotel brands seek full organizational buy-in. This includes comprehensive C-level support, including strong leadership from the chief marketing officer. Furthermore, hotels should seek to cultivate a customer-centric customer culture. This means that every maneuver and transaction should prioritize the customer, whether it is client-facing or not. Finally, to deliver this level of service, hotels need to ensure their customer data and digital marketing tools are fully integrates. With this intelligence, hotels can work towards delivering fully personalized experiences, both digitally and in person.
Service excellence: Case studies from the hotel industry
The following case studies demonstrate how leading hotel brands of every scale are using omnichannel personalization to enhance their customer experience. From high-tech self service facilities to simple, traditional touches, these hotel brands demonstrate how hoteliers can go above and beyond.
1. A warm welcome
The Andaz by Hyatt is one of the highest rated hotels in London according to TripAdvisor. The Andaz has achieved an impressive 91% approval rating, placing the property in the top 5% of London hotels. However, when a guest steps through the door of The Andaz, it becomes immediately clear why the hotel boasts such high ratings. On arrival, a concierge greets the guest and seats them in the lounge area. The guest then checks in over coffee using a tablet, whilst the porter takes their luggage to their room.
2. Budget does not need to be basic
If customers are traveling on business, often they’ll choose an economy hotel. However, business travelers are some of the most lucrative, as they tend to have the longest retention period. Therefore, it’s crucial that budget hotels define themselves from the competition to attract these repeat customers. For instance, Doubletree by Hilton offers guests a warm chocolate chip cookie on arrival. This small, simple gesture compels guests to share their positive experience with others, generating a referral.
3. A dedicated customer experience team
The ultra-luxe Armani Hotel in Dubai employs a dedicated ‘Lifestyle Ambassadors’ to make sure every aspect of their customer experience is flawless. Each guest is assigned a personal staff member who caters to their every request. Therefore, each visitor’s customer experience is thoroughly personal. Their unique Lifestyle Ambassador recommends fine dining restaurants, luxury bars, and scenic locations, whilst dealing with queries, specific requirements and challenges.
4. Added extras
Many guests look forward to the complimentary soaps, shower caps and bath products in their hotel bathroom. However, some properties set themselves apart from the competition by going the extra mile with added extras. For example, The Conrad in Chicago now offers guests their signature Sleep Menu. Customers can select their preferred pillow density and select complimentary products like earplugs, lip balms, wake up calls, and even moisture-lock socks. This attention to detail creates a memorable customer experience only associated with Conrad.
5. Go above and beyond
The Ritz-Carlton is responsible for one of the most famous and touching stories of how a hotelier can go above and beyond. When Chris Hunn and his family arrived home from their stay at a Ritz-Carlton property, they realized their son’s stuffed giraffe, Joshie, was missing. Chris’s son was distraught. In an attempt to calm his son, he told him Joshie had taken an extended vacation.
Luckily, that evening, the Ritz-Carlton called to say Joshie had been found. “I came clean to the staff about the story I told my son and asked if they would mind taking a picture of Joshie on a lounge chair by the pool to substantiate my fabricated story,” Chris explained in a blog post. The team was on board – and not only did the Ritz’s staff take photos of Joshie on vacation, they also sent him home with a few Ritz-Carlton-branded gifts.
Inspired customer service
Hospitality companies must ensure they deliver the highest level of service to every guest, across every touch point. In order to meet these enhanced expectations, hotels require an executive team that understands personalization needs to permeate every aspect of the business. This means C-levels have to develop a strategic framework for implementing and enabling these technologies. The above are just a few examples of how any company can create a memorable customer experience. The hotel industry is particularly full of creative, inspiring examples of how to make customer experience exceptional. What is more, with increasing competence and new technology coming onto the scene, customer service will undoubtedly only improve in the future.