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Tips on how to optimize customer service in Hotels and B&Bs

According to a PWC report on the hotel industry, European cities saw unprecedented hotel bookings from 2017 through 2019. This was supported by record travel. Hotel owners should be capitalizing on this trend and ensuring next year is no different. One way is by ensuring that guests have the very best possible experience and as any hotel or B&B guest knows that begins with quality customer service. Nobody wants to return to a hotel where they were treated badly. 

Having the ability to deliver top customer services has so many ramifications in this day and age. It can decide whether you get a good or a bad review thereby affecting not just that one customer, but so many others. Given that the stakes are so high, what is the best way to ensure customer service? 

Here are some go-to pro tips for how to optimize customer service at your establishment: 

Judge a hotel book by its cover -  in 15 minutes!

First impressions do count! As soon as your guests walk in the door, they will size up your hotel and it will leave a lasting view. As the Wall Street Journal highlighted recently, hotels have 15 minutes to give a solid impression -  that is it. So as a hotel or B&B owner, ensure your staff maximize this moment. They should greet any guests walking in your door with a warm smile and then make sure that they pull out all the stops and show them the love. This means holding doors, asking if they need help with bags, if they need any immediate pre-booking service, directing them to the rest-room or concierge desk to discover things in the local area. You want your guests to feel like royalty. And their castle is your establishment. If the reception has a long line of guests checking in or out, apologize, and ensure that they have comfy seats where they can relax and are not forgotten. The point here is that those 15 minutes should be treated like the golden 15 minutes because you never get them back. During this limited window, go over and above to ensure they know, feel and remember that they are the total priority. 

Spread the word

Guests have no idea of knowing what you offer unless you tell them. Yes, they obviously come because they need a place to spend the night. But what about the restaurant hours? Or perhaps the special dishes on the menu? The spa promotion could be just what they need or how about personal recommendations for events happening just down the road? Not all guests read the hotel information booklet in their rooms. If there isn’t a clear way to spread this information, and even if there is, your staff need to be up to speed and prepared to inform hotel guests at all the right opportunities. If there is anything special about your hotel (history or its services) or the season the hotel guests are visiting (its Paris Fashion Week, its restaurant week in Rome or did you know about Amsterdam’s Tulip Show?) you need to train your staff to communicate these details to guests.  Just make sure it's done appropriately and is presented as an extra perk in staying at your business.  

How to deal with the negative 

According to Insights review of top 5 complaints in the hotel industry, dealing with guest complaints is one of the biggest challenges for hotel staff. Training your staff to deal with the issue quickly and effectively should be a mega priority for you. As a first step, your staff should be as accessible as possible when a problem arises. Thus, ensuring the desks are manned for those inevitable phone calls and demands (i.e.”why doesn’t the wifi work? Why is it so cold in my room?”...etc.) is key. Maybe have a 24-hour reception desk - or at least an out of hours contact number.

When those complaints do arise, you will want to ensure your guest knows that you are doing everything you can to address and remedy the situation. Ensure you staff are well trained in how to handle a variety of situations and understand how to communicate with the customer effectively. Usually this means also frequently being in communication. If fixing a problem takes time, keep that unhappy customer informed right away. Updates are better than none at all. As long as they are kept up to speed, they will know they were not necessarily forgotten and are more likely to feel they are being tended to, even if they are unhappy about something. 

Then, fix it, offer an explanation of what you did on your end, and then make them feel compensated appropriately (even if its verbally) based on the grievance. Do not underestimate how important this is. Problems will arise and you want your staff to know how to handle it!

Let’s get personal

Being made to feel special goes a long way in the hotel industry. Traditionally, this has been evidenced in a hotel’s ability to remember a customer's preference (regular rooms, favorite table and habits) and accommodating this. However increasingly, this is being done technically. As detailed in Hospitality Technology’s recent report, with the development of artificial intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML) and advances in digital technology, guests’ digital interactions can be optimized specifically for them, simply by “tracking and analyzing customer behavior and trends across multiple hotel properties, based on geography, guest history, booking preferences, interactions on site, conversations and more.”  What this all means is that before a guest even checks in, you can know more of what matters to them than ever before. This is important because a guest’s experience matters and means more potential revenue for you. As HotelOnline reminds us, the trend in 2019 is for customers to feel they are getting the best guest experience when they spend money. Any way you can to offer them that total experience they hope and expect is thus in your favor. 

Don’t underestimate doing it the old fashioned way, either! The idea here is to get personal. So once they walk in your door and upon check-in, you can ask them the standard follow-up questions: what is the purpose of their stay, first instance? If you notice they are traveling alone, as a couple or as a family, you can also better cater to their needs. Would they like a wake up call? A quieter room? Would they prefer to be closer to an elevator? How about a pull-out sofa or trundle bed for their three year old? Is this a special occasion (anniversary?). All these details give you a chance to personalize their stay to make them feel special. 

How did we do?

Want a guest to come back or recommend you? Then, you must ask for feedback. It is the best indicator of customer satisfaction, after a rebooking. Just make sure your customers have a chance to leave feedback and share their views on service and their stay. This should be a straightforward process either online, when they check out, or perhaps in their room. Either way, show that you are always looking for ways to improve and take their recommendations very seriously.  

As with any business, offering incentives for this precious information is also smart since people do get busy. If they are rushing out the door, it might be wise to mention you will follow-up with them after their visit and what the best time to reach out for feedback is. Make it look like a priority not just because it is, but because you value what they specifically have to say. So if they are willing, do reach out to them to express your appreciation and ask for their honest feedback on their experience. Then, if you do make changes, be sure and inform your customers through your communication channels on social media and newsletters so that you show them their opinion matters.

When it comes to feedback of any kind, be advised that you may hear most often from the critics, particularly if they are no longer in your hotel and feel the desire to wax lyrical on the internet from the comfort of their home. While this can hurt, know that this is the case in any industry. However, their feedback should be properly addressed, particularly if it is on a public forum since negative feedback is what gets noticed, especially by other potential customers. 

Once you have a willing and positive communication channel open, you can target these same guests with promotional offers and upcoming deals they might be interested in. As noted in a recent study, hotels that engage with customers simply perform better. Indeed they will have a 63% higher popularity ranking and high visibility for their next customers. So remember, customer service is a relationship that doesn’t end with their stay!

Jessica Brown
Jessica is a globally renowned writer specializing in International Relations, Economics and Political Affairs. A graduate from Brown and Cambridge Universities she now focuses on helping small to medium businesses grow their bottom line.
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