Are your mission statement and guiding principles filled with words like honesty, integrity, trust, relationships, caring, and transparency? Of course, they are! We are hospitality!
Excellence requires reflection and self-examination to ensure we truly live in those values.
For the most part, there's tremendous heart and honor in the hospitality industry, but sometimes the grind of life can lead us astray from our best intentions, especially in times of stress, like these last few years. While reading reviews from across the country and reviewing websites and booking engines, I have observed a few common blind spots that need attention.
We all know the importance of making our guests feel cared for, appreciated, and respected. We also appreciate the potential lifetime value of every customer in terms of return visits, recommendations, and referrals.
With the ever-rising cost of customer acquisition, it is fiscally prudent for us to practice reputation and loyalty cultivation actively.
In this episode, we will examine seven common complaints on negative reviews that reflect what many travelers consider a deviation from fully, forthright, and honest communications. I would call it a failure to deliver satisfaction on brand promises on websites and booking engines.
Let's look at this together using, "Would you treat your mama like that?" as the litmus test to judge the guest-centricity of these common yet unappreciated practices.
Please listen to the podcast, but for a quick overview, here are seven common practices irritating your guests and keeping you from enjoying the highest guest satisfaction scores that your hotels and your teams deserve.
Saying you have a suite when it isn’t two separate rooms. Come on now. Would you treat your Mama like that? We know that the word suite means a set, and in the hotel business, it means two rooms, not including the bathroom. No matter how big your brand is, you don’t get to make up your own definition for words that already have an internationally accepted meaning. If there’s no door between the living room and bedroom, you could call it a Junior Suite or a Studio, and show lots of images and even a floor plan to make sure it is clear. If you call it a Suite to lure people into booking, you will disappoint your guests intentionally and inspire negative reviews that will scare off future customers. You’ll also fail to grow the level of loyalty that will keep your marketing costs low and your retention high. It’s not worth it.
Being vague about key guest room attributes, such as does it or doesn't it have a tub? Don't we want our guests to be able to book and pay for a room they love without risking disappointing them or having to take up the time of our staff moving them around. If you don't have tubs, make it very clear through descriptions and photos with captions. When there's a room, I will even put it into the name of the room because that's the easiest way for the guest to see that information, and I want to put the guests first. If some rooms have tubs and others, make it easy for tub lovers to book the room they want online. Don't make the call. Not only does forcing a phone call lead to guest friction and potential human error, but we as an industry need to alleviate the burden on our teams whenever possible.
Saying you offer a sofabed in the room, but not having the bedding available in the room on arrival. Would you want anyone to treat your Mama like that? Time and time again, I hear stories of bedding that didn’t make it up to the guest room until long after the kids were asleep. When there’s a bed in the room, and the guest has paid for the use of the bed, there is an implied promise that the bed or sofa bed will come with bedding. It should not be a struggle for a parent to put their tired children to bed. If you don’t have enough bedding, take the fact that the room has a sofabed off of the website and booking engine. And don’t forget the OTA descriptions as well.
Continuing to state on the website that you offer free hot breakfast when your reviewers say you do not offer breakfast at all anymore. Even now, in the summer of 2022, hotels blame COVID or the labor shortage. If you don’t feel like you can serve breakfast, that’s fine, but state that fact boldly on the website, AND remove the information that you have a free hot breakfast. And let them know where in the area they can find breakfast. When you make promises you can’t deliver, you not only disappoint guests, you make them feel disrespected and lied to. Would you treat your mamma like that? That anger that was perfectly preventable is now going to be felt by your already overworked staff. Would you treat your daughter like that? No, you would not want that for your family. So don’t subject your work family to unnecessary stress either.
Saying there is free breakfast on your website, but when your guest goes down at 9 AM, it’s already over. Or they go down at 8:30 AM, and the chafing dishes are already empty. Or the buffet is advertised to be on until 10 AM, but at 9:50 AM, the hostess refuses to seat you. The complaints are so common that they not only produce a lot of negative reviews, they have all happened to me. If your breakfast ends exceptionally early, just be super honest and replace the words free breakfast with Free Hot Breakfast daily from 7 AM to 9 AM. Be honest and deliver 100%. If you want guests to love you, you have to love and respect them first. Don’t run out. Don’t take it down early. And don’t stop seating early if you want your guests to trust and respect your brand.
Saying you have adjacent rooms without specifying they do not connect. Do your staff at the front desk love taking time to continually explain to disappointed guests that there’s a difference between adjacent and adjoining? Don’t use intentionally confusing language to get people to book accommodations that aren’t what they want. Would you try to fool your Mama like that? Speak plainly. "Would you like me to reserve rooms near each other?" or "Would you like to book two connecting rooms?" If you want Mamas and Papas to be happy, do whatever you need to to book and hold those rooms for them. It’s the right thing to do. If you put people first, it’s not hard to see why parents don’t want their kids down the hall. Make connecting rooms easy to confirm online.
Advertising an evening reception as a brand value, but not delivering on that promise to the guests during their stay. Isn't asking website visitors to call the hotel for details about the hotel's services the antithesis of our goal to make booking faster, easier, and more convenient for our guests and our teams? It says boldly on your website that you offer “evening receptions.” No further details are offered. This type of advertisement makes life easier for marketing but creates disappointment for hotel guests and challenges the first desk to appease unhappy guests. Guests are meant to understand the implication that the reception will be on the evening they stay. Wait. What? The reception is only every Sunday? Every full moon? Every Leap Year Day? Would you treat your Mama like that? Call it a Wednesday Evening Reception if you only have it on Wednesdays. Your guests will love it and won’t miss what they were not promised.
Isn't the purpose of our website to inform travelers of the most up-to-date information on all the great experiences they will enjoy at your hotel? Isn't the purpose of our booking engine to allow the guest to select the right room option for them without human intervention? Shouldn't we help protect our overworked team's time with repeated queries so that our people may focus on more important things, like making our guests happy?
When you try to sell more rooms by being misleading, you will lose customers and frustrate your team.
Do you want to retain more loyal guests and team members?
Live your values. Deliver what you promised.
Enjoy the rewards of having guests love you more when you love them first.
If you would like help with a friction point audit for your hotel or portfolio so that you can inspire consistently great guest reviews, let's chat!
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