Shifting Culture as A Path to Recovery: With Hotel Owner, Robert Rauch, of HotelGuru.com
The hospitality industry is in a critical state of transition. Hoteliers and our teams are still dealing with supply issues, staffing issues, as well as heightened inflation, inflated guest expectations, and emotional stress. In this episode, Adele Gutman speaks with the Hotel Guru, Robert Rauch talk about how hotel owners and general managers can use culture to lead their teams through recovery and continued change.
Everyone wants a great culture and great guest reviews, but sometimes it’s challenging to know where to begin. I always say, start by asking your team for their insights, and looking at your guest reviews to know what your guests love and where you can do better.
I hope you will listen to and enjoy the conversation as we explore how one seasoned and successful hotel owner applies guest-centric culture to his operations in these times of transition.
Here are a few highlights from the conversation:
Honesty Breeds Respect: Communicate with transparency and authenticity what you do and do not offer so that it is easy to see what makes your experience special. It also ensures that there are no unexpected surprises. Check your reviews to see where the gaps are between what you think you offer and what your guests are actually experiencing. Every day is an opportunity for creative problem solving to close those gaps.
Pre-Stay Communication: Communication with prospective customers starts with the website, but it doesn’t end there. Use every communication channel you can, your booking engine, media gallery, social media, confirmation and pre-stay emails, text messages, and even pre-stay confirmation calls to ensure your guest will be prepared to avoid problems and set up for success for a great stay with you.
OTA websites and pre-stay emails should also be part of the communication plan. While you are responding to guest reviews, you may also take the opportunity to elaborate on the details of what is available at your hotel or in the area, if it is appropriate based on the comments of the guest.
It takes years to build a reputation, but a minute to tarnish it: Taking away amenities while increasing rates make work for the short term but can cost you customer and employee loyalty in the long run. Think about the efficiency of keeping your guests and employees for the long run and all the referrals they provide, saving you the unsustainable expenses of acquisition.
Are you offering an Experience or a Commodity? Yes, the reality is that some amenities cost more to deliver than some travelers are willing to pay for them. Reviews help you learn what matters to your guests. Many amenities have been reduced, but see if you can keep the option available for those who do highly value those services. Not having options available means you may permanently lose customers to competitive hotels with more flexible offerings.
Experiences have “Wow” moments: While some less valued services may fall to the wayside, think about your customer and how to add experiences that enrich their lives and create loyalty. Elevate the value of your experience and differentiate yourself from the competition by adding thoughtful, easy-to-implement, and affordable “wow” factors that are a better fit for your clientele’s lifestyle.
Where to begin? It starts with thoughtfulness and showing appreciation for the guest. Lots of smiles make people feel welcome, but thinking ahead to make sure everyone can find what they need take it to the next level. For example, being sure you have Vegetarian, Vegan, and Gluten-Free options on the menu without your guests having to ask means you thought about their needs in advance puts people at ease. People with special needs and lifestyle choices should never have to feel they are begging or inconveniencing you to accommodate them.
Bob on Thoughtfulness:
Be great to your community.
Be great to your guests.
Be great to your employees.
Add Value: Wine tastings, Whiskey tastings, Chocolate tastings and morning runs with the manager are affordable but “wow” experiences Bob has offered at his hotels to help give guests an interesting and positive story to share with others while strengthening the relationship between the guests and the team at his hotels.
Small but meaningful distinctions: Layering in an extra delight at the end like a healthy bone broth or smoothie at the end of a workout leaves travelers with the feeling they have found a place that truly cares about them.
Pro-Tip: If a guest is unhappy because your hotel was not what they expected, be gracious and help them find a hotel that better suits their needs. At least that traveler will think highly of your integrity and not berate you online. In the long run, it is better for the bottom line to care for customers’ needs first, even if that means sending them to another hotel. The good you put out into the world will come back to your business in referrals and recommendations.
Pro-Tip: Robert and Adele agree that General Managers should talk to as many guests as possible, and a great way to do that is to be there at breakfast, greeting people and making them feel welcome. Asking them at breakfast if there is anything they need can help you prevent any problems from being unattended to during the stay that could later result in a negative review or a guest that doesn’t return.
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If your hotel or business could benefit from more five-star reviews (and honestly, couldn't we all?), please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and let's see how we can put you on a reputation optimization plan to meet your needs and support your goals.