Adele Gutman Milne, CHBA, CHDM
A Hotelier's New Year’s Resolution for 2022: Reduce Stress for Guests and Staff.
Updated: Jan 3, 2022
How Powerful Pre-stay Communications Inspire 5-star Reviews and Diminish Friction
It’s no secret. I love 5-Star reviews. I see them as free billboard advertising and social proof that a hotel with this distinction offers a more caring and enjoyable guest experience than the others. Happy guests also make the work of hospitality a pleasure for our staff, yet too often we leave our teams to repeatedly handle complaints created by incomplete pre-stay communications and unmanaged expectations.
If great abs are made in the kitchen, then great reviews are made in the pre-stay experience planning. The pre-stay communications your guests receive set the tone for how much they will enjoy their visit.
Get this right and it can fill your guests with happy anticipation of the wonderful experience they are about to enjoy. Fail to communicate, and you run the risk of unwelcome surprises due to gaps between what guests expected and what they encountered.
Humanize the Automated
Many of your guests may have received their confirmation email from an OTA (Online Travel Agency). One of the primary jobs of the pre-stay email is to humanize the experience and make a direct connection between you, the hotelier, and your guest.
How ironic is it to brag about your hotel’s personalized experience in your marketing, while only sending out anonymous emails from the agency or the hotel? Sending welcoming messages from “the team” is slightly better.
If, however, your goal is to create a human connection with your guests and build loyalty, why not choose to go with a warm and thoughtful pre-stay message to the guest from the General Manager, Reservations Manager, Concierge, or Front office manager, including the name and email address. Before a single word is read, a photo of a smiling, welcoming manager already informs the guest, “We appreciate you.”
Listen to the Voice of the Customer
Before you even begin to compose your pre-stay communications, make data-driven decisions. Bring the voice of the customer into the planning. If you don’t have systems in place for this, you can get the facts you need from your Front Desk, Concierge, PBX, and Reservations team. They can provide you with the common questions people ask prior to or upon arrival.
These comments indicate gaps in communication.
· “I wasn’t aware that…”
· “No one told me that…”
· “I wish someone had notified me in advance…”
These remarks mean there is relevant information that you may not have shared, or it’s somewhere on your website but not apparent enough to be noticed by all of your guests.
Being a great communicator means taking responsibility for getting the information to the guest. This will ensure a smooth experience on arrival and throughout the stay.
Preempt the Friction Points
Friction not only disappoints your guests but also adds stress to the employee experience. In light of the Great Resignation, that makes it doubly important to view every critical comment as an opportunity to change your pre-stay communications to better meet the needs of your guests. Based on experience, there are several common issues that arise, but a savvy hotelier can gracefully diminish those friction points with proactive pre-stay communication.
Here are some examples of how verbiage can be added to the pre-stay email, or better yet, also on the website and on a pre-registration form, as a means to reduce disappointment and stress at the front desk.
If guests are surprised by the authorization of their card for incidentals:
Please be aware that for security reasons, even if you paid for your room and tax in advance, we do require a legal photo id and a credit card upon arrival. Above the room and tax, we also hold an authorization with your credit card provider for $50 per day that we would apply to any incidental charges you may incur during your stay. More details: Guide to Understanding North American Hotel Credit Procedures.
(The Library Hotel Collection offers a great example.)
If travel companions want to check in first when their names are not on the reservations:
Please provide the names of all of your travel companions, including the names and ages of any children, to help ensure a smooth check-in process. Link to: Family-friendly options
If some guests have trouble finding the hotel.
Although our official address is on Main Street, please tell your driver that the front entrance is on State Street between Main and Front Street. Link to: Map and photos
If you are driving in, please feel free to drop off your bags first, and we can valet park the car or you may self-park on the west side of the hotel. Link to: More information on parking
If guests ask for late check-out or early check-in.
Check-in is at 3:00 pm. Check-Out is at 12:00 Noon.
Although we cannot guarantee availability for early arrivals or late check-outs, we invite you to inform us below of your anticipated arrival and departure times so that we can make every effort to accommodate your needs.
Services and activities you are welcome to enjoy prior to check-in or after checking out.
Knowledge is power! It will make it easier to be a hospitality hero if you are aware of guests who plan to check in late. Having the data will not lead you to success unless the team is fully inspired and empowered to use the knowledge to deliver amazing, personalized experiences.
5 Tips to eliminate I wish I had known that! from your guests’ vocabulary
· Review the placement of the information on your website and increase visibility.
· Check the position of the pertinent information on your booking engine.
· Be sure to feature pertinent details prominently in your blog and on social media.
· Review your OTA description to be sure the current details are included.
· Include it prominently in your pre-stay email.
Invite them to Pre-register
Previously, pre-stay emails did not have a pre-registration form. Today, however, there are great, pre-registration options that are quite affordable and enhance your ability to get first-party data. Experience-Hotel has a great example.
Reasons to include a pre-registration form that result in big wins for both staff and guests.
Limit in-person contact time and expedite check-in.
Request contact details to help better serve the guests directly.
Record the names of all travel companions (not always provided by OTA).
Find out the guests’ reasons for their stay to better know and serve your guest.
Personalize your offerings based on the reason for the stay.
Spotlight your differentiation from the competition and unique selling points.
Pre-sell breakfast, welcome amenities, and revenue-generating experiences.
Suggest upgrade opportunities.
Preempt complaints by offering to customize the room with items such as mini-fridge, kettle, hypo-allergenic bedding, mattress toppers, and pillow options.
Offer concierge services such as in-advance arrangements for restaurants, limos, and shows to reduce last-minute pressure on staff.
Ask about special occasions, allergies, dietary preferences, etc, giving you an opportunity to show you care.
In my past hotel experience, we always added ways for the guests to tell us about themselves. Guests could then customize their stay right in the booking engine. It worked very well in helping us provide the highest level of guest satisfaction.
Unfortunately, gathering that information also delayed the finalizing of the sale. It’s far better to close the deal on the booking and then follow up afterward with offers that are personalized for the dates and needs of the guests.
Another advantage of offering a pre-registration form outside the booking engine is to enable reaching more guests. You can now send the pre-stay and pre-reg form to your OTA guests as well, initiating a direct relationship and receiving that contact data. This takes the pressure off the front desk to ask for a phone number, email, and address on arrival, or worse, not getting it at all.
Your Hotel Looks Good When You Show You Care With a Pre-Stay Email
People frequently do forget or get confused about their dates. Sometimes they become no-shows. Busy travelers will appreciate a reminder.
Send reminders in time to allow them to modify the dates in case they have had a change of plans. Hotels also benefit from being able to clear the waitlist, open availability, or staff correctly when guest count is current.
Hopefully, however, they did remember the reservation. Now is the time that guests may start thinking about preparing for their trip. It will be a great courtesy to ensure that they receive all the key information near the top of their inbox, rather than having to dig through their emails.
Concise emails are great, so keep the most important communications on the main email. Links can be added to your website or blog to provide the following in-depth information:
Dining and Entertainment
Fitness, pool, or spa hours and policies
COVID Policies and Standards
5-star hotel reviews begin with pre-stay communication. Create a connection with the guest before their arrival with a friendly, welcoming photo and a personalized message from the GM or other upper-level staff members. Proactively preempt any friction points with carefully constructed messages added to the pre-stay email or as part of a pre-registration form. Invite guests to pre-register and show you care with a pre-stay email. Your guests will feel valued and anticipate their upcoming memorable experiences. Your staff will appreciate being hospitality heroes with less stress and friction to handle each day. Your revenue will grow along with the level of loyalty for the true hospitality you deliver as you continue to tweak your communications based on feedback to meet your guests’ evolving needs.
Adele Gutman Milne has been honored as one of the Top 25 Most Extraordinary Minds in Sales & Marketing by the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International for achieving unprecedented results in driving revenue through Guest Experience, Reputation Optimization, and Culture. Adele helps business leaders build their culture, loyalty, and revenue by implementing the award-winning Five Star Review System she developed over decades in hospitality.
REPUTATION MARKETING SUCCESS for Hospitality and Every Service Industry
More from Adele on inspiring 5-star reviews:
Get Great Guest Reviews with Adele Gutman on YouTube
Hospitality Live with Rupesh Patel
Adele speaks about prestay communications on Soundbytes SHR
Let Adele help your Organization learn to Get Great Reviews!
Download Adele's Speaker and Consulting Sheet
Contact Adele at email@example.com