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  • Writer's pictureAdele Gutman Milne, CHBA, CHDM

The 1 Thing Every Hospitality Pro Needs To Know, If You Want a Stellar Reputation for Your Hotel

I could talk for days about how to inspire five-star reviews for hotels, restaurants, or any service business. For 20 years, I spoke with my hotel collection's leadership teams every day about kindness, compassion, and finding creative solutions to the problems of our business and our guests.

But these days, everyone is in a rush. So, I will answer the most popular question, what's the one thing we need to know to inspire five-star reviews?

Please listen to the podcast to hear a couple of quick stories to illustrate why this one concept is so essential to any Reputation Cultivation strategy; everyone involved in hospitality needs to embrace this concept. Don't let your team misunderstand the assignment!

But here’s what everybody in hospitality needs to understand.

What’s the one thing everyone in hospitality needs to know to inspire 5-Star Reviews?

Our job is not just the tasks we perform, our roles, or our titles.

Our job is to make people happy.

We all have different roles to play in our organizations, but above all else, everyone shares one fundamental responsibility, to make customers happy.

If we succeed, travelers will pay a premium to businesses that make them feel C.A.R.E.- cared for, appreciated, and respected at every encounter. Happy guests will return more often, and they will refer and recommend us to others. If we are lucky, our guests will feel so pleased with the warm welcome, the great service, and the value they received that they will feel compelled to share a great review online.

If we have only provided a commodity, such as food or accommodations, even if we were polite and professional, sooner or later, the traveler will leave us, hoping to find what they really want- to be treated with C.A.R.E.

Five-Star Hospitality has nothing to with price point.

When I was VP of Sales, Marketing, and Revenue of a small, independent hotel collection, we earned the highest hotel guest review scores in the world based on this belief. All people want and deserve to be treated like VIPs, regardless of what category or price point they choose or can afford.

When I was a kid, my mother was a real estate agent for a while. I remember she always told me that it was a privilege to show a young person or lower income family starting out a modest new home as much as it was to show a luxury home to an affluent family.

Every home buyer deserves to have their potential new home presented in the best way- welcoming, sparkling clean, smelling fresh, and cheerfully styled. These customers will “ooh and ahh” with even more heartfelt enthusiasm than a rich person will view a palace. That’s because this purchase and move fulfill a dream they have worked hard for. It’s possibly their first opportunity to personally own a slice of America. And this home may be the foundation for their family to grow and thrive as they aspire to a better life.

Can you feel why my mother treasured delivering five-star hospitality even when she was not selling luxury homes? Of course! She could remember what it was like to come to America with little ones in tow- me included- while dreaming of her first home ownership. And she remembered how she would have liked to be treated.

But home purchases are not the only investments that should be treated with the greatest respect. It is important for all those in hospitality who are working at the modest, economy, or select service hotels that if you bring the generous spirit of hospitality into your heart, five-star hospitality is absolutely possible at any level. But more than that, when you give the gift of five-star hospitality, it should feel really good when you give something truly needed and appreciated in this world.

Everyone Deserves Five-Star Hospitality

Why? Because life is a struggle. People are weary, especially after the last few years. Time off is precious. Nothing is more important for us now than to nurture our well-being, connect with people we love and admire, and share new and meaningful experiences. These do not have to be luxury experiences to be enriching. Exploring our world for the sights, sounds, flavors, and beauty of nature and culture…these are treasures that should be accessible to everyone. But with travel and leisure should come the feeling, for everyone, that though we work hard all year, now this is our time to relax, enjoy, and allow others to take of us. Everyone in this world, regardless of socioeconomic background, deserves a little looking after. So hospitality is more than just providing food and lodging. It is about delivering it with ample helpings of kindness and compassion.

Everyone deserves a bit of respite from the stress of their everyday life. Travel and leisure help us remember who we truly are, what we love, and what dreams once filled our minds but may have gotten lost in the daily grind.

What if everyone put kindness. compassion, and delivering happiness at the heart of their business?

This was a key belief that we led with at the Library Hotel Collection when I was there from 2000- 2020. It lifted our revenue by lifting our guest loyalty scores to a 96.1% GRI (Global Review Index by ReviewPro), the highest brand-wide score in the world at the time, above all the far more famous and opulent luxury hotel brands we all know and love.

We were not really trying to be number one in the world. We were just striving to help every guest feel happy in our hotels. Not just happy, but cared for, appreciated, and respected at every encounter. We were just trying to be our best every day, which meant trying new things and learning from our failures. Every day, we improved at making guests happy because we learned from each other and also from our guests, who generously shared their feedback.

If everyone did this, everyone would have much higher review scores. We would also all enjoy the loyalty and referrals that come with it.

But the good news is, you can do this! You can start today! Whatever your guest scores are now, you can benefit from a deeper, more consistent focus on guest happiness. Reputation cultivation is a huge opportunity for adding revenue and profitability, all the while elevating the experience for ourselves, our employees, and our guests. It’s a win-win-win!

I have written about the revenue reputation connection before, but now I will just share with you from personal experience. Thanks to the loyalty and enthusiastic referrals from our guests, plus the elevated visibility on Tripadvisor, Google, and other travel websites, our hotels achieved exceptional results in ADR, Occupancy, and overall profitability. People considered our hotels “bucket list” experiences thanks to the extraordinary kindness and problem-solving creativity of our team members. As Peter Drucker once said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

But isn't 4.0 out of 5 a very good score already?

Harvard Business Review reported once about a Xerox study that showed that their customers who gave them a 5-star rating were six times as likely to buy another Xerox machine from them than customers who gave them a 4-star rating. So, 4-Star reviews are only a stepping stone on the road to 5-Star reviews. But 5-Star reviews should always be the goal.

I’ve been listening to ReviewPro, Tripadvisor and other organizations report on average review scores for many years, and it has generally been in the 82%-86% range.

So don’t get too comfortable if you are sporting a 4.0 out of 5.0 ) on Tripadvisor. Even though Tripadvisor labels 4.0 “very good,” it is actually average or possibly below average. Tripadvisor rounds to the nearest 0.5, so it is fair to expect that some hotels that are listed as 4.0 have probably been rounded up from 3.75-3.99.

Just like the Mets, You Gotta Believe!

I know we all can do better. I know all hospitality pros want to be great at what they do each day. It’s no fun to play small and settle for less than your best. You deserve to be great! And it all starts with why we are in hospitality. We are here to take care of each other. To make people feel welcome, Cared for, appreciated, and respected. And yes, we are here to make people happy.

Try this activity to reinforce how everyone is part of the mission!

Why not have everyone work together to change the job descriptions of what they do? But, this time, instead of saying what they do, they should in 30 seconds convey the role they get to play in ensuring all our guests are happy and how they are vital to the mission.

In hospitality, our job is to make people happy, especially about their choice to stay with us. And when all our guests are happy, our business performance will soar to the top.

You don't need to be a five-star hotel to deliver five-star hospitality, and inspire five star reviews.

You can deliver five-star hospitality from a hot dog stand.

You can deliver five-star hospitality from a chat box.

You can deliver five-star hospitality via email.

You can deliver five-star hospitality over the phone.

But you can't "phone it in." Sorry, silent quitters.

As Horst Schultze always says... Don't come to work. Come to be excellent"

You can't make all your guests happy, but it doesn't hurt to try!

Have a great week, and keep reaching for the stars! ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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