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  • Writer's pictureAdele Gutman Milne, CHBA, CHDM

Hear How This Mother-Daughter Hotel Owner Duo Inspire 90% 5-Star Reviews at the Saratoga Arms Hotel

When your guests shower your hotel, motel, B&B, restaurant, or vacation rental in 5-star reviews, your guests will do so much of the marketing for you, making your business more visible online, and more enticing by elevating the perceived value of the unique experience you offer.

Today, let’s learn from Kathleen and Amy Smith, who are phenomenal hoteliers and hospitality reputation cultivation experts! Kathleen and Amy own and operate the #1 hotel on Tripadvisor in Saratoga Springs, the Saratoga Arms Hotel, which is celebrating its 25th year in business. Congratulations ladies!

There’s a Gaelic saying to describe the heart of hospitality in Ireland, “cead mílle fáilte,” a hundred thousand welcomes. That authentic Irish spirit of hospitality is in the family DNA of these two women hotel owners, and it is easy to witness their leadership and heartfelt commitment to hospitality reflected in the work of their team. Just take a look at the astonishing 90% of Tripadvisor reviews scores showing enthusiastic 5-star reviews (aka-promoters) and only a pittance of 2.74% of reviews coming in at 3 stars or below (aka-detractors). This is world-class operational excellence and fantastic business savvy!

You’ll definitely want to listen to Kathleen and Amy share their tips on how they do it directly on the podcast, but you can scroll below for a few of my own top takeaways from the conversation that you can start using today!

Adele’s Top Takeaways

Start with the Right Mindset

Whether it was a restaurant, a one-diamond motel, a three-diamond B&B, or a 4 diamond boutique hotel, this family knew that to build a healthy business, their job was to ensure guests were happy. They put the whole family to work and thought of their team as their extended family. When everyone feels valued, proud, and committed to guest satisfaction, regardless of luxury classification, an entrepreneurial mindset will help any business earn consistent five-star reviews.

The Nicest Employees Like to Work in the Nicest Place in Town

The nicest place is not only about the bricks and mortar but about the culture of caring and collaboration that enhances life for everyone who works or visits the property. Thanks to reviews, it is easy for employees to see which businesses are well-run and which are putting their staff in a stressful situation by not living up to brand promises or empowering them with the skills and tools they need for success.

Building a stellar reputation is essential to optimizing revenue, playing a huge role not only in attracting and retaining great guests but also in attracting, developing, and inspiring great employees who want to grow in your organization.

No Hospitality Experience Necessary

We all know this, but doing it takes discipline, and those with the discipline of their convictions are winning the challenge. To earn loyal guests, seek out the best candidates to hire for personality and great attitude. Then treat them well and train them to be successful. We can train for all the mechanics of the job but they have to want to make guests happy. We have to nurture that pride in service in everyone we work with.

Marketing For Employees

Rather than just posting a job with a task description, Kathleen and Amy thought carefully about what attracts good associates today. They even hired a copywriter to help them ensure they were presenting the work experience in a way that would catch the eye of the kind of team members who would deliver heartfelt hospitality.

Take Care of Staff so They Can Take Care of Guests:

Kathleen and Amy went above and beyond other employers by adjusting their workflow to attract the best people. know their team needs to have set hours that they can rely on and plan their life around, so they do everything they can to make that happen.

Here are a few more concepts they have implemented at the Saratoga Arms Hotels so far:

  • Many staff members enjoy a 4-day work week with 10-hour days, so they get three days to recharge and focus on their family life.

  • Same Day Pay is available through their payroll provider.

  • If the need arises, associates can apply for an interest-free loan from the company.

  • Spot bonuses, Family Meals, Retreats,

  • Associates are invited each year to attend a 2-day Goal Setting Course to set them up for success in the coming year and beyond.

Wow! Kathleen and Amy say that the team members are an extension of the family, and you can see it in the reviews from guests. But to have such support from the team they were made to feel that they had the support of their employers. This generosity in support for the team may seem inconvenient but to a valued employee, this thoughtful kindness can be life-changing!

I hope every hotel embraces this for those who wish to participate.

Onboarding in Small Chunks Over Time

Kathleen and Amy offer their new employees a three-week training program when they begin because they know this is how to ensure the staff is really comfortable, confident, and prepared to make each guest’s stay a unique and wonderful experience.

Personalization Fit for a VIP

Amy Smith shares that one of the keys to their success at the Saratoga Arms Hotel is the way that they collaborate with their team to personalize the experience for every guest.

They give a pre-stay survey a week in advance to be sure that they understand the unique preferences of each guest so that the team had the best chance to prepare to make every guest feel like a VIP. They even set the room temperature to the guest’s requested preset.

At the Library Hotel Collection, we did something similar so that we can be well-prepared for every guest. We incorporated a series of opportunities for the guests to customize their stay on the booking engine, but a pre-stay survey is even better. Separating it from the booking engine ensures the customization doesn’t interrupt the path to purchase.

They also plan to expand their personalization with highly targeted messages that will speak directly to the hearts of the personas and audiences which they are most successful in converting to loyal customers.

Preparing a Syllabus for Future Hospitality Leaders.

Kathleen shares that even with the great culture they have established, finding staffing for the peak season still has its challenges. They have had great experiences working with international interns coming to America, so she is planning a certificate curriculum to offer students work-study credit to learn how to run a small hotel business.

No doubt, these interns will gain not only work experience but will learn from the best how to make guests happy, how to lead an empowered, creative, and collaborative team, and how to get great guest reviews!

If you are the General Manager or owner of a hotel with a stellar 5-star Review Reputation, I want to interview you! Please feel free to make my day and reach out to me at the links below.

If you would like some help implementing these ideas, it would be my pleasure to make the process easy for you. Please set up a time for us to chat on my Calendly!

Twitter: @AdeleGutman

Apple Podcasts:

Thank you for listening, subscribing, and sharing!

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



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