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Bridging The Gap Between Customer Expectations And Service

By the time a guest arrives at your hotel, his or her expectations have been set by everything they have gleaned from your website and online ads to past guests' reviews to word-of-mouth from friends and family. Now it's time to deliver the promise.

1. By helping the operations team understand and anticipate customer needs, customer service can be better aligned with the guests' expectations. At the same time, marketing should rely on operations to understand the property experience from the guest's point of view. You'll want to keep track of the guest experience at your property from the operations' perspective in order to better focus on the key issues that truly resonate with your target guests.

2. No single department can take ownership of the guest. Everyone owns the guest and is equally responsible for delivering the expected experience.

One should try developing a deeper understanding of your guests and their on-property experience. On the marketing side, you should track customer segments by spend and preferences. Spend time with your reservation agents to understand what the customers are looking for and what might be obstacles to their booking with you. Spend time in the lobby. Help the ops team during busy check ins/check outs to give customer an exceptional experience and also, to better understand their expectations.

3. Leverage your technology resources, especially your CRM system, to the greatest extent possible. This is definitely the most difficult and resource intensive part of your marketing/ops integration strategy, but one with the most potential to help you rise above your competition.

Aligning your marketing with data from operations will differentiate your hotel and brand. Analysis of the right guest data can provide a wealth of information to be leveraged by marketing.

4. Reviews are king, and customer service so often drives those reviews. At a minimum, have a solid process in place to respond to guest reviews in a timely way, in a genuine tone, and by someone the guest really wants to hear from (e.g., the general manager). Make the marketing team available to help the operations team write thoughtful responses.

5. Many new entrants are joining the social space with direct messaging tools via text and apps in order to facilitate a conversation between the guest service desk and the guests before they reach the hotel. While they present pre-arrival communication and one-to-one marketing opportunities, the greatest advantage of these tools is giving the hotel the opportunity to get in front of issues before they become reported problems in the reviews. Depending on the size of your property, these practices can produce an overwhelming volume of communications. Make sure you deploy them systematically and be prepared to staff them.

Challenge your front desk team to be more involved in the social media world of guests. For instance, if a guest posts or tags your hotel while they are there, retweet/share their post AND look at the guest's profile to see if there's something personalized you can do while they are with you. Appoint a social media champion on each and every shift.

6. When team members understand the what and why of a strategy, they are typically more supportive of it. From the marketing side, give the operations team opportunities to expand their horizons and feel empowered:

Offer marketing classes to ops team members. One hotel company gives a one-hour training each month, so ops staff can learn about the basics of key issues (for example, the role of reviews in marketing and rate).

In the operations packet that goes out every morning, once a week add a fun fact about marketing in general, or a marketing initiative at your hotel, that gets read at every department meeting that morning.

And remember, it is not a hand-off from guest recruitment to service delivery. It is a symbiotic partnership that makes or breaks the guest experience and the brand. 

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