Your Hotel as Seen by Your Guest. Are You Guest-Centric?

Your Hotel as Seen by Your Guest. Are You Guest-Centric?

16 February 2017Maciej Janas

Good location and designer interiors of a hotel are very important, but today it can be too little to successfully differentiate a hotel. Gaining competitive advantage is a continuous process and a strategy of actions which enables the hotels which apply it to exceed the average. What is that strategy? It is being guest-centric, getting to know your guests and viewing the environment from their perspective: from the preliminary concept of a trip until their check out. What do they expect, what frustrates them, what doubts do they have? It is the focus on guests needs which should form the base for marketing strategies of modern hotel businesses.

The guest-centric approach is like stepping into your guests shoes, seeing through his eyes, thinking like he would, feeling through his fingers. Not only during the stay at the hotel, because the trips starts with a mere idea when you start looking for travel inspiration and browse offers.

Where to start? Just like in classical marketing, you need to define the most important groups of guests. Who is our hotel for? Do they come from afar or from nearby? Alone, with their families, with a group of friends, or maybe with coworkers? Where do they visit on the internet and what content do they seek? It is seemingly obvious, but in order to be guest-centric, you need to be data driven and seek hard, often changing data about your guests.

A very good practice, taken from the recently popular design thinking is a visualization of those groups using personas, profiles of specific people – representatives of our guests – with a photo, name, interests, and personality traits. Thanks to this tool it will be easier for us to understand our guests on further stages.

Secondly, it is worth to enumerate further touch points where the guest interacts with our facilities, in order to be able to consider what a guest needs at every stage: from having a preliminary travel idea, through placing a reservation and stay, until check-out and being thanked for their stay.

It will be good practice to create an experience map of a guest on all the stages of their trip. It will allow to examine points which are the most problematic for them. In order to start creating an experience map, you need to take into consideration the following elements:

  • How can a guest feel at every stage, considering who they are (persona), what they care for and what they can encounter in our hotel (e.g. satisfied or frustrated, curious or distracted, full of inspiration or doubtful, taken care of or insecure, rested or tired etc.)?
  • What barriers can prevent them from taking further actions (e.g. lack of trust for the hotel, lack of appropriate knowledge, lack of time, language barrier etc.)?
  • What can we do to make them more comfortable, less stressful, to let them have better memories?

Fig. 1. Example of an experience map on a website

Source: https://www.b2binternational.com/publications/customer-journey-mapping/

Let’s think about a possible list of stages of a guest’s trip. It is almost surely incomplete – only you know what the list should contain.

Before Guest’s Arrival

Remember your guest’s trip starts from an idea. At the start, all your guest knows is how they enjoys spending time and that they need to go somewhere.

The first moment when it is useful to reach for personas is planning marketing campaigns. How do your guests use the internet? Are they strongly involved in planning trips and you find them on travel websites, or is it better to target general theme websites? Are they from the Instagram or Facebook generation, or is it impossible to find them on social media? Will they read an article on attractions on your area, or maybe they would rather watch a video on how to realize their passion at your place? It is invaluable knowledge, which when put to practice, always brings great results.

When you succeed at attracting the right guest to your website, think about what awaits them there. Will they understand the organization of information on each subpage of your website? Is the most frequently searched information the easiest to find? You do not have to be a Google Analytics master to check that – it is enough to ask the reception desk what do guests ask about, or simply answer several phone calls yourself. You can also have a survey or chat to communicate with your guests.

A similar control process should be performed with the text of an offer in the reservation system. Will it clear all the doubts of a guest? Will it allow to compare your offer with the competitors and tip the balance in your favor? Imagine your hotel is away from your guest’s typical place of residence – a reminder about a possible night check-in (thinking of guests who leave on a Friday after work), and early check-in (for guests who leave early on a Saturday) can be exactly what tips the balance.

In the reservation system it is worth it to pay attention not only to the offer description, but also configuration – did you provide offers of popular combinations and guests will be able to book a stay with the kids? Will the online reservation system enable arrival prior to the beginning of the long weekend and staying one or two days after the package deal expires? The answer as to what configurations to predict should be sought not only in numerical data, but also in your guests personas.

Research shows that guests compare offers not just between hotels, but also between sales channels – an offer you placed on your website will be confronted with the offer you made available through an OTA. Are the conditions on your site more attractive? If not – you pay a higher commission from a lower price and you teach the guest that going to your website is pointless.

It is also worth to remember about personas when you compare your offer and rates with the competition. For example, for a persona “Johnny from Warsaw, mountain lover” your mountain hotel may compete with facilities located anywhere between Arłamów near the border with Ukraine to Świeradów which borders Germany.

A guests next step may be a call to the reception. How fast will the receptionist respond? Will they be professional? Will they use the knowledge about the guest, which you may possess (based on the prior stays and behavior on hotel’s website in the recent time)? Will they adequately answer the questions and promptly provide a final calculation? Will the guest receive the price quote immediately after the call to his mailbox and get a possibility to pay for it within a couple of clicks?

Eventually, the guest makes a reservation. Will they get a confirmation email? Will it contain answers to typical questions guests have at this stage, e.g. check-in and check-out time, policy towards pets, a list of equipment in the room etc.?

The reservation is confirmed, the guest’s countdown before arrival has begun. They imagine their stay, has hopes related to it. Do you use this time to sell extra services or room upgrades?

Finally, the day has come, your guest is on their way. Will your responsive, mobile-friendly website allow them to find a readable and easy to use map to navigate him to the final destination?

During Stay

Hoteliers know best what a guest may need. We can only suggest that to understand the needs of a guest who is already at the hotel, online tools can prove to come in handy. Proper tools can connect guests behavior on the website and their preferences with their name, and then with their stay history, incomplete bookings, phone conversations with the reception desk and emails. It is invaluable data allowing to understand each guest individually together with their expectations and needs. At Profitroom we are preparing GuestConnect, a tool to assist such analysis and improve the communication with hotel guests.

After Departure

The guest’s stay came to an end, they are on their way home. It is good to remind them of the great time he had, thank them for the stay, ask what could be improved and request a review.

After some time we can return to the beginning of the process – inspire the guest to book another trip. We now know his preferences way better – we have information about his previous stay, what he looked for in the reservation system, on our website, what did he ask about in his contact form. All you need is a tool to gather all such information and make good use of it in an automated way. This exactly is the essence of being guest-centric – to penetrate the needs of a guest and have a custom offer for them. It means less focus on the facilities and the services, and more on investigation of guest needs and how to satisfy them.

In the throes of daily hotel work a guest may become just another name to sell a room to, check in, feed, provide other services they paid for, check out, and admit another one… A hotel may become a machine which works correctly, but does not leave the guest with this special experience. The experience which they take home, share with their friends and online.

It is quite different when the hotelier can act as a guest. If they can imagine a guests perspective, look from their perspective on each stage of the trip. If they can understand that guests’ satisfaction does not come from checking standards and services provided, it is not merely a rational balance of cons and pros.

In the abundance of great offers prepared by our competition, we can only differentiate ourselves by impacting guests’ emotions. If we can convince them that a stay with us means more than meeting standards. Understanding a guest through the data gathered in advance allows us to target them with the promise they seek deep inside their soul.

It may be at our hotel where he bonds with his family, regains the energy, it may be here that he lives through the moments worth mentioning over the course of the year, or some years. As we know from a recent popular commercial of the Allegro platform, even a standard English coursebook can have such power, so what about a stay at a hotel…

We invite you to read Hotel Marketing & Technology Trends 2017 at www.profitroom.com/trends where you can find more information on the trends in the hotel industry.

Maciej Janas, UX Designer at Profitroom