Hotels are very good at many things. They have to be. However, there are 4 recurring themes that I see every single day that do a huge amount of damage to their brand, reputation and image. Each one has a disproportionate impact. Each one is obvious (or so you'd think). Each one can be corrected quickly and each one will make a big difference to your guest. 3 are 'after' I've stayed. The first is 'before' I've stayed.
Before I tell you what they are, start asking your friends (not your guests) if they agree. The answers might convince you to act.
No, this has nothing to do with 'reviews' or 'managing Trip Advisor'. That's an illusion. You can't manage what I think, what I'll say and how I'll react. You can manage what it is you do to me so the goal is to correct the leaks rather than defend why they happened.
Chatting Me Up (the 'before' one)
If it was a date and you saw the person you'd really like to talk to and eventually ask out on a date, think about it, what would your opening line might be?
Now, in your head, please leap instantly into that average hotel whose opening line says "We pride ourselves on being the biggest hotel in the valley and we pride ourselves on being ....."
Jump back to 'the date'. He says "Hi, I'm Bobby, pleased to meet you and I pride myself on my recent achievements in sport, my new convertible car and the way I dress .....”
Hotel marketing - my first on-line experience with you - needs to talk about me, to me, the guest - not you. If it doesn't, what do you think might happen when you want to go to the next step in the dating process?
What you say, up front, is likely to determine whether I stay or go. Worth checking out your first chat up lines or simply looking at what you say on-line?
Breakfast (the first of the 3 'afters')
In general, hotel breakfasts are awful.
No, not the food or 'just the food', the entire experience. Think about it, what's your mood? It's early, quiet, serene, rested, thoughtful, preparing and more.
Breakfast served by yawning, half dressed, sleepy grumpy staff that got stuck "on earlies" and clearly don't want to be there, isn't a good start.
Or breakfast in an area or room that may as well say 'Dump them out of the way in there but let's throw some unironed linen down and make it feel like a restaurant'
Or, the sweet intoxicating smell of disinfectant.
Or, the background noise of ... well, noise. Clinking cutlery, banging crockery, kitchen doors being kicked.
Or, the interrogation gatekeeper that needs proof that you're not an impostor doing your level best to dupe the hotel out of a free breakfast.
Or stewed coffee served as a reminder of boarding school days.
Or food that was at its best 2 hours earlier.
Or toast that was as badly served as it tasted.
Or scrambled eggs that have formed unhealthy bonds with near neighbours on the hot plate.
Now jump into the best breakfast experience you've enjoyed.
I'll bet it was fresh, cheerful, relaxed, clean, calm and on and on it goes.
If your breakfast experience is a dreadful inconvenience just remember one thing - it's the last dining experience of my stay, possibly the most 'memorable' and probably the last - permanently.
Paying the Bill (the 2nd 'after')
Staying with you was a big deal for me, maybe not for you because you meet 'me' every day but still, a big deal to me. You see, I saved up to come to you. For what I earn, it was hard work to make it all happen but I did.
Having my wedding with you was a terrifying decision. It was the biggest day of my life. I dreamt about it from such an early age. My vision was perfect, perhaps a bit over romantic but perfect, my perfect. I gave you that day. I trusted you. I believed you. To be very fair, you did a good job. Yes, a few mishaps, mistakes and “Ooops! We forgot" moments but a good job.... mostly.
I guess budgets for weddings are as useful as an ashtray on a motorbike. Still, we all needed parameters and 'What the heck' we overspent but it was in the magic and mood of the moment.
That 'good idea' the morning after didn't seem so friendly in the cold light of day but that's life.
Reception was busy and waiting your turn kind of reduced you from enormously special on Saturday to 'wait your turn' on Sunday.
The revolving door, beside Reception, allowed enough rain to dampen the floor and pump in the occasional icy blast.
The Receptionist was having none of the complaint at the head of the queue. “Well Sir, it was a Saturday night and we can't be held responsible for how guests behave"
Feet in the queue began tribal tap dances to magnify their impatience. Eventually the cold, unbridled "Next?" comes.
"I'd like to pay the bill please"
A look that didn't look at all says "Room number?" With a sigh, she shimmies over to her friendly printer and steals a dramatic look at her watch. You can hear her think "Only another seven and a half hours of my eight hour shift to go". She comes back. Armed with piles of white sheets of paper and says loudly “That’ll be €9,262:05". There's no further talk. The transaction is under way.
"Enter your PIN number please"
"Do you need a receipt?"
That's it. That's it?? Yes, I'm afraid it is. That is 'it'.
My money came from somewhere. My dreams too. If your message is "You're just someone paying a Bill" then you're having an impact. I might not tell you but you are. 'Thank you' is gratitude, humility and acknowledgement. What's yours like?
Goodbye (the final experience)
You're having your most precious people around to your house for dinner. It's exciting and you want to do your best, be at your best and do what's best. Before they arrived you told them how excited you'll be to see them. You asked them what they'd like to eat. You wanted to know if they'd any 'special requests'. The house was warm, snug and the music carefully chosen. The bathroom had the best new soap and the table was dressed for a King. The flowers added to the mood and the candles were the finishing touch.
Dinner was wonderful. Conversation flowed. People laughed and you did everything to make sure it was a generous, special night.
It was getting late, very late but nobody wanted to call a halt. It was too good to end. Tired bodies and babysitters had to be released, it was time to go. Reluctantly, the shift began.
In a Nano second, you held the front door, looked away and said "Goodbye" banging the door quickly. Gone, whoosh, invisible, done.
"What was that?" said one of your guests. "It was their goodbye" said the other. “What? Just like that? Seriously? After such a superb night? You're kidding me?" He sighed "I'm not"
They weren't joking. shocking as it seemed, it was their 'goodbye'.
"Goodbye" is the final act. Freud said "Life's significant moments always have the word 'goodbye".How is yours? How was yours?
These 4 areas are the easiest and least expensive to fix. They have a big impact, a very big impact but only you can choose if "it'll do" is good enough for you - and your guests.
Conor Kenny - Teacher, Trainer, Writer. Founder conorkenny.com is the Author of “Dancing at the Fountain- In conversation with World Leading Hoteliers" and "Sales Tales - True Stories of How Great Sales Happen"