How to Improve the Customer Experience in Your Hotel
One of the main challenges faced by the hotel industry in recent years can be summed up in one question: How to improve the customer experience? On the one hand, hotel-related concepts are evolving. On the other, the customer journey is changing at the same pace as technological innovations and consumer habits. However, the challenge faced by hotel owners remains the same: to provide the most personalised customer experience possible in order to see a positive impact on revenue, customer satisfaction and loyalty.
But what exactly constitutes the customer experience in the hotel industry?
We could link the customer experience to the feeling experienced by the customer during their stay in a hotel, for example during their interactions with the staff or their use of the different services available (restaurant, gym, spa…). However, this would be a quite reductive view. Indeed, the customer experience can be understood from several aspects. It can also be perceived differently depending on the customer’s expectations. Some swear by a digital customer experience. Others are looking for an environmentally-friendly experience. The key idea, therefore, is personalisation. As a result, everyone creates his or her own experience. A study conducted by Deloitte on customer experience and its evolution highlighted different factors. For example, 66% of customers particularly appreciate the hotel owner’s engagement with them. Meanwhile, 62% particularly like it when staff listen to their needs.
To sum up, the secret to a good customer experience lies in knowing your customer. And, by definition, knowing the customer leads us to personalisation. The latter must occur at every stage of the customer journey. To improve the customer experience, it’s necessary to understand their journey, which can be quite complex.
Achieving a better understanding of the customer journey in the hotel industry
Much like the customer experience, the journey is changing. It cannot, of course, be described as simply as the route from booking a room to checking out; on the contrary, it encompasses several phases which can be summarised as follows:
- Inspiration phase : Looking for ideas and information about a destination or establishment. This can occur by word of mouth, social media or review platforms like TripAdvisor.
- Selection and booking : Making a decision in the booking process. After consulting various sites (OTAs, review platforms, hotel websites…), the customer feels reassured and proceeds to make a booking. Customer reviews play a decisive role, especially if they are spread over review platforms and hotel websites.
- Preparation for the trip : Gathering information about the destination and the establishment. Here too, a hotel’s website can make a difference by providing information. This may be about the services the hotel offers (restaurant, spa, shuttle…), or about points of interest in the city and/or region. This is another effective way of opening up a conversation with the customer before they arrive to meet their expectations. One way of doing this is through pre-stay emails.
- Arrival at the hotel : First impressions and first contact with the staff. Here, it’s important to facilitate the check-in process, share relevant information with the customer and show that you are attentive to their needs.
- The stay : The customer is looking for more than just a room. This step is right at the heart of the customer experience. Customers have different needs (such as extra pillows or duvets). You should also highlight your services and offering as much as possible to improve the customer experience.
- Departure : The end (or nearly) of the experience in the hotel. It’s important to evaluate the customer’s feelings about their stay, but also to invite them to express their views so you can capitalise on customer reviews which will offer a serious advantage when it comes to attracting future customers.
So, these are the different stages of the customer journey. By implementing a strategy which aims to improve the customer experience during each of these phases, you guarantee customer satisfaction as well as numerous other benefits for your hotel. Let’s now take a look at the advantages of a customer experience strategy.
Why should you implement a strategy aimed at improving the customer experience?
As previously mentioned, hotels are no longer only selling rooms, but a customer experience. It’s therefore important to examine the different benefits. Satisfaction, revenue and operations are the three pillars that should form the foundation of your strategy.
Increased customer satisfaction
The customer experience and customer satisfaction are, of course, linked. Indeed, if you put your customer in the best possible conditions at every point during their stay, you increase your chances of satisfying them. In concrete terms, you can achieve this by anticipating their needs and expectations before and during their stay, or by being reactive when a problem needs solving. Referring back to the study conducted by Deloitte, customers are 40% more likely to leave a positive review if their problem was resolved quickly.
The question of how to make additional sales represents a big challenge for hotel owners. Indeed, hotels often possess numerous opportunities for upselling. By focusing on the customer experience and placing the customer at the heart of what you do, however, the task becomes easier. Here are some examples to put into practice:
- Room upgrade
- Bike or parking space hire
- Local products available to buy
- Possibility to book a table in the hotel restaurant
- Possibility to book a massage or other treatment in the spa
- Products placed in the hotel room (upon arrival) depending on the nature of the stay (for example a bottle of champagne or bouquet of flowers for a romantic stay…)
- Sale of tickets for activities in the area if you can negotiate a preferential rate (museum, theatre, theme park)
These few examples are, in theory, easy to apply. Set out a strategy that aims to generate additional sales at different points in the customer journey, and you will quickly see the impact on your revenue.
It might seem as though implementing all of these practices to improve the customer experience will simply complicate operations. However, the opposite is true: if you manage the customer experience in a proactive way, you anticipate not only the customer’s needs, but also your workload. For example, if your pre-stay communication is sufficient, you can answer the following questions:
- Do I have enough rooms available to offer upgrades?
- How should I manage my receptionists’ schedule based on when customers are due to arrive?
- How can I optimise my services/departments depending on customers’ demands (restaurant, spa…)?
- Which resources do I have to make available for customers in their room upon their arrival?
These criteria are just a few possible directions to take for improvement. Depending on the nature of your clientele, there may be various other options.
How to enhance the customer experience in a hotel
There are several ways to personalise the customer experience in a hotel. As we’ve already mentioned, being attentive to the customer’s needs is key, as it enables you to add a personal touch.
Listening to and analysing the customer
It seems so simple, and yet…We’re experiencing an increasing buzz about the Voice of Customer. This entails analysing and understanding expectations, preferences and other needs customers might have, and deserves particular attention. Indeed, information about customers and their needs gives you all the answers you require to offer a memorable customer experience. FIrst of all, ask yourself the following questions:
- How can I collect this information best?
- When should I interact with the customer to gather this information?
- How do I analyse this information in a relevant manner?
- How can I use this information to personalise the customer experience?
In order to gather information about the customer, you need to implement an efficient means of communication at different points in the customer journey. But how? It goes without saying that asking clients orally and then manually, while recording any information you get, is impossible. On the contrary, you need to use the right forms of technology and the correct channels to facilitate the process.
When and how should you interact with the customer?
Depending on the type of interaction you wish to have with the customer, you need to establish the correct communication channel. This allows you to gather relevant information. Naturally, your online presence already offers you several options. You can be contacted via website your Facebook page, and your Google My Business or TripAdvisor profile are a shop window for your establishment to facilitate the process of making contact, and indeed ultimately gathering information.
Furthermore, by implementing a communication strategy that’s tailored to customers’ behaviour, you can cover the different stages of the journey.
In concrete terms, this could take the form of:
- A pre-stay email sent with the aim of anticipating certain demands or conducting a pre-check-in
- A pre-arrival message to encourage additional sales and resolve any potential problems
- A pre-check-out email to respond to any final demands and thus ensure overall customer satisfaction
You can also improve the customer experience by enhancing your services. Let’s take a look at how you can do this in a creative way.
Promote your services…
We can’t stress it enough. You shouldn’t only sell rooms, but also a customer experience. We explained the reasons for this earlier in this article: customer satisfaction, additional sales and improved operations management!
But what if your hotel doesn’t have a rooftop swimming pool or a luxury spa? A good customer experience starts with good communication. Put the customer in the best possible conditions. This all goes back to interactions established at the right moment.
… in a creative way
Once you’ve established a communication by interacting with the customer at different points in the journey, you need to give yourself the means to expand the services you offer. If you are attentive to your customers’ expectations, you will be in a position to offer tailored services and, ultimately, expand your offering.
For example, your customers might be interested in sporting activities. If so, get in contact with companies or people in your area to set up a partnership to offer different activities (yoga, pilates, bike hire or hire of other sports equipment…). Maybe your customers are in search of cultural pursuits? Think of the museums and festivals in your area.
Of course, these examples are not lucrative, but your increased range of offerings and care for your customers will make their experience memorable.
… in a lucrative way
Finally, we come to additional sales. Even if you don’t have a restaurant or bar, your city and/or area are likely to serve some gastronomic delights. Or offer some local products for customers to purchase. You could do this via a pre-stay email in which you offer your customers the chance to have a range of local products waiting for them in their room when they arrive.
As you can see, the customer experience does not necessarily require futuristic artificial intelligence or a seawater swimming pool. Every hotel is different and can set itself apart by personalising the experience. To achieve this, you need to listen to your customers and, therefore, communicate with them at every stage.
Let’s now conclude by discussing how to measure the customer experience.
How to measure the customer experience in your hotel
Establishing a strategy which aims to improve the customer experience in a hotel demands a great deal of effort, in all areas and departments. As a result, it is useful to analyse the results of any actions you implement. The customer experience can be evaluated based on three criteria.
We won’t go into any more detail on this criterion. Instead, take a look at our very detailed article on how to increase customer satisfaction.
To sum up, we can say that the result of a good experience will be excellent customer reviews posted on the different platforms. A satisfaction survey is also a very effective tool to measure the customer experience. Open questions, different rating scales depending on the review platform, Net Promoter Score… there are many different ways to evaluate the customer’s feelings.
As previously mentioned, the secret to a successful customer experience lies in promoting your services and doing this in balance with your customers’ expectations.
One of the best opportunities to make additional sales is prior to the stay. Customer Alliance allows you to boost your additional revenue through personalised pre-stay communication. Depending on your priority, showcase your restaurant, spa or any other service. Then, conduct a detailed analysis of the activity generated as a result of these interactions. You will be pleasantly surprised by the potential these additional sales offer for your hotel’s revenue.
The loyalty is essential in the hotel industry and will enable you to get a clear idea about the quality of the customer experience. Will my customers come back to my hotel? Will they recommend my hotel to their friends and family? Will customers who booked through an OTA then make direct contact with me> These questions characterise the impact of the customer experience on loyalty.
If you follow the steps outlined in this brief guide, you will give yourself the best chance of improving the customer experience. Attentiveness, understanding, personalisation, promotion and analysis sum up the different factors linked to the customer experience in the hotel industry. If you equip yourself with the right technology, you can implement an effective customer experience strategy and reap the rewards.
Customer Alliance and its brand-new platform allow you to offer memorable experiences thanks to communication and feedback collection at every stage of the customer journey. Request a personalised demonstration and take advantage of our practical tips which you can apply in your hotel!