An overview of the key topics and insights shared in the latest BHN webinar on how hoteliers are redefining the guest experience with innovative services and amenities.
How can hoteliers ensure that their services and amenities are driving repeat business and positive reviews?
Messaging platforms that ease communications; paying attention to what locals want; and the correct use of customer data can all help, said a panel of hoteliers and industry experts during a webinar hosted by Boutique Hotel News.
Hoteliers remain confident in the consumer’s willingness to spend extra on memorable and unique experiences. Gaming, photography, and music recording are just some examples of the kinds of activities that guests are now enjoying.
The W Hotel London is offering a gaming suite advertised as “the ultimate gamer’s paradise” and Rove Hotels in Dubai are similarly offering hotel rooms described as “gamer caves.”
Autograph Collection hotels are running a photography project that gives guests access to 35mm cameras and film rolls. At the music themed Oaklander Hotel in Pittsburgh, guests can book a recording booth.
Are you well?
Wellness continues to be a vast and lucrative market within the hotel industry. Guests who purchase wellness products and treatments spend on average 35 per cent more, said Jennifer Connell, VP and global brand leader – premium distinction and collection brands, Marriott International.
“We’re not doing Yoga, Reiki or providing IV drips by the pool because it’s cute. We’re doing it because we want to monetize every space we have,” added Craig Pishotti, co-founder, Common Bond Hotel Collection.
How can hoteliers measure the success of their guest experiences? Guest satisfaction surveys, mystery shoppers, and gathering feedback from general managers across the portfolio were the methods used by Connell at Marriott.
Get the message
Messaging platforms can give hoteliers a higher level of customer insight, added Tristan Gadsby, CEO of customer experience experts Alliants, who work with luxury hotel brands including Mandarin Oriental and The Atlantis.
“We see a high volume of conversations going on between guests and the properties, a much bigger percentage of guests than those who fill in the guest satisfaction surveys.”
He added: “You can see how they are feeling right there in the moment. You can use tech to classify those conversations, so you understand which elements of the experience are good and which are not. Some of the most innovative things we see are hotels using that data to really improve the experience.”
Being available to chat in the guest’s channel of choice lifts customer satisfaction levels by 10 per cent, Gadsby said. Also, guests can text in their own language, he noted, with 11 per cent of messages being auto translated.
Paying particular attention to what the local community want from a hotel will deliver a positive ROI, said Pishotti.
“When we look at our restaurants and F&B, we build for the locals. We believe that if the locals love it, the visitors will flock to it and that’s proven to be the case. Because we’re in Kentucky and not New York or LA, we do have seasonality, but we now have a real dedicated local following,” he added.
The ROI from investing in salaries and brand activations is positive, said Pishotti, because having a full calendar of events akin to a local social club means that guests always have something to do (in addition to visiting Bourbon County), while the locals keep coming back for more.
Christopher Atlas, president, Posy Exchange, added that brand activations are important in identifying a hotel’s audience and building credibility and trust.
Harnessing customer data in the right way is a further step to increasing ancillary revenue and customer satisfaction. Again, highlighting the local community’s role in business success, Gadsby said: “When you’re looking at the customer base, it’s not just people staying with you, it’s people who come into the restaurant or the bar. We always talk about the stay, but that’s the wrong starting point. We need to talk about all the customers. This will help you drive things like increased customer spend and increased satisfaction.”
Alliants, which delivers data analysis for Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts and Accor, has a strong focus on producing actionable data.
For example, when hotel staff have access to the digital itineraries of their guests, it is equally important to know what the guest is not doing as what she is doing because this leads to cross-selling and up-selling opportunities.
“Use the context. See if they haven’t booked a restaurant and you can tailor that experience and make it more engaging,” Gadsby said.
Every guest is important
Hoteliers also need to understand the needs and wants of every guest, not just the primary booker. “We far too often fall into the trap of presuming the primary guest is what everything is about and yet a couple often want different things so having an itinerary for every guest is really important: for me golf, a massage for my partner, so that everyone gets the most from their trip,” said Gadsby.
Providing a digital itinerary for all guests can increase revenue, but the human touch is still needed to create truly authentic and memorable experiences. Gadsby noted that companies are using AI to generate travel itineraries. “Unfortunately, all that is doing is reinforcing what we already know,” he said. “The human touch needs to come back in and be alongside the technology so that you can provide unique experiences.”
Pishotti concluded: “Kindness, generosity of spirit, care and concern, genuine enthusiasm. The human element and emotional intelligence of service. That’s the business we’re all in. Hiring is especially hard in smaller towns so a large part of what we do is education and training, but your smile from the heart has to be very evident.”
The BHN webinar – Redefining the guest experience with innovative services and amenities – can be watched in full here.
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