Dear Future Hotel, are you ready for my arrival? It will be my first time at your hotel, and your city. Please be ready to share with me all sorts of great tidbits that will make my experience memorable!
Sincerely, Your Future Guest
How well do you know your hotel and your town?
Think of what it might be like if you arrived in a new place, to use the cliché, “a stranger in a strange land.” You come to your hotel – your home away from home – and you have questions. What is there to do around here? What’s a good place to eat? Are there any special things to see while I’m here?
Now put yourself on the other side – can you help that visitor, that stranger, and make them feel comfortable and welcome? Do you have a knowledgeable team in place to help your guests feel at home? Because that’s a big “plus” in attracting repeat business and delivering positive guest experiences.
It’s as simple as a guest asking a hotel team member a question, and the staff member giving a helpful response. For argument’s sake, “I don’t know” comes across as “no,” and is not an acceptable answer for your guest. Your guest expects you to know the answer, or help them find the answer in a timely fashion.
Your team’s response to a guest’s question can be “bridged” with simple responses, such as “What a good question,” or “We’re going to learn this one together,” or “I’d be happy to find this out for you,” or “allow me to consider this for you.” The words “I don’t know” must be eliminated from the vocabulary of your team members!
We’ve identified two key factors that will assist you in this endeavor. First and foremost is developing a persona of hospitality versus a service mentality. A service-oriented person answers the question literally, “I don’t know.” Whereas a hospitality centric person recognizes that the guest is simply looking to them to facilitate obtaining the answer, not that they are inquiring of the individual’s IQ.
The second factor is the answer to the question, “why?” Why doesn’t the associate have the answer to the guest’s question? Most questions asked by guests are common, so ask yourself, “Why didn’t my associate have the answer? Why weren’t they prepared to answer the guest’s question?” The answers to these questions further answer the query of what a property’s culture: is it service based or hospitality based?
Here’s a good example — A guest steps out of the elevator onto a guest room floor. In hand are luggage and a room key. Despite the obvious evidence that this guest has just arrived, the room attendant who is standing by her cart doesn’t take the opportunity to welcome and greet the guest. Rather she gives a brief glance as she returns to the room she is caring for. This body language often actually communicates to the guest that the team member does not want to be asked questions.
A golden hospitality opportunity has been lost! As we know, hospitality lives in verbal language and body language – not in the services provided. Had the room attendant taken the opportunity to welcome the guest, perhaps even introducing herself to the guest as the room attendant who will be caring for his room, the guest would have been the recipient of hospitality. A hospitable welcome from a room attendant would surely not have gone unnoticed by the guest who has just survived another day of frustrating travel and less than hospitable people along the way.
Many guests are visitors to the area, and unfamiliar with your property and surrounding community. Rather than rattling off all the amenities of your property, their location and hours of operation, practice genuine hospitality by engaging the guest in effective conversation that makes it possible for the associate to personalize the guest experience with specific information that meets their personal needs.
It is important for all your team members to know and discuss local events and popular places for guests to visit. A great option would be to tap into the resources of your Concierge and/ or Sales and Catering team members who are very aware of activities and events taking place. Invite them to attend your department’s pre-shift meeting. Invite them to share materials and details with the rest of the hotel team. Another would be to engage your associates to investigate local activities themselves and share them at your next pre-shift meeting. What cool activities are happening in your area? Challenge each of your team members to recommend an activity for your guests to make their stay more memorable and more enjoyable. For example, an art event, special place to visit, sporting event, cultural event, great view at a restaurant, etc.
Keeping current with the life of your surrounding community, and sharing that knowledge with your guests, is a great way to practice hospitality – and once you start building that knowledge in your team, keep them engaged, keep them informed, and keep them helping your guests by sharing that knowledge. It will be a positive learning experience for everyone!