According to Trip Advisor, 80% of travelers read at least 6-12 reviews before booking a hotel, and 53% won’t book until they first read reviews. Online reviews are just one factor that might make a guest set their expectations for their stay before they even enter the lobby. Photos on outdated travel sites, word of mouth, and descriptions on your own website all contribute to guest expectations.
How can you break through all of this noise in order to set and manage realistic expectations?
Be honest about your property.
We all know the saying, “honesty is the best policy,” and it definitely applies to your hotel and its offerings. If you talk about your features in terms of “high-end luxury” but aren’t a five-star hotel, you’ll always have an uphill battle in terms of managing guest expectations.
Instead of over-promising, focus on your best qualities. If your location is ideal for certain activities, highlight that feature by posting your walking score, for example. Also, and this might be uncomfortable, but don’t hide your negatives. We’ve previously highlighted the Casablanca Hotel and their Classic Petite Room, which tells travelers that this room isn’t for couples staying for long trips—it’s just too small. This kind of honesty and authenticity at the very beginning can go a long way in setting guests’ expectations before they even set foot through your front doors.
Prepare your employees.
If your location isn’t ideal, or you don’t have special features or amenities, you can offer excellent service, which goes a long way in meeting and exceeding guests’ expectations. Marriott, for example, trains every staff member—from maintenance, to housekeeping, to the concierge desk—to reach out and connect with guests.
If every member of staff looks for opportunities to make a guest’s stay more comfortable, such a high-level of service can translate into greater guest satisfaction. According to a Gallup poll, offering reliable service that solves guests’ problems and responds enthusiastically to their needs is what creates repeat customers for both economy and luxury guests.
In addition to training your employees to deliver a high-level of service, it’s also important that they’re ready to handle a dissatisfied customer. Skyware recommends a three-pronged approach for responding to customer problems:
- Acknowledge their issue or complaint: “Your experience isn’t up to our standards.”
- Be empathetic: “I can see why you’re concerned.”
- Offer a resolution: “I’ll have housekeeping come to your room immediately to address the issue.”
Handling a guest’s complaint quickly and smoothly can also transform someone who might not stay with you again into an outspoken supporter of your hotel or brand.
Focus your amenities.
Focus on services that are meaningful to guests. Gallup, for example, polled hotel guests and found that, overall, they’d strongly agree with the elimination of certain services, such as the fitness facility or concierge service, for a cheaper room.
So what features can you focus on? For starters, consider going green and telling your guests about your efforts. Green Traveler Guides notes that 66% of US travelers think that their travel choices can make a difference to the environment. If you contribute to that effort, you can offer your guests a more meaningful experience.
You can also consider offering free WiFi. According to Hotels.com 49% of business travelers and 25% of leisure travelers rank free WiFi as a deciding factor when choosing a hotel. If guests show up to your property and find out they have to pay for WiFi, they’re already disappointed.
Consider ditching features that aren’t meaningful to most guests anymore—like valet parking. Instead, pour your resources into great WiFi and green initiatives.
Offer full-circle communication.
Before, during, and after your guests’ visit, you can do a lot to manage their expectations through strategic communication. For example:
Before they arrive: Send out an email with a pre-arrival guide. Include a recap of their room features, the hotel’s amenities, and some fun activities in town. Prepare for their arrival by reiterating what you do have. It’s a great way to make sure guests’ expectations align with the reality of your property.
During their trip: If there’s an issue with the property or one of the amenities—let’s say the elevator is down for repair—do your best to inform guests of the situation, as well as the timeframe for it being fixed.
After their stay: Following up with guests after their stay and asking for their feedback is a great way to round out their trip. If a guest had an issue, a personal email after their stay is a small but thoughtful touch that can go far.
When guests don’t book directly, you might not have access to their email address. This can really limit your communication strategy. Strong and honest communication during their stay is something you can control. So, it can seriously help ensure their stay and expectations are properly managed.
Controlling your messaging and connecting with your guests are crucial components to managing guests expectations. Often, however, those are out of your hands. Yes, you have control over the training of your staff and many of the amenities that you feature. But when guests don’t book directly, you don’t have the same level of control.
Driving direct bookings, then, is a powerful method for setting guest expectations. If you’re looking for ways to do just that, check out Sojern’s risk-free marketing solution!