Named one of the best hotels in Chicago by National Geographic, winner of the Best Western Chairman’s Award recipient and continually earning TripAdvisor’s Certificate of Excellence, the Best Western Plus Hawthorne Terrace is consistently making their guests feel welcome.
Jerry LoProto of the Best Western Plus Hawthorne Terrace continually delights and inspires his guests during each stay. His online reviews reflect this with guests commenting around loving their home away from home.
For this issue of the Sojern Sit Down, we took a moment to speak with Jerry LoProto, one of our valued clients, to learn what’s driving guest loyalty in the hospitality industry.
[Sojern]: You’ve spent 15 years at the Best Western Plus Hawthorne Terrace. What initially drew you to the hospitality industry?
[LoProto]: Hospitality wasn’t something I set out to do in the beginning, but I fell in love with the industry, the interactions I had and the opportunity to serve as an ambassador to the city. I am a people-person by nature. It’s in my DNA. I love the ability to get to know my guests on a name-by-name basis.
[Sojern]: Hawthorne Terrace sees a high proportion of repeat clientele. Why is that?
[LoProto]: I believe one of the key elements that continue to bring loyal guests is our property’s neighborhood charm that is appealing for many different types of travelers. Even though we don’t have a “typical” type of guest, we cater mostly to the leisure traveler. Our location is close to Wrigley Field, Halsted Street, and many universities. We love building a relationship and a sense of familiarity with our guests to truly create a “home away from home.” Remembering names and interactions that acknowledge that guest’s repeat business is important.
[Sojern]: Many in the travel industry think of loyalty as a branded guest rewards program where points are earned, such as the Best Western Rewards program. Everyone defines guest loyalty differently. How would you define loyalty?
[LoProto]: Yes, there are the official guest loyalty programs that bring added value for customers. We offer BW Rewards points and free nights. If you spend a lot of money with a company, you want to be recognized and appreciated. But it’s more than that. It’s the experience that keeps people coming back. It’s about giving and providing a level of familiarity that makes people feel like they are at home. We love building that relationship and a sense of familiarity with our guests in order to truly create a “home away from home.” When a person stays somewhere twice a month, they come to expect certain standards.
- Do they recognize me?
- Do they know my room preferences?
- Do they know what I like to eat? Gluten-free? Vegetarian? …
One of the other ways we show our guests that we value them is be making them feel special. It’s the little things that count. For example, we had two guests who were celebrating their anniversary, so our staff surprised them with flowers in their room.
For our late arrivals, it can be an exhausting journey. We always make sure that they have a way to recharge and fuel up with a gift bag that includes complimentary water and snacks. Even if they are traveling on business, that doesn’t mean they can’t relax. That’s where we come in to help. Afterall, they are our family, not just our guests.
[Sojern]: Service today has changed from what it was 10 years ago. How do you define and measure service today?
[LoProto]: Today, your reputation is married to your Google search. Guest expectations have changed tremendously—the internet is pervasive. You can see guest reviews front and center. That insight on what’s expected from other guests’ point of view raises the guest expectation for all.
We provide personalized and individual service for each and every guest by anticipating their needs. Each employee at Hawthorne Terrace is empowered to go above and beyond and take action to meet a guest need. We like to say that our front desk doubles as the concierge.
[Sojern]: Service expectations have changed a lot. How will they change in the next five years?
[LoProto]: There will always be a human element to hoteliers. However, as AI technology and voice-search gets more sophisticated, the expectation of instant gratification is going to increase. Guests will expect items delivered to their rooms right away. Going beyond the delivery of a forgotten toothbrush from the front desk, but perhaps when a guest forgets their socks, that request is routed to the closest Target and delivered directly to the individual. Asking Alexa for something and getting it right away is becoming an expectation, not a nice-to-have.
[Sojern]: As our final question, what top three tips would you give to your fellow hoteliers in regards to improving customer loyalty?
It all starts with hello.
80% of guest problems occur as soon as they enter a room. We focus on delivering immediate attention and rectifying any concerns for a guest as soon as possible so they can enjoy their stay. If you wait to receive feedback post-stay, it’s far too late.
Take pride in your product.
Your product has to be good. Even if you haven’t been renovated in years, you want to ensure your product is nice & shiny—ensure rooms are maintained, thoroughly cleaned and go beyond guest expectations.
Pay attention. Attentiveness of your guest staff is key. Your problem solvers should be on the front lines with the ability to do what they need to do in order to provide your guests with the best experience. Better yet, you want to arm your staff to make an impact on your guest. Make sure that the entire team is empowered to handle every guest’s expectation. That way your guest will always feel at home.
Our special thanks to Jerry LoProto for his insightful tips. If you are traveling to the Chicago area, make sure to stop by to experience Hawthorne Terrace for yourself.
Jerry LoProto partners with Sojern to increase the hotel’s bookings using our RevDirect product. Learn more about Sojern’s RevDirect here.