Hotel Guest Experience: Don’t Fall At The Last Hurdle!

Caroline Cooper, founder of Naturally Loyal, on the final moments of a guest’s stay.

What a waste! You’ve had a fantastic time. You’ve been well cared for, attended to with fantastic hospitality. Your stay was wonderful, the atmosphere was relaxed and you and your family have had a great time.

But then it all turns sour. It’s time to go home and suddenly no one is interested.

You’re ready to check out or pay your bill, but there’s a queue to part with your money! You take a visit to the loos and wish you hadn’t. You need a hand with your luggage but can’t find anyone. You need some directions but no one knows the way.

Has this ever happened to you? More importantly has it ever happened to any of your guests?

One of the most important determining factors in prompting a positive lasting memory and potential repeat visit is what happens in the very last few minutes of the guests’ experience.

What’s the very last thing your guests see, hear, smell, taste or feel as they leave.

What will be the lasting memory that stays with them when they’re thinking about booking again, telling their friends or colleagues, or telling the world on TripAdvisor about their experience?

When I’m working within any business reviewing the customer experience I always ask them to imagine the conversation or the feelings and thoughts they’d like their customers to have when they’re on their way home from staying with you.

Whether that’s the whole family in the car on their way home from a summer break, a couple sat on an aeroplane on their way home from a relaxing long weekend, a walk back to the office after an important business meeting or a newlywed couple and their families at the end of their special day.

Whatever your guests come to you for – business or pleasure – ask yourself what would you want them to be saying, doing or feeling after doing business with you?

Do they feel appreciated and that you’re sorry to see them go? Or are you unintentionally making signs that you’ve other more important things to be getting on with? The equivalent of impatiently looking at your watch or getting the Hoover out!

It may not be obvious, but letting them know you’re running late, that you’re relieved it’s the end of your shift, or you’ve a queue of other guests to attend to. Any signs of rushing them out of the door or off the premises will leave them feeling they’re not important.

How about when they’re the ones in a hurry or ready to leave, and we keep them waiting.

They’ve had breakfast or finished their meal, but their bill isn’t ready; they’d asked for directions and we’ve forgotten to print them out, they ask for a receipt but the printer’s out of paper. Small things, but not the best impression to leave with a guest when they have to wait to part with their money; it might be the one thing that puts a damper on an otherwise great experience.

What’s going on behind the scenes that’s not quite what you’d like your guests to experience? Are your toilets as pristine at the end of a busy function as they are at the beginning? (Just reflect on how many of your customers make the ladies or gents their last port of call before setting out on their journey home.)

What’s the last conversation they hear as they leave? Is it a genuine smile, offer to help with their luggage and sincere heart-felt “thank you” in person? Or do they get to hear the back stage gossiping and gripes about the weather, a long shift, the management, or excuses for delays or disappointments.

What’s the last thing they see on their way to the car park? Particularly if there’s a sneaky short cut via a rear exit.

Is it the chaos of a storage area used as a dumping ground, the cluttered cleaning cupboard, over flowing bins, the remnants of last night’s function, or even your team having a crafty cigarette by the back door?

What do they see or feel in the car park? How secure do they feel if it’s dark? Is the level of service consistent with everything else, or is the last person they see a grumpy gardener or off duty waiter fooling around and letting the side down?

Everything your guest experiences during their visit up to this point might be seamless and perfect.

But it’s those last few moments which influence the end result – how they feel, what they say, and what they do as a result of their visit.

So don’t let it all fall down at the last hurdle.

About Caroline Cooper: Caroline is an author, trainer, and consultant on customer services and loyalty helping businesses to get more sales through their existing customers. She is founder of Naturally Loyal and author of The Hotel Success Handbook. Discover more: www.naturallyloyal.com
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