Four Tips For Elevating The Customer Experience In Hospitality

Aslak is the CEO of Selfly Store, works with customers in 20+ countries generating more revenue with data and intelligent vending machines.

What does a typical customer look like in the hospitality industry? How do you and your brand influence their journey? What steps do you take to make sure they walk away with the best possible experience? Questions like these can be difficult to answer for the biggest hotel chains on the market, let alone the smallest, but the answers to them can make or break your business. As you adjust to changing technology and different ways to reach (newer, younger) customers, there has never been a better time to improve the customer experience.

Most hotel owners struggle to know where to start. In a world where trends change on a dime and reputations built up over years can fall apart with a single bad review, how do they grow their customer strategy without sacrificing the bottom line?

The answer is convenience. As McKinsey & Company notes, “e-commerce has redefined convenience.” The acceleration of technology adoption has conditioned consumers to expect speed and on-demand access to their desired purchases. As a Harvard Business Review article (paywall) noted, similar service providers aren’t the only competition in town anymore; you are competing with the last best experience that your customers had, whether it’s from a known rival hotel chain or a market disruptor in another industry. Are you up to the challenge?

1. Show Up At The Right Time

Travel is often one of the least convenient experiences that most people will go through for both work and leisure. Spending time away from home in unfamiliar cities and spaces can be disorienting, and most of them tend to find their bearings through familiar brands that offer the creature comforts that they’ve become accustomed to at home: Restaurants with standardized menus, stores with products they know and love, and hotel chains with trustworthy reputations.

When weary travelers arrive late at night at the check-in desks, speed is usually the name of the game. They want to get checked in and into their rooms as quickly as possible. However, there are a few elements at play. Hotel guests may arrive hungry or thirsty, so restaurants are likely to be on their minds. Some are also unprepared with all of the travel essentials for their stay, such as soap and a toothbrush.

Having necessities available to be purchased at the check-in area or providing nearby restaurants’ menus (with their operating hours) can make a huge difference. Add a friendly smile and show that everything is prepared with the guest in mind, and you will have mastered the first and maybe the most important steps of customer experience excellence.

2. Integrate Convenient Solutions Strategically

Where do your guests go after the check-in desk? Do they head straight to the restaurant? How long does it take to get to their room? The next step is to map out the literal journey that your customers take from the moment they walk through your front door. With this information in hand, you can see whether they have everything they need at each step. If they don’t, you can figure out what is missing.

Hotels that deliver the missing ingredients in their customer journey have found an important hack: Location is key. More specifically, the closer you can get a solution to the shopper, the more likely they are to use it. For example, I encourage hotels that use intelligent vending machines like ours to offer them on every floor to provide a one-stop shop with products that guests can purchase immediately.

Place your value-adding extra services, such as massages, gyms or spas, in locations where guests can see them clearly. Part of the magic is to start dreaming of these services.

3. Create The High Street Experience

Shopping is an experience, and people feel very differently about it. Some do the bare minimum to get what they need; they seek out simple choices, straightforward pricing and an easy in-and-out process. Then, there are those who can make an entire day of it; shopping is an event. They can spend hours browsing through stores, they don’t stick to the one thing on their shopping list, and they know what they want when they see it.

Business owners can transform any lobby or waiting area into a truly high-street shopping experience for their customers. Beyond the essentials, consider selling bigger-ticket items like gloves and scarves in public spaces for those looking to wrap up in the weather that is colder than they expected when they were packing. For the browsing shoppers, offer trinkets and toys, branded bottles and keychains, and collectible ornaments and souvenirs.

4. Look At The Data About Any Offering You’re Considering

To successfully implement any new solution or offering, businesses should use data to modify their product selection. The best businesses do their own research by paying attention to the needs and desires of real customers.

For example, data collected from my company’s cabinets showed us that the most popular time for hotel guests to make purchases was between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m. During this time, guests tended to make bigger purchases and buy a mix of items in one go.

Remember, the goal of new offerings should be to reduce guests’ stress, improve convenience and keep them coming back to you. By integrating these three steps into your customer strategy, you can elevate your customer experience to new heights.

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