Managing expectations is one of the biggest challenge for any hospitality professional. Understanding guests’ behaviour and knowing what they expect from each interaction is not an easy task. First of all because of the unique prospective of every single guest; and secondly, because not always we can influence things such as pricing of our product or marketing the company uses to attract the customer. Nevertheless, there are a few things we can do during daily interactions to manage guests’ expectations to a certain extend.
The first step in managing interactions with guests - and their expectations accordingly - is to embark them into our establishment. In other words - it is providing necessary information to help guests understand what to expect when they stay or visit us. This includes familiarising them with our concept, process, facilities or any other important aspects, which might influence their experience.
Does our restaurant have a special concept, anything from build your own meal to tasting menu? Do we have any “house rules” they need to be aware of? Which facilities are relevant to them and where they can find them? We should never assume that our guests already know or can figure out things by themselves. Reducing guests effort is one of the main principles in creating memorable guests experience, so doing the job for them and answering similar questions in the first encounter will make them more familiar with our establishment and set clear expectations.
Both while embarking and in further interactions, communication plays essential role. What and how we say shapes guests understanding and experience. Effective communication is a complex matter and not easy skill to master, but remembering a few easy points might help us with daily encounters.
Questions - asking questions not only provides us with necessary information, but also helps to manage guests expectations. Is there any dish on the menu which takes longer time to prepare? Before the guests decides for it, a simple question like “are you in a rush?” would help us to advice them in advance to choose something else. Questions about dietary requirements or preferences, occasion they are visiting or plans they have for a day takes only a few moments to ask, but can help us to advice the guests better, inform them about any unexpectedness in advance and so ensure they won’t have unreal expectations.
Language - the language we use shapes guests understanding and expectations. When communicating, it is important to be very clear and specific, leaving as little space for interpretation as possible. A good trick is to use a worst case scenario, for example indicating the timeline or pricing. Guests tend to remember best practise scenario more (as often it is for their benefit), so when referring to the time they have to wait, price to pay or similar, it is good to mention the maximum option. For example, instead of saying “it will take 10-20 min” go for “it will take around 20 min”. This not only sets right expectations, but gives us the chance to surprise them.
There is nothing worse and more effective in disappointing the guests as leaving them in uncertainty. Has their order been taken a while ago and now they are waiting for the food to arrive; or have they checked into the hotel but are still awaiting for the room to be prepared? The good practise would be to approach them in-between and ensure the situation is being handled. We might not always be able to provide them with the concrete answer on the matter, but demonstrating the care and giving attention will surely help us manage their expectations.