Updated: Aug 6, 2019
Why being the best is not our goal?
Like in many other industries within the last years, guest (or customer) experience has become a buzz word in hospitality likewise. Luckily, businesses came to realise that making guests happy with single, random interactions will not win their loyalty and create excitement around the brand. This requires way more effort, research, careful planing and sometimes…even luck.
But what is guest experience? Guest experience is our guests’ holistic perception of their interactions and experience with our business. It is a cumulative result of every encounter they have with our brand, from the very beginning when they start researching and finding us on social media or navigating our website to email communications they receive from us or feedback they leave after coming home. It goes way beyond their actually stay in our establishment or the basic interactions we often focus on. While excellent service might win us guests’ satisfaction, flawless guest experience will ensure their loyalty and word of mouth. In other words, if satisfaction defines what they think about us, guest experience shows how they feel about us.
Guest experience should not be left to coincidence. Ways to improve it should be carefully researched, planned and constantly revised to adapt to changing guests’ needs. Here are the things we shall aim for, when designing our guest experience.
Guest experience is all about what GUESTS (not us!) feel about our business, meaning that it will be defined from their prospective. Here we need not only knowledge about our guests and their needs, preferences and behaviour, but also ability to see the things through their eyes. Have we tested our booking process, stayed in our hotel rooms or ate in the restaurant as the guest? Have we mapped our guests journey and identified not only the main touch points, but important questions or emotions guests might experience at each stage? Stepping into their shoes and walking the whole journey can help us understand what is needed, what works and what has to be improved.
Guests’ experience is way more than their fulfilled rational needs. We might have the most comfortable beds in town to guarantee our guests’ good sleep or serve the most delicious food in the region to satisfy their hunger, but without creating a bond with our brand on emotional level they will likely never come back. Understanding their emotional journey and executing upon it during whole experience is essential. Our guests experience different emotions both during the journey and generally, and we need to address it. The mother holidaying with her kids will experience other feelings and seek different state of mind as when having a romantic getaway with a partner. And even within different points in the journey expectations to feelings vary from, let’s say, assurance when booking or convenience when travelling, to entertainment or relaxation when visiting.
Providing a strong human touch - is another key. Our industry excels at human interactions, so connecting on a personal level is important in building strong relationships. We should ensure we speak with the guests, aim to provide them comfort and peace of mind in every situation and make them feel wanted and welcomed.
Engaging guests in properties activities or business initiatives is another way to build connection. Either it is our sustainability acts or social media campaigns - making them feel the part of our community fosters the feeling of belonging and emotional connection accordingly.
One size fits all is a long gone strategy in creating memorable experiences. Today people seek individualism and personalised experiences. The more we can tailor our product and services to unique needs of our guests, the more remarkable impression we will leave in their lives. Some personalisation is easier to implement, starting from personal greetings to email communications; others require more effort and help of research and technology. One way or the other, we should be ready to invest in data gathering and use of insights to be able to design great experience and build memories our guests will cherish.
Reduced guests’ effort
Another important aspect in designing guests’ experience is making things easier. Many researches have shown that guests loyalty is not driven by delightment we create, but more the fact of how easy (or difficult!) it is to do business with us. The amount of effort our guests need to put will influence their loyalty. So understanding, how complicated we are from the guest prospective, is crucial. Are we proactive in providing them with information or do they need to contact us more times? Do we provide them with resources they need to solve problems themselves? Or how fast can we solve problems when they occur? Have we arranged the things in the most optimal way? Do our guests really need to wait 10 min for the drink order in AI buffet restaurant when it could be easily solved with the self-service counter? Is English and local language only really enough for our restaurant menu when one third of our guests are Germans? Or does that electricity socket in the guest room has to be placed across the room instead of the bedside?
Talking to the guests as well as going through different touch points in their journey and asking ourselves if it makes sense, or can we still simplify it to make our guests lives easier, can do wonders both in guests experience and our business bottom line.
We all know that undesirable feeling of not being able to choose and having only one option to go for?! Luckily, not often in life we face such situations and in reality there is always another way out. In the case of guests’ experience is the same - if we don’t want that to be the way to lead them out of our brand - we need to ensure they are given a feeling of control.
Providing them with options (just not too much to prevent the decision fatigue!) will not only give the chance to improve their actual experience (as people are able to decide based on their personal preferences and wishes), but also make them feel better about themselves and us accordingly. Nowadays people value independence and ability to decide for when and how they will eat, travel, holiday or spend time on business trips. From “build your own burger” restaurant concepts such as at Denny’s or Chipotle to “book your room or sunbed” options at Thomas Cook Group - examples of giving guests control and decision power in satisfying their unique needs bring long lasting results in creating great experience.
Recognise and reward
Everyone likes being recognised - and there is an understandable reason for that. Neuroscience explains that when we feel important, a higher level of serotonin - otherwise known as the "hormone of happiness” - flows into our brain, leaving us with the feeling of joy and satisfaction. Guests are humans just like us! If we want to create happier experience for them, we need to ensure they receive the attention they deserve.
Paradoxically, we tend to reward whose guests, who have faced some negative situations within their journey, often forgetting the others. So it is important to remember and find ways to recognise and reward also those guests who simply enjoys spending time in our establishment. From Thank You letters to souvenirs, from birthday cards to free visits - many options are possible and appreciated.
To design great guests’ experience we first of all need to have guests at the centre of everything we do. Since guests’ experience is their overall perception of our company, their happiness should be the top priority across the business. Only by applying a holistic approach towards their experience, listening to their voice and actioning on it, creating personalised, unique and effortless interactions we will create memorable experiences, which they will be willing to repeat. Because the role of excellent guests’ experience is not about being the best - it's about becoming the favourite! So let’s aim for that!