How to know what our guests need and want?
Once upon a time there lived a Guest. He was a simple, uncomplicated human being, who did not expect a lot from life. Satisfied with the very basics, he did not enjoy attention and was easy to surprise… Sounds like a fairy tale or science fiction movie?
Well, it surely is! In reality, the creation like this is hard to find. Today, our guests tend to be more complicated, very demanding and often difficult to satisfy. Their expectations are high and their needs - individual. They know their worth and don’t like to compromise. They have choices - and are willing to explore them.
Sounds more like a drama, horror movie or comedy at best? Well don’t you worry - we always have a chance to turn the story into the beautiful romance movie, which both - us and our guests - would enjoy. Better understanding of the guests and careful preparation can help us achieve the goal. So let’s dive into these turbulent, deep waters of guests’ expectations to find out, what do we need to do.
The A of guests’ expectations alphabet is the awareness - the starting point in understanding our guests. To create memorable experiences and ensure satisfaction we need to do the homework first and gain the knowledge about our guests. Who are they? What product do they need? What is missing for them and how can we change it? From market research to analysing guests’ feedback and actively communicating with them - getting to know our guests is the answer. The more aware we are of who they are - the better we understand their expectations.
Awareness alone is not enough. After knowing who our guests are, it is time to understand what they expect. To do that is important to realise how expectations are built and created.
Even though guests might seem like complicated individuals, they are first of all humans just like all of us. To get better acquainted with guests’ expectations we need to take a closer look into human motivational theory, better known as the Maslow´s hierarchy of needs. According to the author, we have five categories of needs: physiological, safety, social, esteem, and self-actualisation. To achieve the highest satisfaction in one’s existence, the needs lower down in the hierarchy must be satisfied first, before aiming for the ones higher up. This is the excellent framing tool to also understand guests’ mindset, behaviour and expectations accordingly.
Food, water, air we breath and a place to sleep in, in simple terms, are the basic, or better known as physiological, needs. Sounds simple, right? This is surely something we provide to the guests, don’t we? Surprisingly, that is also the place where we often fail...
Even though, when asked, many agree these are the very basic - and not even discussible - fundamentals our guests expect from us, they are often not delivered. Do we provide free water for our guests or do we overcharge for it? Do our rooms guarantee a good night sleep? Does our food cater for different tastes and is fresh and appealing? Does our establishment smell pleasantly? Such things are often overlooked without realising they are the base for guests’ satisfaction. If we cannot satisfy their primary needs, the journey up becomes way more complicated.
Just after the intimate physiological needs, the next level of guests expectations represent their safety needs, which refer to things like the feeling of safety, security and personal health. Our goal is to ensure our guests feel safe and secure at all times in our establishment, without ever causing them a feeling of worry or double thought. Is our establishment safe to be in? Are we ensuring there are no safety hazards in the area? Do we guarantee the high level of personal health (from food safety & quality to room temperature - many things are important and fall into this category). If our guests feel not well or unsafe in our establishment, it will be very difficult to delight them no matter how charming we might be.
After getting the first two levels right we come to the midway point - guests’ social needs. Assuming our guests have their basic needs satisfied and feel safe and secure when visiting us, they are now ready for more emotional fulfilment. Now is the time to create the feeling of belonging. How can we help our guests to feel a part of our business? Can they relate to our concept? Do they feel accepted in our company? Our professionalism, warmth, friendliness and attention are the key factors in this stage. Making guests fit into our community is what satisfies their social needs and creates closer connection between them and us.
In the fourth stage, which represents guests’ esteem needs, they are looking for honour and indulgence. Our guests want to feel special and privileged - differently as they feel everywhere else. How can we create and execute on such feeling? The perception of importance and reputation is the answer here. From VIP treatments to reward programs - there are the things that makes our guests feel appreciated, important and respected.
And finally, on the very top of the ladder we face the self-realisation needs of our guests’. The most difficult to identify and challenging to satisfy - how can we help our guests achieve the better version of themselves? Satisfying their curiosity, gaining new knowledge, experiencing harmony, happiness, excitement or love - these are the things guests are searching for. Creating and offering new experiences is the answer for delivering on self-realisation expectations. Offer the guests new things to experience, broaden their horizon and help them reveal their personal potential.
Understanding the basics of how guests’ needs are built can act as a guiding star in understanding what our guests expect, designing our offered experiences to meet those expectations and so ensure our visitors get a fulfilling stay.
The next aspect in understanding and delivering on guests’ expectations is paying closer attention to communication. Via communication we transfer a wide variety of information, which directly or indirectly shapes guests' expectations. That is our marketing and how we present and sell our business; it is also the direct communication with the guests along their journey, both before, during and after the visit.
Most of the challenges arise when our promises to the guests do not match the reality. That means we need to be very careful when communicating information to them - everything we say, can and will be used against us! Have we slightly overdone with the marketing and ended up overpromising something which is not the case in reality? Have we taken our guests’ email or phone conversation recklessly and did not provide full information? Or have we witnessed inaccuracy in our operations, but never escalated it to the responsible person?
Errors in both internal and guests’ communication cause challenges and often create false expectations for our guests. Ensuring we pay serious attention to it is essential if wanting to better understand the guests and deliver great experiences.
To summarise, being aware of who our guests are, understanding the basics of how guests’ needs are built and focusing on communication are the ABC of guests’s expectations. Getting these things right will ensure happy and enjoyable days for all of us.And just like that the scary reality of guests’ expectations might come a step closer to the desired fairy tale..!