Intuitive Guest Service: A Whole New Level of Guest Expectation

By Scott Hale, Chief Experience Officer, Brand New Stay
Hoteliers and their teams work tirelessly to exceed their guests' expectations and dispel the assertion that there's no place like home. The challenge remains that guest expectations proliferate daily. A warm welcome, clean room, and mint on the pillow no longer knock the socks off your guests. Even points rewards programs don't do the trick.
While valuable to a good guest experience, these common acknowledgements are standard fare, predictable, and generic. Rather than standard, predictable and generic, your guests now demand experiences that are unique, unexpected, and engaging. How do you deliver the latter style of guest experience? With intuitive guest service.

As the introduction outlines, your guests customize almost everything about their world. Beyond their home, your guests' smart phones and web browsers are programmed to share feeds and information prequalified as interesting. When buying a button-down shirt online, your guests have access to full-blown fabrication websites that deliver a completely customized product. Or, if they'd rather not be hassled with making their own shirt, they can subscribe to a service that offers up a stylist who ships hand-picked outfit options to their doorstep.

From online music streaming to meal delivery to pantry-stocking, a personalized solution is a click away. Given these marketplace and societal conditions, it's only natural that guests would expect the same or better opportunity for customization when they're rewarding themselves and their families with a vacation or navigating their next business trip. While snappy websites and booking engines can certainly help guests custom-craft a getaway, an experience is far more comprehensive to customize than a product. A product, like a mattress, dress shirt, or meal, can be built and delivered with little to no requirements after delivery. An experience is ongoing.

Think of it this way; if you purchase a product, your product-purchasing experience concludes at the delivery of the product. It's the exact opposite for an overnight hotel experience. Your guests' hotel stay experience actually begins at the same relative product delivery point - check-in. Rather than deliver your product to the guest who ordered it, you welcome your guest to experience the product that they ordered up - your hotel and the intuitive service that they expect to go with it.
While it may be a unique viewpoint, there are some tremendous opportunities that you and your team are afforded based on the attended experience of a hotel stay. Satisfaction and success rates would be off the charts if the shirt maker got the chance to hand deliver the shirt that their customer created and then review their work as the customer tried it on. If the shirt fits perfectly, then the shirt maker will be right there to accept and amplify customer praise. If the customer would like some additional alterations, by attending the experience, the shirt maker is able to acknowledge the needed adjustments and make them happen immediately. No phone calls, no forms to fill out, no rants on social media, just a real-time fix to make things right for the customer.
By attending the experience, the shirt maker can extend the experience until it's a success. That's a win-win and a luxury that hoteliers and restauranteurs are afforded every day. Because you and your team of hospitality professionals are available throughout every guest experience, you'll be able to ensure that every guest experience is unique, unexpected, and engaging. Let's explore how to get your team ready for a whole new level of guest expectation via intuitive guest service.

Intuitive Guest Service Element: Unique
Positioning your hotel to be unique in the marketplace is a monumental challenge. Creating a unique experience for each of your guests is not as big of a challenge so long as your team is at the ready with intuitive guest service. You'll be afforded several opportunities to custom craft a unique experience for your guests through a variety of touch points. Let's kick off our analysis where most experiences in the hotel world commence - booking.
If your booking engine is super-savvy, it may allow your guests to create a login so that their profile and preferences are saved to make their return visit nice and easy. If you've got low tech or no tech, your team can still make the booking process unique for returning guests. If your guests book online using the same old booking engine that they used before and get the same old confirmation e-mail babble, why not send them a customized 'We're happy to welcome you back' e-mail? Or, better yet, give them a ring to personally thank them for booking a return visit to your venue?
Opportunities to maintain and amplify the guest's unique experience are endless. The more that you know about a guest and the reason for their stay, the more that you'll be able to craft an unforgettably unique experience both to the guest and hotel. If your team is intuitive, they'll be able to gain tremendous insight regarding why your guest is traveling and why they're staying with you. Most important, if you've got your team trained properly, they'll recognize the opportunities to act. Maybe even unexpectedly.
Intuitive Guest Service Element: Unexpected
The unexpected pieces of an experience usually deliver the longest lasting impact and have the potential to create the deepest bonds. While the unexpected parts that stick the best can certainly be negative, if your team is proactive and ready to react to the next level of guest expectation, the unexpected pieces should certainly be the most positive. Let's carry on with the phone call to thank your repeat guest for reserving another experience with you. Unless you've got this practice already in place, a phone call like this would sure be unexpected and would certainly help forge the connection between you and your guest. Undoubtedly, your guest would feel as though you are there to help them customize their experience.
If you think that it's too big of an "ask" for a personal phone call follow-up to a booking - it isn't. As you may or may not recall, telephone bookings were once the only way for a guest to book with you unless they were personally at your front desk. Also, you'd likely rearrange your schedule to personally phone a guest threatening to post an awful account on social media as soon as possible. Why not do the same to celebrate a positive guest experience as it happens? Unexpected acknowledgements also help ensure that your guests enjoy an exceptional experience and further the bond that they feel for your hotel.

Superstar alert: Call a guest who has just booked with you with no previous stay history. This unique and unexpected interaction will offer your team the opportunity to gain some additional insight that could help make their upcoming visit extraordinary.

Think that they'd prefer an e-mail? Send them a simple note with a link to an online form so that they can build their preferences. While this piece is relatively standard at a variety of hotels, with intuitive guest service, your team won't just file this insight away, they'll put it into practice for every guest interaction every chance that they get. Of course, the unexpected shouldn't just apply to communications.

The unexpected could be your Housekeeping Supervisor intuitively stocking up some extra towels, the tea that your guest prefers or pre-scheduling their room refreshes for later in the day based on their preference to sleep in. The unexpected could be tickets to the museum exhibit that they didn't get the chance to see during their previous visit. The list of unexpected touches that your intuitive team can offer is endless.

Intuitive Guest Service Element: Engaging
Any of the unique and unexpected actions that your team takes pointed at enhancing the guest experience must further engage the guest. To that end, the same unique solution won't work for every guest. The unexpected phone call that one guest loves may be the call that another guest sends to voicemail. Because your guests are accustomed to their world knowing their preferences before they do, you and your team must strive to be overly intuitive.
What's the best way to offer intuitive guest service? By reading the need. Sometimes your guests need you to simply be available when they'd like assistance and invisible when they'd like to be left alone. How do you engage a guest that prefers limited or no interaction throughout their visit? By actually disengaging and offering the guest the unique and unexpected experience of the space that they need.

While we'd all like to think that every guest wants to be our venue's outspoken ambassador, that's not the case. Some guests strongly prefer independence and the best way to keep them engaged in the experience that your hotel affords them is by respecting and providing that independence. Conversely, some guests are your boisterous ambassadors and the best way to keep those guests engaged is via constant interaction. This means that your team is available for in-person interactions and conversations throughout the guest's visit and that you reply in kind to any post-stay e-mails, notes and social media posts.

As we all know, discussing the theories behind being super savvy and completely responsive to all of your guests' preferences is easy. Actually pulling it off is an enormous challenge. A top notch team finely tuned to deliver intuitive guest service is your best chance at being successful in this ultra-competitive environment. As you consider enhancing your guests' experience, consider enhancing your team's experience, too.

Just as your guests will benefit from a unique, unexpected and engaging experience, so too will your team. Offering your team members unique opportunities and unexpected acknowledgement will engage them. Keep your team engaged and they'll deliver the extraordinary experiences that your guests have designed not because the handbook says to, but because they want to. They'll want the guests to feel the connection that they do for their hotel. A fully engaged team that embraces intuitive guest service will ensure your success exceeding the ever-evolving expectations of your guests.

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