The Hotel Marketing Lesson We Can Learn From Listening To Unhappy Guests

If you’re as passionate about hotels, as I am, you’ll agree with me: Nothing beats the excitement of walking into a hotel lobby in the morning, wondering what challenges await you today, and what interesting people you’ll meet…


But there is also a downside to it: Unhappy guests. It’s hard to imagine what decades of nagging and complaining can do to the person having to listen to it…

Why would a guest arrive in his elegant rooftop suite and instantly complain about the lack of ocean view? (It’s 11.00 p.m. and, except for a few lights far away, pitch black outside)

Or why would another guest, who has a beautifully laid out state-of-the-art gym at his disposal only pay attention to the fact that the gym’s TV program does not include his favorite station and demands to see the manager?

Don’t get me wrong. There sometimes IS good reason to complain. If your toilet has just run over for the third time in a row or your next-door neighbor dances naked on the hotel corridor all night long, I’d strongly recommend you bring that to the attention of management.

But I’m talking here about the kind of issues that are often “non-issues” and shouldn’t matter that much.

Now, we know that, in today’s consumer world we are literally trained to find fault to a) Get a refund or to b) get a reduction as we know what “value for money” means.

But I think the whole issue of nagging hotel guests goes deeper.

Could it be that we don’t understand what our guests are really looking for?

Is selling the perfect room all there is to our hotel product? Or are we overlooking something?

We think we are in the business of selling accommodations, but as it turns out, our guests want us to make them feel good. They are looking for warm, friendly and generous hospitality. And they all have different expectations of what that looks like.

For a business coach staying overnight it could mean a hotel environment where everything functions well, where staff is attentive and helpful, and where she feels strongly “supported” in her endeavor to make the mega important presentation the next day her best.

Some of your guests come to celebrate, some are closing an important business deal and others are simply looking for urgently needed time out.

You might have guests visiting who saved up to give themselves a once in a lifetime treat. They max out their credit card, book the cheapest room available and anticipate a dream vacation. They’ve made a huge investment. Expectations are high and any little thing that goes wrong damages their dream and causes great disappointment.

Or, you might have people booking your hotel in the hope to “fix” their partnership issues. If you’ve ever stood in a hotel lobby during the Christmas holidays, you know what I am talking about. You see groups of tired people arriving; dark circles under their eyes and determined to make these one or two upcoming weeks the best of their lives. This is their opportunity to recover from non-stop work for the past 6 months, to have fun, get closer and resolve all relationship issues. This hardly works and is one of the reasons why complaints are usually at an all-time high during the Christmas period.

People usually nag because they have an emotional need, they feel they are not heard, or they long for attention… They aren’t buying fancy rooms and interior design; they are looking for a little piece of happiness and a memorable experience.

And isn’t a hotel the perfect place to provide this?

Like a good host, sometimes all it needs is a little attention, to listen up, and with a small gesture here and there you’ll leave wonderful memories in your guests’ minds.

In our hotel work, we focus so much on logistics and strategies and feedback scores that we lose sight of the human being. People want to matter.

Egyptian cotton and a superb location are great features, but what makes you stand out is that special, intangible touch that is tied to your hotel product.

So, the question to ask ourselves is this: How do we show our ideal guests we really care on a human level?

Bärbel Pfeiffer is the founder of Text Spot On - creative hotel marketing that engages guests, generates leads and drives business.alert-info

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