CoStar: Why Successfully Managing Guest Experiences Begins Earlier Than Ever Before

HEI’s Vice President of Marketing, Emma Shaybani, was featured this month by CoStar discussing the guest experience – from digital to on property execution.

To meet or exceed today’s guest expectations, hotels have their work cut out for them.

Operators are bucking under a prolonged labor shortage while guest expectations have surged past many hotels’ ability to satisfy them. Recent trends have made successfully managing the guest experience today more challenging in some ways yet empowering in others. Technology has improved our ability to gain impressions from guests, but current booking trends have reduced hoteliers’ lead times significantly. In this environment, speed, planning and organization are an operator’s best friend.

Ideally, the guest experience starts the minute consumers visit a hotel’s website, indicating an intent to book a stay sometime soon. Travelers often visit multiple sites before booking, so hotels must leverage technology to capitalize on this timing to enhance their digital marketing effectiveness. Unified goals across departments are a must.

A hotel’s sales and operations departments must be in lockstep to effectively sell an experience. This requires specific language across the hotel website and on property. Consistency across all forms of guest communication reinforces the experiential nature of travel and helps the hotel team understand its brand and how to deliver on its service promise.

One of the most essential aspects of guest experience management is cultivating support among hotel staff members when delivering service. Often, context can help a hotel team buy into a property’s mission. After all, proper guest experience management affects potential rebookings, which is directly tied to the long-term health of a hotel’s operating model and, therefore, supports on-property job growth.

If a hotel’s team can be encouraged to enjoy the growth aspect of hospitality, any property will be positioned to thrive. This could be sparked by an immersion meeting, where the team is given context about the property, its history, the location and how these elements are reflected in the guest experience. Sometimes, awareness is the spark that creates interest, and the same could be said for guests.

Digital Mindset

In many ways, today’s guest experience is evenly split between digital and on-property interactions. As a result, hoteliers must consider the digital side of the guest experience in new ways — particularly as a new way to compete for guest attention.

Raising awareness of your hotel is a crucial part of building guest expectations, which can be transformed into an experience. To do this, operators must audit their digital advertising strategy to understand where they most impact customers and what drives their booking decisions. This requires speaking to the intricacies of the brand story, which can be difficult when building one from the ground up.

Additionally, digital marketing strategies can be leveraged to improve awareness among team members. Biweekly emails can be a useful way to update teams on property about which events are taking place, whether any VIP arrivals are scheduled or any other crucial information. This is also an effective way to keep team members informed on hotel partnerships, particularly digital partnerships, which are often out of sight and out of mind.

Speed is paramount in providing a high-quality guest experience, particularly over digital channels. Hotels today can adjust packages on the hotel website or alter website copy to give guests the best possible experience, but delivering this requires knowledge of the booking, the ability to quickly assess guest requests and the training to nimbly make booking adjustments on the fly. Technology is invaluable in delivering these experiences, but planning is just as important.

Uniting Departments

Every hotel today faces the same challenge: How can we educate our revenue and property management teams to work together? These departments are often siloed and rarely have access to enough context to understand one another’s decision-making. If operators can flip the script and provide tools and resources for these departments to collaborate, hotels will be able to react to new information much faster. We need this collaboration to help operators react to customer needs while ensuring hotels meet or exceed revenue goals.

Today, hotels are entering a new world where things remain unproven. Artificial intelligence is improving operators’ reaction time, and technology is empowering anyone on property to fulfill the guest experience. In this environment, we must embrace the freedom to test new ideas, try new things and continue adapting to guests’ booking decisions.

The hospitality guest experience continues to evolve, and hoteliers can place themselves in the driver’s seat this time. By leveraging technology and improving communications between departments — and guests — operators can help guide guests to their desired experience earlier in the process than ever before. This way, hotels can beat guest expectations and their competition while building a foundation for sustained future success.

Read the full article, here.


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