The impact of COVID-19 presents many challenges for the hotel industry and opportunities abound for those that can adapt in the face of consumer behavioural change. Guest satisfaction is the key to continued success and remains the most important part of any hotel’s existence.
As consumers emerge from their restricted existence during and after COVID-19, their expectations, experience and adjustment to the new normal, will influence what they expect from a hotel booking. Guests will want to be certain that their safety and comfort has been catered to and is at the forefront of each hotel employee’s mind.
It used to be that customer experience was a key differentiator in a sea of sameness, now the challenge is not just to meet your guests’ expectations but to adapt to new ways to surpass and exceed them.
Creating guest comfort will likely create key points of difference as they consider the options for their stay. You will have to know your guest’s comfort level at every step along the way. It’s time for the hospitality industry to pivot, innovate and transform to demonstrate a trusting and transparent environment.
Redefining the guest experience during COVID-19
To optimise and improve your guest experience due to the impact of the coronavirus crisis, you’ll need to consider every stage and touchpoint of your guest’s journey and how you can improve it.
What makes a good guest experience?
As any hotel operator knows, you are only as good as what your guests’ think you are. The guest experience (GX) journey starts before your guest even reaches the hotel. A great GX will be delivered by hotels that really understand their guests. These hotels start by engaging their guests even before the stay experience begins.
The GX review involves all stages from booking, pre-stay, the stay itself and the follow-up, so that hotels can provide future guests with the best in class customer experience. When social distancing and strict hygiene measures are the new normal it’s important to re-assure future guests that hotels are a safe and welcoming space where they can relax and enjoy their holiday.
How to improve your guest experience?
The following are steps that can be addressed in order to surpass your guest expectations:
1. Online presence and email
Hygiene practices and procedures are a key selling point. Potential guests want to know the measures that have been implemented and that their health and wellbeing has been prioritised.
Communication of these measures both in advance and during the hotel stay will help to build consumer trust, confidence and alleviate their concerns.
Where to showcase the new hygiene measures:
- Website homepage
- During the booking process both direct and through OTAs (online travel agencies such as: Booking.com, Expedia etc.)
- Social platforms
- Hotel signage
Online presence is not the only place to communicate new hygiene measures. Consider incorporating this messaging into email campaigns to both past and future guests.
Engage with guests before they arrive to explain the new check-in and check-out procedures. Share the enhanced health and safety measures that are implemented. This will help to instil confidence that the wellbeing and safety of guests and staff is a hotel’s priority.
2. New hygiene measures
In order to protect guests and staff, hotel policies and procedures must be reviewed so that they align with the health guidelines from the government and industry bodies.
Areas to consider:
- Regular hand washing routines
- Practice appropriate social distancing with employees
- Teach employees to avoid touching their eyes, nose or mouth
- Housekeeping: regular cleaning of public spaces (reception, lifts, restaurant, gym etc.) and rooms with disinfectant products
- Ensuring rooms are entered once by cleaning staff and seals put on doors until guests arrive
- Review the layout of public spaces to ensure they enable guests and staff to practice appropriate social distancing
- De-clutter paper amenities by removing pens, paper and guest directory; supplement with digital options or make these items available upon request
- High-touch areas: there should be extra disinfection of the most frequently touched guests room areas i.e. light switches, door handles, TV remotes, thermostats and more
- Review the cleaning and disinfecting of hotel laundry
- Keeping accurate records to help with contact tracing
3. Check-in/check-out optimisations
Highlight the social distancing measures implemented and how they will keep guests safe in public areas such as reception.
Consider how this experience can be improved:
- What pre-arrival preparation can staff do before the guest arrives at reception?
- Can an express or online check-in or check-out facility be implemented?
- Can the POS (point of sale) system be upgraded to speed up the average check-in or check-out time?
- Are the POS terminals mobile?Can the front desk terminals be relocated to designated areas in the lobby to act as separate check-in areas for guests?
- Regular cleaning of high touch areas such as: the credit card terminal in reception, the reception desk, doors, bathrooms.
- Hand sanitiser dispensers at reception and other public spaces e.g. near the elevator
- Regular cleaning and disinfecting of POS terminals
- Employees training on the hotel’s new hygiene measures
- Social distance queueing guided by using designated markers on the floor
- Contactless check-in – is this a feasible option
4. Flexible cancellation policy
It’s likely that some potential hotel guests may have lost money on hotel bookings due to the pandemic. As the world emerges from the impact of COVID-19, guests will probably pay extra to stay in hotels that can illustrate they have prioritised their guests.
Hotels need to provide free cancellations and have a flexible rebooking policy for the foreseeable future. Where a loyalty awards programme is in place points should continue to be accrued and there shouldn’t be any changes to benefits associated with the programme.
5. Personalised experience
In a time of physical and social distancing a personalised experience is key to making a guest feel special.
Areas to consider:
- Check-in and check-out experience.It forms the first and last impression the guest has with the hotel. The little things like a friendly, welcoming smile can go a long way in transforming the hotel experience
- Have they stayed before? Is there customer data on what they liked or availed of last time?
- Extra little touches in their room such as displaying a personalised welcome message can show how much the team care
- Consider hotel services that can be offered to make their stay extra special
- Provide a payment experience that is tailored to the guest. An example of a personalised payment experience would be to offer multi-currency payment options at the hotel checkout. Value add services such as DCC (Dynamic Currency Conversion) can enhance the experience as guests can pay in their home currency and have full transparency on exchange rate charged on their final bill
Normally guests would explore a new city, soaking up the hustle and bustle of it all. After their experience of COVID-19 they’ll probably want to avoid the crowds while still getting a unique experience. Are there experiences that could be offered in the hotel to make it a more memorable stay?
Dine in experiences
During and after COVID-19, especially as the hospitality sector reopens guests may opt out of buffet breakfast and dinner in the hotel’s restaurant. Many guests may prefer to order room service, it is a good time for hotels to consider ramping up room service menu to include famous local food items and to create a unique in-room dining experience.
Collaborate with local business in order to bring experiences to your guests in an environment where they feel safe. For example: private tours, cookery classes, wine tastings.
Finally, preparing for better times
The Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis has had a significant impact on the hospitality and travel industry. For hotels the main focus will be on taking measures to protect guests and hotel staff. Beyond exceeding guest expectations in this new world, it is imperative to optimise revenue.
When demand for rooms is low, hotels will need to maximise the amount of money each guest spends in order to increase profitability. The best way to succeed in this task is to look for up-selling and cross-selling opportunities. These opportunities start from the moment a guest makes a booking.
Another way of increasing revenue is to offer Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC) at the point of sale. Our dedicated account managers are available to answer any questions and provide staff training as you prepare to reopen your doors during COVID19.
For more information on how the Fexco team can work with your hotel to help you through the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic contact us today on firstname.lastname@example.org