We can all take a lesson from today’s message….. it has to do with communication and being human! My comments will be primarily directed to our sales persons and GMs who perform in a sales capacity, and are specifically related to group business (BUT – feel free to add some of these human touch points to leisure and transient customer communications as well!).
Many of you out there in “hotel-land” both book and cook your own groups and meetings, and I realize that constant follow up with every booking can be overwhelming and time-consuming. You may think that “it’s easy for me to sit here in my home-office, with seemingly hours to while away writing blogs and giving ideas and pointers” but honestly, my tips and suggestions are gleaned from experience and continued education and are all meant to ‘save you time’ and ‘make your job a little less-stressful’. Today’s blog is about setting up a procedure and pre-preparing your tools!
With those thoughts in mind, I want to talk about your trace systems, and how we communicate with customers once they have booked, in anticipation of their visit, and then as a matter of follow-up and account maintenance. It all goes back to communication. Are you communicating often? Are you communicating details regarding your group’s trip and what you need to prepare for their arrival? Why and how are you communicating?
If you are properly using your specialty sales programs (such as Delphi or SalesPro) 100% of the time, using every field, and every tool in their respective toolboxes, then you are one of the lucky ones. If you do not have fancy sales software, and you work with a hands on approach, then you should pay special attention to this information.
Remember trace files? Some of you may be old enough to remember that whenever we created a sales file for a potential customer, we also created a 3×5 index card. Every time we pulled the file, we entered a “trace date” on the card and then removed it from the file and put it into a card box that was separated by month and year.
Each morning, we opened the card box and pulled out our cards for the day (week). We then took those cards and pulled the hard group file to see why in the heck we traced it. Our desks were piled high with manilla file folders and we had to re-read our logs to figure out what was going on next.
Modern day technology has made these little cards obsolete (thank goodness) – but are we using Outlook, your iCal, etc. effectively 100% of the time? Are we missing opportunities to call our customers, send them letters and emails, or THANK them for their business? More importantly, are we losing opportunities for follow up business?
To establish an effective “booked group trace procedure” you need to start with an organized progression of events that need to happen prior to their arrival. You need to write a step-by-step list of what needs to be done prior to the group’s arrival.
The all important tasks are the signed contracts, BEOs, rooming lists, credit applications, etc. I call these the “technical touch points”. You absolutely MUST have these certain documents, information, and elements prior to the guest check in.
What we often forget, and I am proposing we add to our lists, are the “human touch point” events that need to be integrated into those important task lists. Reading the article below gives us several examples of those “human touch points”.
I blogged recently describing local happenings to your guests in your sales letters to encourage them to extend their visit to the area. For the business traveler, you definitely need to change your mindset and think of the things that are important to them. For example, is the guest arriving at your hotel during a very popular local festival? Tell them about it! What is the weather forecast for the dates of their trip….. Send them the link, or copy the page and attach it to an email! It saves them the time of looking it up, and gives them an idea on what clothes to pack. What about driving directions, road closures, and anticipated road construction delays? Let them know when to use alternate routes, or give themselves more time to arrive – you are the local one, you drive every day! How about reminding them that you have a beautiful pool and sun deck? Remind them to bring their suit and a good book!
Think about when you travel – what would have been nice for a hotel to tell you BEFORE you arrived? Add these human touch points to your “trace system” and expand the lines of communication!
Do your guests suffer from buyer’s remorse?
By Caroline Cooper
So, you’ve got the booking. All you do now is wait for your guests to arrive, right?
I’m sure you, like me, have made purchases—a new car, pair of shoes or vacation stay—only to wonder afterwards if you’ve done the right thing.
With a car, you might have bought from an overly ambitious salesperson, and now you start to hear tales of unreliability. Or you wonder if you will get any wear out of the new shoes you just purchased. And with the holiday, you start to read of poor experiences or learn that you have to fly from a remote airport, which means leaving home at some forsaken hour to get your flight.
So what has this to do with your hotel guests? Why would they ever feel remorse?
That period between making the booking and arriving at the hotel can either fill your guests with anticipation, or concern.
Once guests have booked your hotel, it’s easy to simply forget about them until the day they arrive. But the best operators keep in touch with guests to ensure they’re looking forward to their stays. Here are some easy ways to do just that:
- Send a personalized confirmation email summarizing their booking.
- Send details of the events and activities happening locally so they can plan ahead.
- Offer to make dinner, theater or event reservations.
- Send directions and journey times to your hotel from their home ZIP code. I’m sure we’ve all experienced the disgruntled guest at check-in who’s frustrated after enduring detours due to the local roadwork, missing the turn into the parking lot or finding the car parking lot full. The more we can do to prevent this, the better. That includes:
- Advise guests of any traffic problems by email or text.
- Allocate ample parking for guests; employees should not take up valuable spaces on crowded nights.
- Warn guests in advance if you have limited parking and advise them of the alternatives.
- Ensure the hotel entrance and parking lot are sign posted and lit so guests can easily find the entrance.
- Tell guests in advance of any security measures needed to enter the parking lot.
- Advise guests on the best and most cost effective routes from the airport or railway station.
- What’s the first impression your guests get when they arrive?
- Make sure the parking lot is clean, tidy and well-lit.
- The route from the parking lot to reception should have easily visible signage.
- Keep the following out of site: staff members on breaks, waste bins and delivery areas.
- Ensure the walk to the entrance is easy to navigate with heavy bags (and in bad weather).
- The main entrance must be clean, welcoming and obvious from the street and parking lot.
- Put a smile on employees faces; the first thing guests should see as they walk in the door is a smiling, welcoming face.
- Most of us put a lot of effort into the initial reception at the front desk, but even with the best intentions things can go wrong. To mitigate these instances, make sure your hotel is in top form and that your staff is performing at its best. Consider the following:
- Bear in mind, the first people your guests encounter might not be at the front-desk. Are all staff (even those off duty) warm, friendly and welcoming?
- Make the journey from front desk to guest rooms as easy as possible. How is the route from reception to their room? Is signage clear to newcomers? Are doors easy to negotiate with heavy bags? Are elevators working correctly? Are hallways clear of discarded room service trays? Do key cards work properly?
- Guest rooms should be fresh, clean, well-maintained and at a comfortable temperature.
- Make sure bathrooms are spotless.
- And if there are any problems, train your team is to address them and deliver great service.
These are all simple things to do to ensure guests don’t regret booking at your hotel. If you have any doubts about any of these areas of your hotel, take the customer journey and review all potential routes. Encourage your team to do the same, as they might notice things to which you are oblivious.
A bad first impression of your hotel likely will cause guests to pick fault with everything, looking for anything that will confirm their first impression. You only have one chance to make that first impression. Make sure it’s a good one.