We’ve all experienced our share of high maintenance guests, those individuals who check in to our hotels, demand the world, and want to pay the least amount. It is frustrating and we often question whether or not this is a true customer for our hotel and/or if they are worth it. Sometimes we even resent their business and how much time and effort it takes to “make them happy” versus those guests who come in and love you and the hotel automatically, and without demands!
My colleague Bob Weiser sent me the article pasted below this blog, thinking it would make a good blog. I agree – I believe managers, front desk associates, and operations team associates all need to understand, that while these guests are demanding – sometimes to the nth level, that their money is still green and if we cater to them they often times become some of our most frequent guests. It is worth the “read” and perhaps developing some of of the techniques the author suggests.
What I would also like to do here – is to draw parallel to our sales teams and our one-on-one with demanding planners and company contacts. Remember the blog I did about paying attention to the external factors and interests of these customers? Asking a few personal questions about their life and sharing a few things about your life, hobbies and interests to see if there are parallels? Well, in my opinion, the information the author suggests that we do at our front desks is the same as what we should be doing in our sales appointments. People buy from people they know and like… even the grumpy, demanding, and nasty ones. Why we don’t always look forward to their return… but they are returning if we put a little effort into treating all our guests like high maintenance guests!
* * * * * * *
How High-maintenance Guests Become Repeat Customers
By Rita Anya Nara, Author, The Anxious Traveler
In working with travelers who have emotional health problems, I’ve connected with a number of people who I can only describe as high-maintenance. This personality type feels their needs are more important than others, can’t be easily pleased, expect perfection every time, and usually have expensive taste – even if they happen to be staying at a budget hotel. The high-maintenance personality can be disapproving, snobby, and unappreciative, with an infuriating sense of entitlement and oblivion to almost everything except their long list of “must-haves.” While the majority of high-maintenance guests are women – and most of us can think of the last one that walked through the door in a pink blaze of problems and perfume – there are plenty of high-maintenance drama kings out there who exhaust every possible convenience you offer within 24 hours of check-in in (plus a few things you wouldn’t ask of your best friend, much less your host).
So, why should you bother even trying to pursue this sub-sector of clientele? For one thing, they usually like to travel, so you’re going to keep running into them. Second, they’re an available market, if you will; plenty of hotels and individuals just aren’t going to put the effort into wanting them back. Finally, high-maintenance guests are usually at their worst the first time you host them, and their behavior becomes more tolerable once you (and they) know what to expect. If you’re already expending the effort to make a high-maintenance guest happy the first time around, it makes sense to keep them as an investment.
First, here are some truths about high-maintenance guests…
- They’re looking for dependable and consistent service as much as the average guest. Think about what keeps your typical customer coming back: trust in your brand, prompt resolution of their concerns and problems, professionalism with a personal touch, and reliability. The high-maintenance guest is looking for more or less the same when deciding if your hotel can be their “home away from home.” In fact, the predictability of your good service may be the only platform on which all their needs and wants can balance without toppling over.
- They want to get to know you. Yes, high-maintenance people have an oft-deserved reputation for being self-obsessed, and selfish. They’re also inquisitive by nature, and just because they’re into airs doesn’t mean they seek the same in others. For a personality type that values conquests and appearances so much, the high-maintenance person craves a personal connection more than you’d think – and more so than what we think of as “difficult people.”
- They often have a lot of influence. High-maintenance people like to announce to the world what kind of service they’re provided. They don’t necessarily have a lot of friends, but they usually have a lot of people who listen to them, either through their social circles, blog, or online hotel review sites.
- They aren’t used to being received well. Most high-maintenance people are used to being dreaded or resented by service people. They can be indifferent or self-righteous about the sense of futility or the frustration that they cause, but as difficult as it is to imagine, many high-maintenance people genuinely want to be liked. How much, and how well, you accommodate them will make you stand out.
There are ways to bring out the best in the high-maintenance personality type – and it often involves adopting a bit of their mindset (as terrifying as that may sound). The key is to transform their need for exclusivity into something less self-serving: loyalty to you. Here are some strategies.
Don’t Focus on your Rewards Program
Promoting your rewards program can be a great way to retain your average clientele; much less so for your high-maintenance guest. First of all, the benefits of being part of your program aren’t going to make them feel truly “special” compared to other guests – even if they’re one of only a handful of gold status members. Second, high-maintenance people aren’t necessarily interested in saving money; if they don’t have plenty of it already, then they certainly want to give the appearance that they do, and may be rather insulted that you think that they “need” a rewards program.
Unless your rewards program offers something that money simply can’t buy, find a more open-ended, personalized incentive to keep your high-maintenance guest interested in returning. This can be as simple as giving them your card with a note on the back to call about future benefits and exclusive engagements. Make no promises at the time of visit, except that there are great things to come; your goal is to keep them wondering about the possibilities. When these are “endless,” you’ve successfully captured the attention of someone whose interest is always roving.
Play Up Your Successes in Meeting Their Expectations
If you could draw a dialogue bubble above a cartoon of your high-maintenance guest, you might fill it with: Aren’t I great, aren’t I wonderful. Don’t you know it? Now imagine drawing the same words over a cartoon of yourself helping this guest.
Humor aside, a high-maintenance guest is never going to give you credit for your efforts – so you’ll have to give yourself credit. It takes some practice to be charming (and not obnoxious) about vocalizing your excellent service. The message you should be conveying (if you don’t say it outright) is: No one else would do this for you, but I did. You’re presenting yourself to be just as special as the guest sees themselves as special. Your guest might be a little taken aback, but they’re not going to disagree with you – and it may help them reflect on themselves.
It’s equally important to focus the high-maintenance person on their expectations for future visits. Statements like It will always be like this for you and we’ll be here for you next time as well can help you capitalize on a job well done.
Share as Much About Yourself as You’re Comfortable With
High-maintenance people are often obsessed with details, and have an insatiable appetite for melodrama and personal stories. They do get tired of themselves – and may wonder what you’re “about” when you’re not serving them hand and foot. If you’ve struck a positive cord with a high-maintenance guest, then telling them about a major change in your life such as a wedding, a baby, or a new house will inspire their intrigue and help you stand out among a sea of people who otherwise exist only to grant their wishes. The high-maintenance personality type loves a “story” peopled with interesting “characters”; it’s just how they see the world. Offering personal trivia that doesn’t violate your sense of privacy will cause them to think back to you (and the hotel) and what “became” of you.
Tell Them About Your Competition
High-maintenance people love to compare their successes to others; they thrive on outdoing or outshining their rivals, and discussing every move someone makes. Play into this by telling your guest about competing hotels, and what you’re trying to do to stand out. Don’t do this in a way to “sell” your guest, but rather to confess your need to be the best, how stressful it’s been to think about what your competitors are doing, and what you’ll have to do to stay ahead. By doing this you entice your high-maintenance guest to take your side – and to see how critical their loyalty is to you.
The high-maintenance personality type loves to play favorites, and if you’re candid in confiding any insecurities (something they have a hard time doing) they may just champion you out of compassion, and want to see you be the best as much as they want to be the best.
As an added bonus, talking to your guest about your hotel and other hotels takes their attention off themselves.
Build Suspense About the Future of Your Hotel
High-maintenance people love to talk about their plans – particularly anything that will make them more glamorous, attractive, or unique. Take a cue from them and reveal your plans for a future restaurant renovation, addition of spas or saunas, indoor garden, or any other hotel improvement that will appeal to their sense of “bigger and better” – even if these changes are months or even years down the road. Be as visual as possible; your guest wants to hear all the details of your “facelift,” so to speak.
If you don’t have any upgrades on the horizon, point out a new shopping mall opening nearby, or a golf course or casino planned within driving distance of the hotel. The point is to pique your guest’s curiosity and build the image of a place that is like them: always changing and keeping up with trends. Your competitors are likely too distracted by this guest to even think of mentioning these things.
Make Known Your Off-Peak Times
Obviously, nothing irritates your high-maintenance guest more than having to share the facilities – and your attention – with other guests. Telling them about when business is particularly slow, and (hint) they’ll have the place more to themselves, will certainly interest them. Not only are you putting ideas in their head about when and how often they’ll return, but it’s better for you if this guest comes back when you’re not as busy managing others.
If your high-maintenance guest is a tourist, not a business traveler, and your influx of guests is somewhat unpredictable, you might offer to email or call them in the future about particularly quiet times to schedule a stay.
Encourage a Review of You or Your Staff Not of “The Hotel”
A lot of high-maintenance guests love to write hotel reviews – and not many of them are positive. Many of these guests view their collection of reviews as a public journal of places that couldn’t rise to their meteoric expectations. Since they’ll inevitably be writing about their stay at your hotel, encourage them to write a review – of you.
High-maintenance people can easily find fault with services and “things” (your hotel), but it’s a lot harder for them to overtly criticize individuals who honestly try to meet their expectations. When they go through their TripAdvisor or Hotels.com account in a few months to see how many people found their reviews useful, your name will stand out – and they’ll be reminded of your hotel. Before you know it, they’ll be admiring themselves in front of your largest lobby mirror again – and you won’t want to bang your head against it.