As it appeared in the Daily Nation on February 26th 2019
Dr. Lucy Kiruthu
Almost a decade ago, a hotel allowed us to check in at 8am. We had planned to drive to Mombasa early in the morning but the car developed a mechanical hitch the day before. We therefore opted for the night bus arriving in the wee hours of the morning. In addition to an early check in, the hotel team invited us to breakfast. This was a true expression of outstanding guest experience. Some other hotels might have simply referred to their policies “you can’t check in till 11am” “if you want to have breakfast today you will be charged”. Most guests often grudgingly accept such policy guidelines as the norm. I have never forgotten the experience we had that morning and throughout our stay at this north coast hotel. As a result, we kept going back to the hotel every year. We also spread out a positive word that must have resulted to more business for the hotel. This hotel prides itself with one of the highest occupancy rates both in season and out of season. It has stayed ahead in guest experience!
In Kenya today, new hotels have come in, others have expanded, some have changed hands and others have shut down. These hotels come in all sizes and they are situated across Kenya. No two hotels are the same. In general, most of these hotels offer accommodation, dining, conferencing, events, and recreation facilities. All these services have become overly competitive. Furthermore, almost all hotel services are perishable; once a bed goes unoccupied or a conference room remains empty there is no way of recouping the income not earned. Any hotel irrespective of size, location, and target customers can stay ahead through exceptional guest experiences.
As hotel guests, we have expectations that are not too difficult to meet or even exceed. We expect to feel safe and comfortable during our stay. We expect the staff to be swift and caring in their words and actions. We expect clean facilities and quality food. Unfortunately, some hotels do not understand and meet the basic expectations. These hotels forget that it takes only one bad experience for some customers to walk away never to return. To stay ahead, every forward-looking hotel needs to be very intentional and overly creative in designing its overall guest experience. This experience starts way before arrival to the hotel and has no end.
In the hospitality industry, it is all about the guest experience and loyalty. A well thought out guest experience makes customers feel important, wanted, and makes a hotel stand out. Smart hotels no longer require guests to fill in details at every visit. Customer information is stored with ease of tracking repeat guests. Some hotels have a well-differentiated guest experience. EVEN Hotels for example prides itself with a best-in-class fitness experience with wellness-savvy staff and healthier food choices as part of that experience. I believe there are plenty of ways that hotels can enrich guest experience across service lines. Hotel managers must stop sitting somewhere in a corner office and be on the floor interacting with guests and receiving feedback. Lastly, staff must be aware of the art and science of guest experience. Though some hotels in Kenya are staying ahead in guest experience, we need many others to provide a cherished experience beyond the ordinary!
Dr. Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer. Connect via twitter @KiruthuLucy