As it appeared in the daily nation of April 21st 2015
Remember the last time you walked into a hotel? How was your experience? How did it make you feel? Did the experience make you want to go back? I have spent quite some time in hotels as a guest. This is mainly because my work requires the use of conferencing facilities which are mainly provided by hotels. In addition, my work also involves some travel which means I get to use other hotel services. Once in a while I also use hotel facilities for leisure. Every visit to a hotel is an experience. I have had both great experience and some that I wish to forget. Given a choice I feel more at ease eating food made at home and using facilities at home than spending time in hotels.
Should hotels be defined by the experience they provide or by the amenities they have? When the star rating system for hotels was introduced in 1958 it focused entirely on the facilities provided. Today the star rating is also associated with quality of service. The more stars a hotel has the better it seems to get at providing a desirable experience. Some luxury hotels have even gone to the extent of using 6-star and 7-star in their advertisement to describe their experience. The main question though is does a hotel need to be officially star-rated to provide an exceptional guest experience? Many smart hotels know that one does not need to have the 5-star rating to provide a 5-star experience.
A hotel experience has many components some of which are unique to the hotel industry. The experiences range from ease of reservations to the feedback process. Other key customer touch points include the website, the check-in process, the cleanliness and comfort of the room, the size of room, the food services, the entertainment options, the general hotel layout, hotel amenities such as safe, fridge, gym, swimming pool etc, room service, the view, internet services, loyalty programs etc. In addition staff courtesy and willingness to help is a key component of the entire hotel guest experience. I am yet to come across any two hotels that provide exactly the same kind of guest experience. I have no doubt however that the success of any hotel whether big or small is influenced by the quality of the interactions it has with its customers as well as the overall guest experience. The guest experience therefore needs not be an afterthought but a a top priority that needs to be well thought out from a hotel’s inception.
If the success of a hotel is defined by the experience it provides why do some hotels provide poor customer experiences? Why do some hotels seem not to really care about their customers’ experience? A hotel is much more than the food and the accommodation. With growing customer expectations, the availability of options and the advent of online review forums, hotels need to be more deliberate about their overall customer experience. A good starting point for an existing hotel is to collect as much feedback from its customers and use the feedback to continuously improve its people and its experiences. For new hotels that really care about their customers’ experiences, it starts at design stage.
Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer and can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org/old or via twitter @kiruthulucy