Expert’s Voice: How to provide personalised guest experiences without personal interactions
Some hotels may be tempted to abandon personalised guest experiences during the pandemic, but hospitality trainer and consultant Raimonda Grigaite-Kjeldsen believes there are still lots of ways to make visitors feel special.
If asked just six months ago, what would you have imagined being your biggest challenge? Keeping up with new technology trends? Understanding guest expectations? Competing with the properties nearby? Or maybe surviving the crash of tour operators?
Boy, were we wrong! Just like in boxing – it’s not the punch we see coming that knocks us down!
What about social distancing? Minimal human contact? And the urge to possibly transform the whole essence of the industry?
Can we preserve the ‘hospitality’ when the suggestion seems to be that we avoid everything that defines it?
I choose to believe, we can! By accepting this challenge of the ‘new world’ and proving that hospitality is more than physical interactions. It always has been.
The big HOW?
So how do we provide tailored, individual experiences that will leave guests feeling valued and unique, with so little or even no actual interaction? How do we create the personal touch at a distance?
It might be time to go back to the basics. Understand that hospitality is about building connections and that this can be done without standing in front of the guest.
Think communication big time! From your own website, sales channels or review sites to social media and direct communication – communicate with the guests, answer their questions, reply to their feedback and engage personally where possible. That is your chance not only to inform the guests and market yourself, but also manage their expectations and provide that human touch.
It is still astonishing how little hotels (and other hospitality businesses) are fully present online, exploring all the possibilities it provides. Use the internet, especially social media channels, to build a connection with guests, which will be a great base for the second point…
The role change. If until now it was enough to be a hotel – an accommodation experience provider or a place to eat and meet – now you will need to act as an educator, inspirational figure and even – a friend. Just because you are not able to entertain the guests in the old way during their stay – hosting face-to-face meetings to help them with holiday itineraries or the regular services they are used to – this does not mean you should avoid doing it at all!
Now you just need to focus on growing your community, engaging and building relationships with guests in advance. Again, social media is a great tool to do this.
Show them behind the scenes, use your property’s facilities and staff skills to teach them things, help them decide on what to do when visiting, and engage in a dialogue. Become an influencer for your own tribe and let them feel there is more about you than the place to stay.
So that when they finally decide to come – they don’t need you physically to be ‘at home’ – they already have everything they need to have an experience to remember.
Personal attention. We might be leaving in-room service orders outside the door now and handing things from a distance, but that doesn’t mean we should leave guests on their own. Personal welcomes and follow ups during the stay need to be done just like before.
This, however, could take a new – virtual – form. Need to minimise in-room items, such as paper welcome cards, for hygiene reasons? No problem! You can always welcome the guests via a video call! Texting, voice messages and video meetings can also ensure your guests get the attention they need.
Whether by using a simple phone (just keep GDPR in mind!), other solutions implemented in the rooms or hotel mobile applications, explore the technology offering and ensure staff are confident in using it. Because being on the other end of the line is only impersonal when done poorly.
Individual needs. And just like in every distance relationship, love and understanding define how well they last. Yes, demonstrating care and making guests feel special will be more important than ever!
That’s where, for example, the importance of wowing reaches new levels. Actively listen to guests, research them and get to know their dreams and preferences. Then use that information to give them something they can remember.
Find a way to compensate for the feeling of warmth and connection that your guests are used to getting from the charming Maria or that funny George!
Is that possible? Of course it is! Will that require change and preparation? Yes it will. Training your staff, adapting processes, changing ways of working, and employing your creativity.
The feelings evoked by hospitality might be somewhat different, but no worse or less magical!
Hospitality trainer and consultant
With over 12 years’ experience in the international travel industry working with the world’s leading tour operators, various hotels in different destinations and other hospitality professionals, Raimonda is consultant, trainer and founder at Guestbook Consulting and aims to help hospitality businesses and destinations unlock their full potential in delivering service and guest experience.