The new blueprint to win guests over

(New Experience)

What’s the role of a hotelier? It’s a question I regularly ponder.

Sounds a little strange to think something so basic is up for dispute. But the rules of hospitality are shifting so strongly, it’s time to rethink exactly what the role of a hotelier is beyond providing just a clean and comfortable room.

To me, this new role is about setting the stage for guest experience. Everything else comes secondary. And if we realize this as a business, I think we will have more impact.

In my last article, I eviscerated the meaning of “experience.” In it, I opined that we need to recapture the meaning of experience because it’s been watered down to the point that it’s become a meaningless filler word.

Here, then, are some rules to help property-level hoteliers understand the new way to connect with guests.

They Aren’t There Because of You

With the notable exception of certain resort properties, your typical hotel guest is not staying at your hotel because they wanted to stay at your hotel. An incredibly high percentage of guests selected your property only after other factors were considered first. They had to be in your city, and they wanted to be as close as possible to whatever they’re doing in town. After that, guest reviews, brand and amenities come into play.

So your hotel will actually be competing with the memories they are forming while in your neighborhood. To better capture mind share your hotel must…

Be the Community Gateway

Your entire staff must be a neighborhood champion. Every individual, but especially those manning the front desk and lobby—I am looking at you breakfast attendant people—must be a living, breathing version of Yelp, but one that forges human connection.

A large part of a hotelier’s role is serving as the landing zone for guests set to seek out new experiences. So, staff must have a strong working knowledge of the highlights and lowlights of the community. One time when my kids were small, I asked a very simple question about where to find a playground. Three separate staffers shrugged their shoulders and had no answer. The excuse each provided was they were from another town. Not acceptable for such a basic query.

In today’s competitive landscape that will turn off guests. It was made much worse when I realized there was an elementary school with a playground two blocks away. At least have something behind the front desk that considers answers to all the questions related to the neighborhood and have some interesting tips to share too that share an insider’s knowledge to the neighborhood. That’s critical because it will help…

Turn Transactions Into Moments

The human connection is essential—more so than ever before. Most hotels I visit are great, but they all provide much the same thing. The big difference is the building’s brand and perhaps a special name for the bedding package and a signature breakfast item. The lodging industry is perilously close to being commoditized, and to customers coming from OTA channels, for example, it already is.

The only defense hoteliers have is to make real human connections. As technology continues to complicate matters further, employees bonding with guests is the last major tool in a hoteliers toolbox. This will lead those guests to come back the next time they are in that city.

As technology continues to automate manual jobs, owners and operators mustn’t be tempted to eliminate employees. Instead, put more people into what I’ll call ambassador roles to mix and mingle with people in the lobby. Back when I worked at the Gap, I was a greeter. I had to welcome every person that came into the store to connect with them (and to send the subliminal message we are watching you, don’t steal).

But aside from gaining the valuable skill of how to fold a T-shirt properly, it made me understand how important a simple hello can be. Now imagine mining more meaningful moments from guest interactions.

The hotel industry is vastly different than 10 years ago and the rate of change will only increase. But if you find new ways to serve the guest, you’ll insulate yourself from competing on price.

What do you think? Email me at [email protected] or on Twitter and Instagram @TravelingGlenn and share your stories.

Glenn Haussman is editor-at-large for HOTEL MANAGEMENT. His views expressed are not necessarily those of HOTEL MANAGEMENT, its parent company Questex Media Group, and/or its subsidiaries.