Improving hotel guest satisfaction could be as easy as a smile

The power of an engaged staff is undeniable.

Right now, the hotel industry in the United States has never been healthier. And we keep hitting historic highs—revenue per available room is now at 87 months of positive growth.

Yes, we have enjoyed a long recovery after the deep decline of the Great Recession. But industry experts are predicting a cycle peak very soon, if we have not crossed over it already. One nugget in particular stands out as the differentiator between those who will weather the decline and those who will not.

The latest RevPAR forecast from STR already shows declines in the upscale and upper-midscale segments. This ties in with guest satisfaction scores, which go up as you move up the chain scale. Though people are paying more, they are happier with their experiences. Why? From a customer satisfaction standpoint, intent to recommend and intent to return are both affected by service scores. The 2017 North American Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study by JD Power shows us that just moving the customer feedback score from an eight to a nine, from medium satisfaction to highly satisfied, increases intent to recommend more than 40 percentage points, intent to repurchase increases nearly 50 percentage points and the actual number of recommendations doubles.

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In a related JD Power survey, the smile component leaped out at me. JD Power found that 33 percent of guests said they were greeted with a smile only “sometimes” versus 61 percent who said “all the time.” The satisfaction score of that 33 percent was 110 points lower (on a 1,000 point scale) than guests that were “always” greeted with a smile. So that smile and service at the front desk is one of the differentiating factors taking a guest from a medium satisfaction level to a high satisfaction level.

Can it be this simple? And if so, how can we get team members to smile “always?” Here are a few strategies:

  • Ask them to. Set the expectation from the beginning.
  • As a leader, you must lead with a smile. Smiles are contagious.
  • Reinforce the positive. Comment on the air of positivity that your team’s smiles are bringing to the property.
  • Correct the negative. If a team member is walking around with frown, remind them of their part in creating a hospitable environment.
  • Maintain a culture of levity and joy. After all, your team needs a reason to smile.

Good product is now the price of entry, and the power of an engaged staff is undeniable. Winners regardless of the chain scale will differentiate through the service they provide. This is great news for those that train and develop people to provide that service experience. A smart investment for hotel companies is having a great product, but recognizing that the “service with a smile” your team provides is the ultimate differentiator.

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