What is really going on inside your guests’ minds?

Here’s a question that crops up very regularly: what do your guests really expect? If we could read their minds, what the heck would we find?

Do you think that, if you were more able to anticipate your guests’ needs, you would be able to improve your revenue? Even though it’s impossible to answer this question perfectly, I nevertheless had a little fun by analyzing the answers that we receive from pre-stay questionnaires.

The rather interesting results allow us to take set up a few relevant initiatives regarding the areas in your customer service approach that need particular attention.

Worried, stressed out, or hoping for contact

Over half of your guests feel that they need support before they even arrive at your hotel. For a variety of reasons, they have concerns that can be a source of stress, or simply they need information that appears vital to them.

The major sources of stress include:

  • The fear of getting lost
  • The taxi ride to the hotel, and the fact that they have no way of knowing if the cab driver is ripping them off
  • Fear of losing their valuables
  • Worries about the validity of their booking and uncertainty whether the hotel really expects them to arrive on the particular date
  • The fear of being unable to express themselves or make themselves understood by the staff of the hotel, due to a language barrier
  • Compatibility of their computer hardware with the hotel’s Wi-Fi, including the speed of the connection for more connected travelers
  • Immediate availability of their room as soon as they arrive at the hotel (particularly after a long flight)
  • Their ability to get acclimatized to the local culture in their destination country

The key message is: reassure your guests!

Show them how professional you are and offer them solutions that address the issues set out above, before they arrive at the hotel.

Your guests will therefore show up with what should be a very positive view of your property and your service. This will make them all the more tolerant of any potential slip-ups because, unfortunately, no one is perfect.

Entertainment, food, transportation, etc.

Travelers always rely on hoteliers to guide them during their stay. Even if they’ve read thousands of comments on hundreds of locations in your city or neighborhood, your views, as professionals, will always carry much more weight compared to what they may have seen or heard on the internet.

Take care of them, and look out for them when they’re outside the hotel.

This is a very important piece of information: the average budget spent during a trip is broken down as follows:

  1. Hotel and accommodations: 27%
  2. Shopping: 22%
  3. Restaurants and food: 20%
  4. Local transportation: 19%
  5. Art, entertainment, museums, etc.: 12%

These figures show that 73% of the utility that guests derive from their stays comes from activities outside the hotel. Therefore, by giving your guests guidance on activities outside the hotel, you will ensure that they have a successful stay and will therefore increase your chances, not only of getting better reviews online, but also securing a loyal, repeat guest.

Anticipate their needs

Here are the major issues that come up when hoteliers ask questions of their guests before they arrive:

  • Half of all guests would like the hotel to recommend good restaurants that reflect their preferences
  • One guest in four would like the hotel to give them tips on sights to see or places to visit during a stay
  • One-fourth of all guests do not know about the leisure activities that are available in the city during the stay, and therefore rely on the receptionist to share this information
  • One-third of all guests need information to help them find the hotel when they arrive
  • One guest in four would like to know about the best transportation options while staying at the hotel


Your guests’ real expectations are therefore pretty down-to-earth and relatively easy to satisfy. All you have to do is find out what they are, think about them, and make a sincere effort to respond accordingly.

So what about our rooms?

Yes, your rooms play an essential role. Nevertheless, only 50% of guests express any particular desire on the topic – which means that they don’t really stand out compared to other factors.

Here are the three points that come up most regularly when you ask guests whether they need anything in particular in regard to the room:

  • 50% want a room in a quiet location, away from any noise
  • 27% absolutely must have a non-smoking room, including in France, where legislation requires it
  • 23% have a preference as to the floor on which the room is located (high or low)

As you will note, there are no extravagant demands where some guests might like “pink walls and an animal rug in front of an open fire.”
Obviously, there will be a few guests who expect special treatment, but overall, their needs are fairly consistent.

With a minimum of management effort, and simple tools to anticipate these needs, you can make your guests very happy, and therefore meet their expectations in full.

Don’t overwhelm your guest, and take the lead

There is nothing worse than drowning in a torrent of information when all you’re looking for is the “button to press on a phone to call the front desk.” Simplify and take some weight off their shoulders!

That’s why the current design trends can be summarized with these simple concepts: simplicity, clarity, and purity – and this is what your guests are looking for, as well.

Obviously, each time you deal with people at large, there is no absolute rule that will work in every single case, but you can nevertheless satisfy 98% of your guests by applying the following rules:

  • Find out who your guest is
  • Find out what your guest needs
  • Respond in an accurate, yet concise way, which is consistent with points 1 and 2

Here are a few relevant examples where these three rules have not been followed:

  • A guest asks what there is to do during a stay at your hotel.
  • You give him a list of all the shows that are being produced in the theaters that surround your hotel – but, bad luck… your guest is 22 years old and he was looking for good places to go out and party.
  • A guest asks for an extremely quiet room.
  • You had pre-assigned a room on the top floor, under the eaves. Mistake! When the guest arrives, you learn that he is a basketball player and is 6’6” tall and, of course, you have no other rooms left. He leaves the hotel with a stiff neck and negative thoughts about you, which will have consequences.
  • Something that happened to me a few years ago:
  • I took my wife to a hotel for her birthday, with a booking that was made at the last minute. My plan for the evening was to enjoy a cocktail in a local bar, where we could enjoy some live music. Of course, I asked the receptionist, who answered that she had no idea but that there was a guide in our room that had a list of selected venues. I went to the room and looked at the document, spending several minutes finding the page for “music bars” due to the wall of text that the booklet contained. I finally realized that only jazz bars were listed, because the owner of the hotel was a jazz fan – which I am not. The result: I then spent ten minutes browsing the internet in an attempt to find something, before eventually deciding to go out and just see what I could find.
  • A guest tells you that he’d like dinner in a good restaurant.  
  • You send the guest your standard list of 30 decent restaurants in your city. The guest then spends far too long looking through your list, without any certainty of finding a place to eat that he will like.

And so on. Hopefully you get the concept now.

Among the similar mistakes that are frequently encountered, there are various efforts to replace human advice by pure technology. This is not a good thing: over the longer term, it’s actively harmful. Why?

Because your guests are drowning in a flood already, with things to see or do, without being in any way certain that they will get what they want. You have therefore lost the “wow” factor, which translates as: “Thanks to the good advice from the property, I had an amazing stay! This hotel really helped me and I will recommend it to my friends :-)”

Use technology to support you and to allow you to serve your guests better, but absolutely not to replace you!

In practice

How can you improve your relationship with your guests via this advice?

  • Anticipate: get in contact with your guests well in advance of their arrival to avoid any unplanned incidents
  • Reassure them: do not wait for your guest to seek reassurance. You now understand the major sources of stress for your guests – deal with them in advance
  • Learn: ensure that everyone on your staff has a list of relevant places to recommend to your guests, sorted by the different types of guest that you attract
  • Filter: avoid long lists of recommendations – favor quality over quantity
  • Make it personal: guests come to your property for human contact. Avoid misusing technology to dematerialize your guest relations entirely, but do use tech to improve your service rather than replace it.

The result of all these enhancements will be a significant increase in your online ratings. Your guests will leave your hotel with this positive thought: “My stay was amazing thanks to the quality of the hotel staff – I would definitely recommend it.”

You will quickly realize that your ratings depend more on your staff, and the warm, personal service that they provide, than on the four walls of your hotel and the furnishings that they contain.

Conclusion

Guests are always demanding more from the services that they receive, but very often, good advice and personally taking care of the guest are as valuable as luxurious surroundings or services.

It’s your job to understand your neighborhood, to understand your guests, and to guide and help them based on these criteria. It’s what your guests expect, so give them what they’re looking for and they will remain loyal for years to come!