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Creating a positive Guest Experience in 2021

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A challenging 2020 has forced the hospitality sector to do a major rethink. The hospitality sector must do its utmost to focus on improving guest experience and adapting theirs to meet new challenges. Although travel for leisure was all but dead in the first half of 2020, the latter half of the year showed promising signs for an industry that many had predicted would see little business till the end of 2021. 

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What is guest experience?

The hospitality guest experience can be described as the result of every interaction guests have with a brand. For a hotel, this typically covers all actions from the booking process till the guests check out. Should there be any loyalty benefits involved, the guest experience extends to interactions with the customer even if they aren’t on your premises. 

Measuring this experience via customer feedback is key to uncovering insights that will help find critical areas in your customer journey that are in need of improvement. You can then consider actions that make the most sense at that point in time.

Guest experience in the post covid world

The hospitality sector has always had a unique customer journey which will now require some tweaking in the wake of the pandemic.

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There’s a huge emphasis on safety

No, this isn’t about providing a clean pair of sheets at the customers’ insistence. People are more conscious about safety and hygiene than ever before, and your guest experience will need to reflect that you take their concerns seriously. Read how airlines innovated to deliver a safety-focused customer experience to flyers.
You will need to list your safety precautions clearly during the booking stage itself, and ensure that staff have adequate training about the same. 

Workations, Staycations are unique experiences that need to be catered to

Hop on to any social media platform, and you’re likely to come across posts from people exploring new destinations, and many even working while on the move. Remote work doesn’t mean you’ve got to be stuck in your house all day, and with many businesses realizing the benefits of being fully remote, this does not seem like a passing trend.

Technology and its impacts on guest experience

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With Airbnb resorting to paid virtual experiences to sustain itself in 2020, technology has proven itself to be the way forward for the hospitality sector. Your facilities must be wifi/NFC/Bluetooth compatible, as they can play a key role in determining how visitors perceive your guest experience.

An avenue to improve the digital guest experience

Most businesses have an app for customers to interact with their services, and even traditional players in the hospitality sector are no different. Even if they’ve booked a stay at your premises from a third party, your brand is likely to be impacted by how positive their digital guest experience was. 

It’s essential that you have your own application, one which allows a fair degree of control over your digital customer experience.

Hospitality sector needs to be agile to deal with last minute getaways

Lockdowns being lifted saw a spike in people taking last-minute trips and this now looks to be a practice that is here to stay. With remote workplaces being a feature brought about by the new normal, those in the hospitality sector need to be agile to deal with such eventualities. By taking feedback about key touchpoints, one can improve their guest experience in these key areas and ensure that guests turn into advocates for your brand.

A look into how the industry has reacted

The retail, airline and hospitality sectors have been required to significantly adapt their customer/guest experience to tackle the challenges posed by social distancing and contactless services.
Fast-food giant Burger King has significantly revamped their processes and introduced innovative ways for customers to continue buying from them while maintaining their peace of mind. 

Here are a few initiatives which could be replicated across the hospitality sector:

Drive-throughs and drive-ins which have been optimized for a contactless guest experience

Instead of a single line for a drive-through, it can be fruitful to have multiple lanes for drive throughs, or a zone for which one can order and eat. This can be augmented with conveyor belts and external walk-up windows.

Contactless interactions with mobile apps

Apps are essential for managing guest experiences and lead to seamless interactions with your brand. According to research, 80% of hotel customers would be willing to download a hotel app that would allow them to digitally manage the check-in and check-out experience. 

Voice control, contactless payment and ordering, check-ins and being able to use one’s phone as a key to their room are just some ways in which your guest experience can embrace the contactless era.

Personalization

Now more than ever is the time to build relationships with your customers. Personalization is going to be essential for hotels and others in the hospitality sector to ensure they come out strong in the wake of the epidemic. 

Whether it’s communication or services, you must endeavor to personalize them as much as possible. Customized offers, emails and relevant offers are going to be appreciated by the majority and will help create brand advocacy in these challenging times.

Improving guest experience

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While each organization will have their own views on what their ideal guest experience should be (which is a great thing!), there are a few core elements one should keep in mind while attempting to create positive experiences that occupy mindshare.

Understand the new customer journey, and work on improving interactions at all touchpoints

Businesses in the hospitality sector need to identify their new customer journeys, and work to ensure that all experiences are in line with customer expectations from your brand. This includes sprucing up your website and leveraging it to provide potential customers with relevant information regarding your safety mechanisms.

Use the right tools for feedback

There are several survey tools and feedback methodologies that can help identify critical areas in how well your overall guest experience is performing. A few key metrics which have proven themselves to be effective at determining CX effectiveness are:

CSAT

CSAT (Customer satisfaction) surveys are excellent indicators for how satisfied customers are with different touchpoints in their customer journey. You can integrate these surveys to trigger after customers have interacted with new initiatives which you’ve undertaken (or old ones you’d like more feedback on), and customers can choose to rate you within the range of “Very satisfied” to “Very unsatisfied”.

CES

Customer Effort Score or CES surveys help find out how much effort a customer had to expend at a particular touchpoint with your organization. These surveys can be especially useful in fine-tuning your digital guest experience.

NPS

NPS surveys are an indicator of a customers’ loyalty towards your brand. This survey asks respondents how likely they are to recommend your brand or property to a friend or family. It is important to take their feedback seriously, as that can show how well your guest experience initiatives are faring.

Make improvements, and personalize communications to let customers know

Once you’ve gathered insights, you need to implement them where you can expect maximum returns. Feedback can help you uncover gaps in your customer journey and even within your employee experience as well. 

Regular communications with your target audience/customer base to let them know that their feedback has been worked on will have a positive impact on your brand image. It will also allow you to occupy mindshare more effectively.

Regular communications with your target audience/customer base to let them know that their feedback has been worked on will have a positive impact on your brand image. It will also allow you to occupy mindshare more effectively.

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