By: David Dekel
The Hotel welcome factor in hospitality is a factor I use to indicate the friendliness level of hotels that is contributing to the welcome feeling in hotels.
We all know the basics of hospitality taught everywhere and the considerations according to which guests are choosing their hotels and giving feedback afterwards.
We are all aware of the factors we can influence when it comes to providing hospitality services. We are also aware of the fact that a sequence of positive or negative experiences that sometimes are not in the property’s control, will affect the guest staying at the property.
What if there is another factor, a dominant one, that is not well defined but definitely affecting the guest’s hospitality experience?
I would like to suggest the “hotel welcome Factor” in hospitality. I would like to tell you two short stories of how I was encountering that factor few years ago.
At the time my company was managing few small to mid-sized hotels in Amsterdam. One of the hotels was problematic in terms of the size of the rooms. A historic building in the city center that did not allow to make much space and it had small rooms that maybe were almost ok in European standards, but were not acceptable in American or other standards.
We had many “rejects” of guests making reservations but wanting to leave when they have seen the room itself. The amount of rejects was higher than in the other hotels we managed.
At the time, we had a very friendly approach to guests. As this was a budget hotel and the atmosphere we introduced was very informal. My instructions to the front desk were to be proactive when contacting the guests and give them full city briefing and suggestions of what to do while in the city.
We did that in all the hotels we managed, but we have noticed that in the “problematic” hotel, whenever the receptionist had time to welcome the guests and give them the full welcome speech, talk to them, ask where they came from, how was the journey and what they are planning to do in town – these guests almost never left the hotel due to the room size.
However, guests that either prompted for the quick check-in or the receptionist did not manage to engage in a conversation with them, for any reason, they were more likely to come back to the reception and complain about the rooms’ size.
We all knew it but never gave it any thought and that brings me to my second story.
Few years ago, my ex and I went to Italy for few days. We drove all the way down from Amsterdam to Rome. From Rome, we drove south to Sorrento and booked a local hotel that was part of a global renowned chain.
Things “went south” from the first moment. The fact that we came from Rome Cavalieri Waldorf Astoria did not help much. The Rome Cavalieri Waldorf Astoria is arguably the nicest Hilton in Europe and is a unique hotel. One of its unique point was that it was pet lover, not just friendly.
At Sorrento, however, things went wrong. There was no upgrade as it should have been and the front desk was not honest about it. They claimed the executive floor was fully booked whereas the online booking system suggested otherwise.
The room was a disaster and we had few more disappointments that at a certain point I asked my ex: do you think they don’t like us here? Maybe we are simply not welcome here?
That got me into thinking. If it was possible to let a guest feel unwelcomed, it should be possible
to operate in a way, that a gust will feel welcomed in a property. It may not be totally in the property hands, but maybe it could be influenced in a positive way.
How to improve the hotel welcome factor?
So, the question is, how do we make the guest feel welcomed?
Well, just like the Pirate code book, it is more like guidelines, not specific instructions. But one should keep the following in mind when interacting with hotel’s guests:
· Act in a friendly way at check-in, not as a technocrat.
· Short orientation speech about the property/ the city/ the event. Either at Check in, or after when they actually listen.
· Show a genuine interest in your guests
· Use a little humor
· Interact with your guests. In most high-end hotels, contact between the reception and the guests is mostly minimized to check in, check out and requests or complaints if they have. The idea is to be a little more proactive and engage short conversations with guests. Naturally, the concierge department can be very helpful and assist the reception in such interaction.
One need to be careful not to overdo it and definitely not fake it, as guests are sensitive to that.
In the last few years, I stay mostly at the leading hotels chains. The check in process is identical in all of them: very formal, very short, very impersonal as if they have to send you to your room in less than two minutes. For some people, mostly business travelers, a speed check in is what suits them best, however, most guests would appreciate a bit more personal approach. The beauty about the hotel welcome factor is that category level of the hotel, being the star or any other rating, does not give an advantage to big chains of hotels or fancy hotels over others.
It is also important to use the suitable employees, the ones with more dominant social skills on the front desk. People react to people, not to processes or technology. Theoretically, it is possible to perform the check in online before arrival or in a “kiosk” at the lobby, just like in the airport. Once you are going that way, it would be very difficult to differentiate your property form others.
Whereas the slogan a “home away from home” is just a slogan that is no expected to be fulfilled by either side, the pleasant and welcome feeling creates a positive interaction between the property and the guest. Such guest is by far more likely to come back to the property, recommend it and give a positive feedback, both offline, online and on social media.
I have Named that Factor, hotel welcome factor and am using it in my review posts about hotels worldwide.