As a result of today’s economy, customers are more likely to seek value rather than luxurious ambience or amenities when deciding on a hotel or restaurant. This provides a great opportunity for value properties and restaurants to snatch up and keep new customers – those who would typically stay at higher-end properties. Yet, the economy will rebound, so you’ll want to make sure that you, your staff and your property make the best impression possible in order to gain customers for life.
A couple of weeks ago, I was having a chat with an old friend who had travelled from Nairobi to come and visit me in Kigali. I had him booked into one of the well known small boutiques in Kigali; the idea was for me to get a first hand feedback from him about the experience at the hotel because I have heard a lot of great things about the hotel before. The fact that he loved the place was not in doubt as he kept talking positively about the hotel, the staff and his overall experience at the hotel. I then decided to ask him what he really found outstanding about the service and his answer was simple……. “They treated me like a valued guest – not a nuisance. I still remember the friendly shuttle driver, the upbeat receptionist; even the General Manager welcomed me as he passed me in the lobby, “His response further confirmed to me that little things go a long way and leave a strong impression in the minds of customers. So, the big question today is “how can you turn a budget property into a four-star experience? Believe me, this is possible and is as easy as ABC but requires a lot of effort and attention to little details. Let’s have a look at how this can be achieved.
The Property or Premises
From the moment a guest turns into your driveway, they should see neatly trimmed grass, pruned flower beds and a welcoming entryway. As they walk into the lobby or reception, make sure it is clean and attractive. Your front desk staff should be ready with a smile and friendly greeting. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked in to an empty front desk, where I’ve had to wait for someone to come out…..biting on a snack or chatting on phone . Or worse yet, I’ve walked in and the first thing I see is a bunch of staffers clustered together chatting. My very first impression is that I’m not a priority and obviously if that is the case, then my money is also not a priority.
“Value is what your business does that makes it worthwhile to other people”
The Front Desk
The front desk is perhaps the best and most important way to leave a lasting impression. Often, your guests have traveled a long way, and are tired. Make life easy for them! Your staff should be ready to make the guest experience as pleasant as possible. Recently, I traveled to Kampala, Uganda for a business trip. The flight was bumpy and late. After traveling across country, I was tired and just wanted to get to my room. I ambled up to the front desk at my value hotel and was greeted by a lovely lady called Kansiime. She quickly checked me in and while doing so, asked me a few simple questions:
Q: Are you here for business or pleasure?
Q: Will you be taking clients out for dinner?
A: Yes Q: Will you have any downtime?
Kansiime then went on to recommend a restaurant for my clients, and even offered to make my reservations for me! She suggested some area attractions, and gave me detailed information about transportation options. Sensing I was tired, she gave me background on local nearby dining and provided menus for delivery options because they didn’t offer room service. I knew she was busy, but rather than seem inconvenienced, annoyed or disinterested, she was friendly, helpful and welcoming – resulting in a great impression which obviously won me over as a customer.
ART of Service
Kansiime in my opinion succeeded in enhancing my check in experience because she demonstrated all the elements of a customer experience formula known as the “ART” of service:
- A = Awareness. Kansiime knew local restaurants, area attractions and transportation options and was able to give informed recommendations.
- R = Relationships. By asking some very easy questions, Kansiime found out the reason(s) I was staying at the hotel and connected them with related activities.
- T = Take Ownership. Kansiime got on the phone, and within minutes, had made my dinner reservations. By having knowledge about the surroundings, local attractions, restaurants and property, Kansiime was able to take the place of a concierge or bellman, and still provide me with the type of help and service I would expect from a higher-end property and that was a big WIN for her.
In the next issue of TEM, we shall look at how housekeeping, room basics and bathroom basics contribute to the overall guest experience.
The writer works as the General Manager of Nyungwe Forest Lodge, Rwanda. Reach him at: firstname.lastname@example.org