Travel recovery means a huge upswing in guests, but without the staff to support this jump in occupancy hotels risk leaving their customers underwhelmed due to service deficiencies. Staffing shortages are a big setback on operations and revenue maximization, and sadly they aren’t going away any time soon due to a cluster of global factors far beyond only the hospitality sector.
For the latter half of the calendar year and likely for years to come, this means more incoming guests and fewer team members. Taken together, some guest requests are bound to get missed or be ill-timed, and those service mishaps are bound to crop up in your online reviews sooner or later. Knowing that available labor won’t come to the rescue, the best path forward is automation. For a second opinion on this problem as well as possible solutions to the reputational harm of staffing-born service errors, we touched base with Michael Kessler, CEO of ReviewPro.
“This stretch of pent-up travel demand will come and go until we regain some semblance of normalcy, but those bad reviews on TripAdvisor and other OTAs are there for all to see,” said Kessler. “Right now, customers are keenly focused on post-pandemic rather than pre-pandemic hotel reviews, and this means reputation management – and ideally the automation of this task in order to not harm team productivity – deserves a serious rethink as we get underway in this next era of travel.”
From the guest’s perspective, they don’t care about what’s happening operationally at a hotel or your ability to stymie associate churn; they just want a great experience, with all their needs addressed quickly and effectively. This is especially the case for those who haven’t been able to travel during the past two years of restrictions. Add to this that room prices may inevitably rise due to inflationary forces, and you have a cohort of customers with higher service expectations and a need for smooth, restful stay at your hotel, regardless of the back-of-house crunch.
Restating what was hinted at above, to shield your hotel brand from negative reviews, you need to learn to do ‘less with more’, and that means employing technology to cover some parts of the job. Far from deploying a robot at the front desk, we’re referring to automation and AI tools for repetitive tasks in order to free up available staff to cover the guest-facing and more complex problem-solving side of the job – the same side that also encourages talent retention.
This can be done throughout the customer journey – for instance, by speeding up response times and opening up communication channels. Consider the following seven:
- Programming in-stay surveys and setting team notifications, so that hoteliers can act quickly to provide onsite service recovery when needed.
- Consolidating requests from any digital platform – whether it’s an email, texting app or social media – so nothing gets missed and the team isn’t burdened with checking every single channel.
- Bringing all online reviews into one platform for managers to efficiently answer with thanks and acknowledgements, and for prospective guests to see that the hotel is responsive and caring.
- Perfecting the prearrival and post-departure automated communications to set the tone for a great onsite experience and maintain the brand relationship after check-out.
- Employing a hospitality specific chatbot to help automate the more repetitive aspects of inbound inquiries, whether it’s for guests currently on-premises or those yet to book a room.
- Offering comp set review benchmarks to give a sense of where a property needs to improve compared to other brands.
- Analyzing the specific words in each review, using AI-driven tools to evaluate performance not just on star rating changes but on guests’ sentiments and ‘soft’ suggestions.
Taken together, the seven functionalities from above along with some of the other morale-boosting features of these platforms present a strong case for why hotel review management needs a stronger focus in the post-pandemic recovery. Staffing shortages will be an omnipresent issue, making automation essential to maintain quality service delivery. Ultimately, it’s about creating a healthy culture that fosters a steady stream of great online reviews for continuous success.
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