If you’re looking for ways to improve guest experience at your hotel, who better to look to for advice than hoteliers who’ve won awards thanks to the fantastic experiences that they provide their guests?
We asked the owners, managers and operators of award-winning hotels what their secrets are and we noticed each of the award-winning hotels had three core values at the heart of their guest experience. While each property, location, staff complement and management team is completely unique, they can all agree that exceptional guest experience comes down to three cornerstones:
Keeping guests comfortable means getting the details right
Sometimes a great guest experience is about a big moment that stands out in a guest’s mind. But, more often than not, it’s the small details that make a stay memorable. Your guests might not consciously notice how wonderful the carpet feels beneath their feet, how soft the sheets are, or how perfectly lit their room is, but, as the proprietors of Cedar Manor Hotel know, these all add up to making guests feel comfortable.
“Ensuring that everything possible is ‘right and ready’ with the rooms before guests arrive goes beyond making them spotlessly clean, warm and functioning correctly. We have refurbished all our guest rooms using the best wall covering, fabrics and materials; we plan for the lighting to be right for anything, from makeup to reading; and we make sure there’s lots of hot water and big fluffy towels.” — Jonathan Kaye, Operations Director, Cedar Manor Hotel
Tinashe Munjoma, general manager of the award-winning Meiklesh Hotel agrees, “Detail is of utmost importance when it comes to aesthetics and creating the perfect ambience, from the cleanliness of the rooms to the quality of the food and beverages served. Every little detail can make a big difference when it comes to guest satisfaction.” It’s often these smaller details that can get overlooked in the hustle and bustle of a busy hotel but for each individual guest, it can be the smallest detail that can create a lasting impression.
While the team at Cedar Manor Hotel go out of their way to make their guests feel comfortable in their rooms, they know that a truly great guest experience goes beyond just the bed that they provide. Last impressions matter just as much as first ones, and from the moment a guest arrives in your hotel until they make their way back home, you have the opportunity to make their stay memorable by giving them exceptional services. From something as simple as providing reliable, high-speed WiFi at no cost, to making sure that your customer service and your restaurant are not just adequate, but exceptional, it’s the details of the stay that will turn a good experience into a great one.
“Breakfast is often the last time you engage with the guests, so excellent service along with excellent food is critical. It’s the memory that goes home with the guest.” — Caroline Kaye, Cedar Manor Hotel
Anticipating guests’ needs every step of the way
Personalisation is more than just a buzzword — it’s a necessity for making your guests feel like more than just a head on a bed. Once a guest has booked a room, you should have a wealth of data at your fingertips, and making the most of that information will make your guests’ stay that much more memorable.
“One of the key factors that sets our hotel apart from the rest, is our attention to personalised service,” says Tinashe. “Our staff have been trained to focus on getting to know the guests and their preferences to offer personalised services and experiences to make their stay memorable. After all, we are in the people business, it is the comfort, care and thoughtful little gestures that make the biggest imprint on our hearts,” says Tinashe.
Personalisation in response to guests’ requests, which can be facilitated via pre-stay surveys and other guest correspondence, is great and necessary for hoteliers – but it is the attention to ‘unspoken’ details that sets award-winning hotels apart. The team at Crown & Castle’s secret weapon is anticipating their guests’ needs at every stage of the guests stay.
John Morrel, the general manager of Crown and Castle and his team ensure that they are “one step ahead with anticipating [their] guest’s needs.” They keep an eye on each individual guest and ensure each guest feels special. “Simple things like remembering what beverages they like with breakfast from the previous morning when they come down the next morning definitely raises a smile,” says John.
Putting guests and their needs first is a surefire way to create a positive guest experience. “Good old-fashioned hospitality is at the core of everything we do,” John reiterates. “We are passionate about how we welcome and look after our guests, nothing should ever be too much trouble and wherever possible we try to exceed expectations on a daily basis.”
Instilling values of excellence and empowering staff
You can offer beautiful rooms with personalised service and sublime meals with specialist ingredients, but if your staff are not upholding your high standard, chances are your guests won’t be delighted. Your hotel staff are the face of your business and are in constant contact with your guests.
Finding, training and retaining staff while creating a culture of teamwork and professionalism can go a long way in ensuring your staff offer great service, but more than that you need to empower your staff in order for them to be able to deliver that award-winning service for each individual hotel guest.
Empowering staff means that each member of the team is aware of every guest, they have a responsibility and duty to ensure that each guest is well taken care of, but with that responsibility, staff need a level of autonomy to make in-the-moment decisions for the benefit of their guests.
Tinashe knows that staff are at the heart of the guest experience. “Our staff compliment is known for its welcoming, friendly, and professional reception. We have empowered them to take ownership of the guest experience. They are all encouraged to go above and beyond to make sure guests feel welcomed, appreciated, and valued. We have received positive feedback over the years, and we are still going strong.”
While we know that the staff are one of the cornerstones of a successful hospitality business and a great guest experience, it is not enough to have staff striving for greatness with management in an ivory tower at arm’s length. A way to foster a great company culture that translates into exceptional service is to lead by example, and management at Cape Cadogan Boutique Hotel, live, eat and breathe hospitality.
General Manager, Sean Hall, is passionate about hospitality and loves to interact with his guests. Together with his team, he constantly looks for ways to create unforgettable experiences and to ensure that together they provide the best service. Sean believes in keeping his team engaged and involved at all times. This total commitment to their guests can be seen in one of their value statements, “The team’s ultimate purpose is to create opportunities and experiences for people to enrich their lives.”
“As a company, our approach to our people is to find raw talent and build it. We start from the bottom up as opposed to the top down. We have found this very inspiring – to give unknown people the opportunity to shine. And shine they do, as guest reviews mention the team by name.” – Robert More, Custodian and CEO, MORE Family Collection.
The Cape Cadogan looks at each guest’s time with them not only as a holiday or time away with family but as a life experience, one which needs to be delivered to each guest, during every stay, by a team as dedicated to guests as the management and custodians of the brand are.
Maintaining exceptional guest service and experiences should be at the heart of any hospitality business. The guests you serve cherish the moments away as lifelong memories and delighted guests become your hotel’s advocate. In a world where anyone can be an “influencer”, each glowing guest review is an award all on its own.
While winning an award feels amazing and gives your team the recognition they deserve, creating a guest experience that is unforgettable means that you will have a constant stream of brand ambassadors. With your guests becoming your biggest advocates and sharing their amazing experiences with those around them.