5 Common Problems in the Hotel Industry that Frustrate Guests
Guests expect to be pampered when they stay in a hotel; they chose to stay in this type of accommodation over any other for the high-quality experience it offers. However, there are several recurring sticking points in the hotel industry which have a significant impact on the guest experience and satisfaction.
Guest problem n°1: Not having easy access to information
Guests need to be informed of hotel measures and procedures well before their arrival. They should be given this information without having to seek it out themselves, and via the channel that suits them best.
According to our research, 46% of guest enquiries by SMS on the day of arrival relate to check-in procedures: reception opening hours, whether there’s a car park or baggage service…the message is clear: information has not been communicated, yet it is of immediate concern to the guest; it is the day of their arrival and they should already know what to expect. Another figure confirms this: 87% of guests would like to have more information before they check-in.
How can this be remedied?
① Automatically send arrival procedures at the time the guest needs them, so they can easily access them (by email the day before or morning of their arrival). Make their life easier by including your address, your opening hours (or simply confirm that your reception is open 24/7); send them a summary of their stay; confirm the services they have already booked; remind them of any available services that might interest them, etc.
② Before arrival, send them a text or WhatsApp message with your address to make it easier to get to your hotel. On most smartphones, this address will turn into a link to a maps app (Google Maps, Maps, Waze…). This seemingly insignificant message highlights how reachable you are, sharing your number with your guest who will have this at their fingertips should a problem arise during their arrival.
③ During the stay, offering a digital room directory accessible through a QR-Code placed in the room is a good way to provide information that will always be up to date and can even vary depending on the guest. With a flash of the camera, they can find all the hotel's services, which they can order immediately, or access tourist recommendations in the surrounding area.
⚠️The aim is not just to send the same message to all your guests, but to ensure that all key information is communicated effectively. Information about the hotel will be the same for all guests, but the services you promote, options they can book or recommendations you suggest should be personalised to each individual.
⚠️Instant messaging is a powerful communication channel but should be used wisely to avoid bothering the guest. It also relies on teams being reactive and efficient. You cannot take 24 hours to reply to a WhatsApp in the same way you can an email, hence the need for a tool to manage multi-channel messages more efficiently.
Guest problem n°2: Having to repeat information that you have already shared
Confirming information is fine, but doing it multiple times is not. There is nothing more frustrating than having to fill out your details, ID, passport number, etc. upon arrival when you have already done this ahead of time.
How can this be remedied?
① Use a CRM that centralises this information in guest files. Guest information is often spread across the different software a hotel uses: up-to-date details and information about past, present and future bookings in the PMS; room service orders and dinner reservations in the restaurant software; treatment bookings in the spa software; reviews left by guests in the e-reputation software, etc. A central software will not only allow you to compile this data, cleanse it, remove duplicates and organise it in each guest’s file, but will also allow the hotelier to access all up-to-date information from a single screen.
② Harmonise your communications with guests. It is difficult to monitor your communications with guests across different channels (email, SMS, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger…) without missing any or sending duplicate messages. To maintain a high quality of service, you must ensure that no request goes unanswered, and above all, be able to access the history of conversations. A CRM paired with sending functionalities across different platforms is an indispensable tool to ensure that each team member stays up-to-date on guest interactions.
③ Train your colleagues to be meticulous in their use of the tool. For efficient data management, you need to ensure that the correct use of the tool is clearly communicated with your teams. Guest Profile allows you, for example, to create lists of guests according to a number of precise criteria (number of stays, weekend/weekday, age, business/leisure, satisfaction rate, language, country, booking channel, etc.) that can be used to send, for example, newsletters containing special offers or requests for reviews, but for this to happen, the lists must be organised and used correctly.
⚠️️ If a guest verbally tells one of your colleagues their telephone number, the team member must remember to update the guest profile. Or for example, guest feedback expressed at check-out can also be added to a guest profile for reference for future stays in that hotel or another in the same group.
Guest problem n°3: Being subjected to a badly-organised hotel
A forgotten request, poor communication between teams, contradictory information or even long delays in replies, all these situations frustrate guests who come to a hotel to relax. Being organised when delivering a service is the least you can do, especially in a sector like hospitality that involves various professions and a lot of operational organisation. Since the Covid-19 outbreak, the number of procedures has increased significantly and at the same time, team sizes have decreased. Organisation has therefore become key in delivering a quality service.
How can this be remedied?
① Equip yourself with a task and procedure management tool adapted to the hotel industry. You cannot expect good work without good tools. This type of software works like a digital logbook, making your employees aware of what has gone on in the hotel in their absence and to resume their work efficiently, but also to be able to monitor what is happening in the hotel from afar. Paired with the ticketing functions used by all guest support software, the tool means you will never miss another guest order, report of a problem or any other request received through different channels (over the phone, verbally at reception, by text, etc.) and ensures they are properly handled by the people in charge.
You cannot expect good work without good tools
② Offer the guest the option to complete administrative procedures in advance. Whether from home or whilst waiting to board their plane, offering the guest the opportunity to speed up their arrival by filling out any missing information themselves will allow them to improve their stay. This allows the guest relations teams to deliver a much more personal welcome, of greater added value, as they are relieved of administrative tasks.
⚠️ Investing in a operations management tool is beneficial both for your revenue and employee retention. Tailor-made solutions for the hotel industry such as Dmbook, include a tool to track everything going on in a hotel, and what needs to be done to facilitate morning handovers. They also offer a database for more efficient training of colleagues, or pre-defined checklists by role. These tools revolutionise the handover process and operational work to such an extent that they are becoming indispensable. Their simplicity allows each team member to take over quickly, which guarantees the efficiency of the tool so long as it is shared across all teams.
Guest problem n°4: Lack of choice
Imposing the hotel’s preferred methods on the guest contradicts the experience that a hotel stay should generate. A guest who chooses to stay in a hotel is seeking particular services and personal attention. The hotel must be there to satisfy their requests and needs, without imposing restrictive procedures on them. The guest must be able to contact the hotel easily, express their needs in a simple way, or access their services without being subjected to the behind-the-scenes operations.
How can this be remedied?
① Offer the guest an alternative way to contact you than by phone or in person. Not all guests will want to go down to reception or make a phone call. The reason for this can be as simple as that they don’t speak the language and aren’t at ease speaking English. Yet these guests should still be able to report a problem, access the hotel’s services, and request information. This is why a tool that manages conversations over text, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger (with an integrated translation function) allows the guest to contact you on their preferred channel and receive an equivalent level of service to that which they would have received at reception.
② Give the guest an easy way to book services. Offer your guests the ability to order room service or a spa treatment from their room (or when away from the hotel) without having to phone first, ask about availability, wait for a response and then wait for confirmation. In one click on their phone, they can book an available slot, and the hotel significantly increases their revenue as a result.
③ Offer the guest the option of an express check-in. If there is one time when guests are least inclined to go through administrative processes, it is when they arrive, already exhausted from travelling. Yet their first contact with the hotel is having to get out their documents and bank card, wait at the counter in front of a receptionist who is typing at a computer, sign forms and wait for their room key. Spare them this step and allow them to make their arrival easier by providing or confirming any information you need in advance.
An online check-in has to be presented as a service: you are offering guests the ability to speed up or streamline their arrival by opting for an express check-in.
⚠️ Giving the guest the choice offers them the freedom to opt for whichever suits them best, thereby increasing their satisfaction by listening to their needs.
Guest problem n°5: Not feeling valued or listened to
A guest can return every year during the same period without ever receiving a thank you. From the guest’s side, this seems absurd but it is understandable from the hotel’s perspective. There is no flow of information, staff aren’t always trained to look for information or simply don’t have the time to do so. However, it is a fairly easy way to improve the relationship and it brings an increase in guest satisfaction that is useful if not indispensable. Making the guest feel valued is not just about thanking them, but also listening to them and being accessible in case of a problem or if anything bothers them.
How can this be remedied?
① Use a tool to manage arrivals and familiarise yourself with the specificities of that day’s guests. Every day, the receptionist receives the list of arriving guests by arrival time and takes this into account to adapt the welcome offered. In a single click, they will know that Mrs Lambert who is arriving at 10am has already stayed at the hotel three times over the past month and has requested a room close to the lift. Or equally, that Mr Phillips, who arrives at 6pm, has booked a suite and ordered a romantic welcome in his room.
② Make it easy to report problems. We can’t require guests to physically come to reception at every annoyance that occurs during their stay. A guest who (understandably) would prefer not to walk downstairs or make a call should still have the chance to indicate a fault or problem before they leave. To combat this, asking for the guest’s opinion by text or instant message at certain key moments gives them a quick way to report a concern. Even if everything is going well when you ask them, they will have an easy way to contact you if something goes wrong in the future (broken shower, problem with the air conditioning, shutters that aren’t working, etc.).
Asking at the end of a stay whether it went well is illogical - by that time it is too late to correct any issues!
⚠️ The more ways you offer your guests to report issues, the more likely you will be able to detect a dissatisfied guest at the right time. You could incorporate a form to describe the problem or add photos into your app or guest portal. The completed form will automatically be directed to the relevant staff member, according to what has been selected by the guest (problems with equipment, bed linen to housekeeping, noise, etc.).
⚠️ Remember that digital technology allows for greater transparency. It is easier to report an inconvenience on your smartphone than having to confront the receptionist in person.
⚠️ Ask your guests to confirm that everything is going well, don’t wait for them to tell you. A text, a notification on the guest portal, a WhatsApp message: be proactive and let them know you are available in case they have the slightest concern. They will just have to reply to you or indicate their level of satisfaction, and you can be alerted if this is low.
⚠️ Asking your guest if everything has gone well at the end of the stay is already too late as you will no longer be able to correct any frustrations. Even worse would be finding out about them on TripAdvisor in a negative review...
Put an end to these sticking points in the guest experience
✔ Facilitating communication is key, both with your customers and internally. To do this, digitising your processes is the simplest way to streamline the guest experience and promote cooperation between teams. Above all, it helps to train your employees well in order to optimise the effectiveness of digitisation. An employee who is familiar with their tools will be better able to adapt them to the specificities of the job, or even to think of new uses for a checklist, training article or form.
✔ All administrative procedures contribute to the overall guest experience. Keep in mind that the check-in, payment, registration form and check-out are all integral parts of the guest journey and will influence the level of satisfaction.
✔ Test your product. A chef would never send a dish out to a customer without testing it first. Nothing is as effective for detecting inconsistencies or sticking points in the experience as literally putting yourself in the guest’s shoes by staying in your hotel.
✔ Bear in mind that platforms like Booking or Airbnb have been aware of all of these frustrations for a long time, and already understand that taking control of the guest relationship before, during and after the stay is crucial. Therefore, to avoid losing out to these industry players, you must get rid of these sticking points and deliver a perfectly smooth experience to guests who book directly..
Photo by Isabela Drasovean on Unsplash