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What do guests really want?

Hotels cannot improve or succeed if they’re missing the basics of customer experience. Research keeps telling us that customers still value the basics of their hotel stay (i.e. location, bed, bathroom, cleanliness, breakfast, speed, convenience, and knowledgeable helpful/friendly service).


In reality, priorities have barely changed over the last five decades. What has changed is that living in an inventive world of new technologies; customers demand greater ingenuity from the establishments they go to. In other words, most guests today still have the same wants and needs, but higher expectations in terms of how those wants and needs are met. That’s where agility, speed and quality come into the equation.


Most hotel operators mistakenly believe that embracing technology will make them look more sophisticated or forward-thinking and that it is a winning formula. Merely building a hotel of the future by diving in to stay relevant with new technologies - unless it is implemented in favour of the guest will not work.


The best-funded ‘big guns’ in the industry will invest in technology to consolidate their position in the sector as well as continue their growth momentum. For most hoteliers though, especially in this post-covid period, managing a cash-crunch crisis and staunching the flow of losses continues to be the top priority. Whilst investing in automation and contactless tech has its advantages, by no means is it necessary for every hotel to plunge into it, nor is it something every guest wants…for now.


The degree to which automation and some technological solutions can be employed varies greatly amongst hotel segments. For example, the busy corporate traveller (whose airport-to-hotel-to airport journey is sandwiched with a  tight business / meetings schedule), will find the passage of walking into the city hotel, passing the front desk and going directly to his/her room without interacting with hotel staff… a seamless great experience.


However, It may not appeal to others (even if technology-savvy), who seek personal services and the human warmth that software cannot replace, when checking-in to a luxury resort property. Likewise, guest expectations from a budget hotel are obviously not the same; where automated check in kiosks may be perfectly acceptable. Technology cannot entirely replace personal services and the human warmth of a great smile… one that can light up your day.


The fear that some guest-facing / serving hotel jobs will soon vanish due to Chatbots, Robots, etc. is patently obvious. And that’s acceptable given the uncertainty that now exists. What is not obvious is how most hotel and department heads have disappeared from the face of service - long before the advent of all machine tools.


An essential element of positive customer experience for a majority of customers is knowledgeable helpful / friendly service. However, tolerance by managers and supervisors for poor guest service is on the rise. This is due to laissez-faire managers who allow subordinates to what they want, whilst abdicating certain management techniques such as MBWA.


Remember: unknowledgeable employees can equal an untrustworthy company and that leads to untrustworthy performance – which no guest wants.


Shafeek Wahab – Editor, Hospitality Sri Lanka, Consultant, Trainer, Ex-Hotelier



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