A good hotel is all about customers. Every last detail, from the color of the carpet to the smell of the bed sheets, matters. A hotel must be carefully maintained and ordered to maximize the experience for guests. The staff must be well-trained; the rooms must be comfortably adorned; the amenities must stand out.
Most hotels understand this and focus their attention accordingly. However, the best hotels understand that the guest experience no longer starts at check-in. In truth, the guest experience starts well before that on the Internet.
Almost every modern business recognizes the power of the Internet in theory. However, in practical application, most hotels have no idea what to do with their online presence. After all, hotels are about physical amenities and interpersonal interactions. Sadly, this means many hotels do not leverage the Internet very effectively, leaving customers wanting more.
To avoid becoming such a hotel, it is time to harness the power of the Internet in a meaningful way.
1. Appearances matter. The reason hotels put so much focus on the lobby is because it is the first thing guests see when they walk in the door. Hotels, of any business, understand the importance of a first impression. Guests often make up their minds about the hotel the moment they step inside, and that first impression can be hard to undo.
This is the same way a website works. The first time a guest clicks on a link to a hotel website, they instantly have a sense of what the hotel is like. If the website is bland, sparse and confusing, it will reflect poorly on the hotel. If the website is professional and inviting, the guest is more likely to be interested in staying there. A website should encourage guests to look around, to click on links and to make a reservation. Therefore, it should be easy to navigate and attractive to browse. There should be appropriate pictures, readable text and clear links.
2. Functionality counts. While first impressions are important, they certainly will not last long if the content is not in order. Think about the hotel lobby again. Even if it is immaculate, guests will still be turned away if their rooms are dirty and dingy. First impressions matter but only if they are followed up by a positive experience.
With a website, this means that the site must not only look attractive but it must be functional as well. The links must work, and the content must be informative. Guests should easily be able to see what amenities are available in different room packages, and they should know all the available perks of the facility. It should be clear if smoking is allowed and if pets are welcome.
Better still, the website should have easy to find contact information on every page. Many hotels now offer online booking to give guests even more convenience. The more the website does for customers, the more likely they are to feel comfortable booking a room.
3. Diversity that works. Most hotels have embraced the idea of the Internet, but not as many have realized the scope of what that means. Ten years ago, most people still got online access from desktop computers and laptops. Today, however, many people use cell phones, tablets or other portable devices. While all of these devices can load Internet pages, not all can do so with the same ease. This is why businesses hoping to cater to the current population develop websites and applications that can easily be used on mobile devices.
The fact is that if a guest is trying to book a hotel on their phone, they are not going to stick around to navigate a clunky page. They will, however, turn to hotels that have mobile friendly websites. By having a diversity of online options for guests, hotels can dramatically increase their appeal. Too many hotels are trying to make a good first impression without realizing where or how guests may come to the website.
4. Working the grapevine. While keeping the hotel’s website up to date and attractive is important, many guests do not simply look there. With the widespread use of the Internet, many guests use travel websites to compare hotels in terms of their quality, amenities, location and prices. These websites are all privately owned and operated, so it is impossible to control the content. However, it is possible to stay informed about what guests are saying and make adjustments accordingly.
After all, these websites offer a unique insight into what works and what does not. If multiple guests complain about the slow check-in procedures or the cleanliness of the pool, it is easy to start looking for ways to rectify those problems. Also, if guests gush about the location or the continental breakfast, then it is easy to see what appeals to guests and to focus on these elements more clearly.
Also, be sure to encourage guests to leave feedback. Many guests only feel compelled to comment after a bad experience, which is why hotels should encourage all guests to interact on these websites frequently to even out the responses.
5. The start of a beautiful friendship. The guest experience does not start at check-in. It also does not end at check-out. Hotels can use the Internet to keep in touch with guests. If a guest booked the room online, offer a free email newsletter. Email a follow-up survey and a warm thanks. Offer online specials, and stay active in social media. The more a hotel can do to stay engaged with guests after they walk out the door, the more likely the guest is to come back.
In conclusion, hotels should stop losing customers before they even step in the front door. Instead, hotels that follow these helpful tips can heighten the experience for customers while heightening their own profits at the same time.
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