To build customer loyalty, hotels need to provide exceptional experiences throughout a guest’s stay. Because of the importance of first impressions, one of the most critical experiences a guest will have involves the check-in process. If this process does not go smoothly, the experience will color the rest of the stay and hotels will need to move mountains to reverse the impression.
Modern technology has made it possible to streamline the process completely. Theoretically, individuals can check-in through their mobile devices, which would then become temporary keycards. This process eliminates the need for any human interaction.
While some people will want this type of experience, hotels need to recognize that other guests may want a more traditional experience. Furthermore, a warm greeting at the door is unlikely to upset any guest.
This means that modern hotels have the difficult task of balancing technology with human interaction. The check-in process should be flexible enough that everyone feels like their needs were met. Some key tips when it comes to offering the best check-in experience possible include:
1. Make the check-in as flexible as possible.
People have radically different needs when they travel. A hotel that is willing to bend rules will win a great deal of loyalty. One of the easiest ways to do this is to offer the greatest flexibility when it comes to checking in to the room.
While hotels need to have a designated check-in time, they should also provide mechanisms for early or late check-ins. Most guests will happily pay a fee, provided that it is not exorbitant, to relieve the stress of the situation. Of course, doing this reliably means having a robust tracking system that makes it simple to verify room availability and assign priority to having certain rooms cleaned.
Flexibility also applies to how people check in for their reservations. Mobile check-in is growing in popularity, but self-serve kiosks can also help travelers who do not require human interaction. In addition, there should always be enough people on staff to check people in manually without a line forming.
2. Train front-desk people in customer service.
For many hotels, front desk staff serves as the first point of contact for guests. That means these individuals must have extensive training in how to greet people and ascertain their needs without seeming overbearing or rude.
While a smile goes a long way, these individuals should to have extensive knowledge about the surrounding areas and services. They also need a clear idea of how to obtain this information when they do not know.
These staff members must also have a lot of empathy so that they can respond appropriately to each guest. When guests are particularly upset, offering something on the house can really improve the relationship. Additionally, individuals may have specific questions about how to get somewhere, where to eat, or something else.
3. Keep track of data about returning customers.
One of the easiest ways to streamline the check-in process is to save information about customers from previous visits, or transfer data from the booking into the main system. With this, individuals need to spend only a second verifying their information before they go to their room instead of providing it again.
Most customers expect hotels to already have all of this information. However, keeping track of other data can help customize the check-in experience. For example, if a guest requested additional pillows during his or her last stay, the hotel can ask if this will again be needed at check-in.
Such initiative will make a lasting impression on guests. While such initiative is more difficult to achieve with new guests, hotels could also build in request systems as part of the check-in process, whether that is in person or accomplished remotely. Allowing such requests ahead of arrival can help the hotel ensure that customer expectations are met.
4. Make the lobby an exciting, welcoming space.
While all hotels should ensure that their lobbies look warm and welcoming, they can make a real impression by going above and beyond the expected. For example, upscale hotels may hire musicians to play live music during high-volume check-in times. Such touches will make people smile and remember their arrival at the hotel fondly.
However, even much smaller offerings can still make a great first impression. Having coffee or snacks available can help weary travelers find a little bit of comfort as soon as they arrive at the hotel.
Also, hotels may want to consider having some way of informing guests about local events that they may not want to miss. For instance, if there were a fireworks display happening in the evening, guests may appreciate seeing that information provided on a screen right as they arrive.
5. Consider offering check-in gifts to guests.
Everyone loves to receive a little something extra with their stay. Check-in gifts do not have to be elaborate. Even something as simple as a few truffles shows that the hotel really cares about the guest experience. Hotels may want to consider tying these check-in gifts to the loyalty program so that people get better gifts the more times they stay with a particular brand.
Also, hotels may want to consider providing gifts to VIP guests to let them know how much their patronage is appreciated, or building such offerings into the cost of some of the more expensive suites at the hotel. Hotels may want to consider how these gifts tie into the overall theme of the hotel or the brand. For example, a hotel meant to be a beach resort can offer personalized beach towels to their VIP guests or cute containers for collecting seashells as a low-cost gift.