Avoid These 12 Mistakes to Prevent Losing Loyal Guests
Before I begin to address you as a hotelier, answer a question as a guest first. What are the things that most commonly annoy you about the hotels that you stay in during your travels?
You cannot keep a customer if you never put yourself into their shoes. That is, to keep loyal guests returning to your hotel, you have to understand their experiences at your property.
Remember Gordon Ramsay’s reality show Hotel Hell? Pay close attention to the methods that he followed to understand the flaws of the hotel. He actually booked a room for himself. He dined at the hotel restaurant.
And no matter how scripted the show was, every viewer had to agree on one point. Had the hotel owners spent one night at their own hotel, they wouldn’t have needed Gordon at all.
Most people don’t visit the same tourist spots time and again. This is one of the reasons why returning guests are a rarity in the hotel business anyway. But don’t try to fool yourself by thinking that this is the only reason you’re not getting loyal customers. After all, if guests were truly pleased with your hotel, they would have been recommending it to their friends.
If this is not happening, you have to return to the initial question and follow Gordon’s method. Figure out the things that annoy you about hotels and spend a night in your own hotel room. Dine at your own hotel restaurant. That’s the only way you can figure out what mistakes you are making.
In this article, I will list some of the most common mistakes that hotels make. Of course, what a person finds problematic is completely subjective. But trust me, every point on this list is going to make you yell, “That grinds my gears too!”
Common Hotel Mistakes That Make You Lose Loyal Customers
Long Queue at the Front Desk
You’ve had a 4-hour-long flight. You’re exhausted as you drive up to the hotel. All you want to do is crash on a comfortable bed and go to sleep. And then you realize that you’ll be forced to wait for another hour. There’s an enormous line at the front desk.
This was inconvenient before. As of 2020, this can be fatal. A crowded hotel lobby is a COVID-19 nightmare. Justifiably, people are avoiding hotels that do not have a self-check-in and check-out facility.
I’m not just talking about a self-check-in kiosk here. Even that will lead to enormous lines. What you should do is have both of those options ready: self-check-in kiosks and contactless mobile check-in.
Wondering how to gain access to such advanced tech? Look no further than StayFlexi. Self-check-in is only a fraction of what a PMS like StayFlexi can do. It is software that automates every single process of managing a hotel and its revenue. So, you can use StayFlexi to make almost every other process contactless.
Guests won’t have to wait at the front desk to check out either. You can send them a list of their residual payments with a payment link. They can simply pay from their mobile phones before checking out.
Not everyone has the luxury to cut themselves off from their work completely while traveling. This is why guests check for a stable WiFi connection before booking a room. It’s impossible to keep up with the data roaming charges otherwise.
Now, say you did list WiFi as one of your available facilities. But when the guest arrived, he encountered one of these five problems:
- The WiFi doesn’t work anywhere but the hotel lobby.
- The speed is abysmal in the distant corners of the hotel.
- Guests keep getting logged out and have to keep re-entering the details of their stay.
- A different password is required for different parts of the property
- And the worst of all, they are informed later that they will be charged for the WiFi.
It’s frankly disheartening how common these five scenarios are. WiFi is now, at least unofficially, considered a basic fundamental right. You cannot NOT have a good WiFi connection and still expect loyal customers. How is anyone going to stay at your property if their simple work emails cannot come through?
Water Drainage Issues
Is it just me or do you also check the washrooms first when you enter a hotel room? You test-flush the toilet, open the shower, the tap, and do the primary checks. But often, that’s not enough. You won’t have any idea whether or not your shower drain works till you actually take a shower.
And the problem is, once you are stuck with a bad washroom, that’s that. It’s an immense fiasco to again shift to another room. That is if they have any other room available at all.
The same is valid for water temperature and water pressure. See, these are problems that you encounter when you’re soaking wet in the shower with nothing on. How are you supposed to go out and complain?
Well, software like StayFlexi cannot help you out with plumbing issues, but it can help you out. You can easily enter your queries or list your problems through your mobile itself. The Smart Housekeeping option of Stayflexi ensures that the housekeeping staff member in charge of your room is informed. They will immediately arrive at your room to sort out the issue.
Limited or No Entertainment Options
I’m assuming you’ve done away with those old box set TVs. (Unless you’re going for the whole Bates Motel vibe. In which case, stick to the vintage stuff.)
But if that’s not the vibe that you’re going for, you need to have Netflix. Kids nowadays are completely unused to the concept of watching whatever is being aired at the moment. You cannot entertain them with a handful of channels, some in languages that they don’t understand. Movies/shows-on-demand is a necessity.
If you don’t want to pay for a Netflix subscription, have Chromecast. The guest will probably have access to whichever OTT platform they want to browse through. Just let them connect their phones or tablets and you don’t have to worry about fine-tuning the entertainment.
Nothing hurts your chances of selling something if you oversell it once.
It’s fine to advertise that your hotel has the perfect view of the sunrise. But not if the guests have to walk a mile to reach that view. It’s fine to advertise that your hotel has a sea-facing view. But not if the guests are facing 2 centimeters of sea crammed in between two enormous buildings.
Overselling is pointless because it becomes obvious to the guest that you’re lying the moment they step in. Of course, highlight your assets. But don’t make blatantly false claims that you have no chances of backing up.
After all, the entire point is to get loyal customers who trust you and want to keep returning. One lie might not ruin their entire stay. But it does shatter their trust in you.
Lost Guest Requests
Guests are always informed that they should contact the front desk if they face a problem. The thing is, the front desk line remains busy almost all the time. And even when it isn’t, there’s no one at the front desk to take the call. Or, they do take the call and then they forget to inform the concerned department.
Scenario 2. The guest steps out of their room and registers their complaint with the first staff member that they spot. This staff member bears no responsibility for the problem that the guest is facing. And he has no idea whose responsibility it is. The outcome? Same. The request simply gets lost.
This pass-the-parcel method of dealing with guest requests obviously doesn’t work. And it is extremely irritating for the guest who is kept waiting indefinitely.
StayFlexi can help you out with service requests. Whenever a guest registers an issue on the mobile website/app, this reaches every staff member through their devices. The concerned department can see the request and immediately get to solving it.
And no request gets lost just because the staff is confused about whose responsibility it is. StayFlexi designs the staff charters in a way that the workload is balanced. No one member has to bear more weight than the others.
I mentioned the lack of entertainment options in point 4. The thing is, what constitutes a good entertainment option is extremely subjective.
Let’s say you have every single movie and TV show ever made in your collection. That’s going to mean nothing for an exercise-loving guest who wants to go trekking. In contrast, imagine your hotel has the best gym ever. It’s not at all going to matter to a guest who just wants a calm staycation.
Whenever we talk about digitizing the hotel industry, a common misconception arises. That PMSs will get rid of human hospitality measures. That the legendary concierge of the Grand Budapest Hotel, Monsieur Gustave, will vanish with the advent of modern technology.
The thing is, a Property Management System doesn’t get rid of human hospitality. It just takes care of the rote, repetitive, mechanical processes like inventory management and check-in. This way it ensures that your staff can truly focus on the guests. It ensures that the guests have the right to choose whether or not they want human interaction.
The introverts can avoid talking completely because their mobile website/app allows them to control everything about their stay. And the extroverts can interact with the staff to their heart’s content. They won’t be interrupted with a curt, “That sounds nice. Now, could you please sign here?”
StayFlexi also takes care of personalization. They get you enough info about the guest so that you can tailor your approach accordingly.
Service Stops At Checkout
This is probably one of the rudest and most annoying things that you can do to a guest.
Welcomes are always hyped-up in hotels. Even when guests don’t want that extra attention after driving here for the past 12 hours. Check-outs and farewells are exactly the opposite.
Checkout is the time when guests settle remaining expenses and it’s quite normal for them to have questions. Don’t act dismissively just because your business is done. This is one of the top reasons for losing loyal customers.
You can do everything right. But mess up the ending and people leave with a bitter taste in their mouths. Instead, maintain the relationship that you have developed. Advertise your new menu, ask for feedback, offer special discounts.
Make them feel special even after the monetary transaction is done.
Inflexible Check-in/Check-out Timings
“Check-in time is at 12 pm sharp. Check-out time is at 10 am sharp. Only one reminder will be issued.”
This is a genuine notice (warning?) that I came across while staying at a hotel. For a second, I wondered if they also had compulsory drill training in the morning.
That’s exactly how inflexible check-in/check-out timings make people feel. More like a military cadet than a relaxed guest.
Inflexible timing is something that the hotels know is bad. But they don’t try to modify it because this leads to more work. The whole permutation-combination of room assignments becomes rather difficult. Especially when guests are allowed to arrive and leave whenever they want to.
Very often, they don’t have a choice though. Imagine you wake up in the morning and realize that your flight is 7 hours late. It makes so much more sense to just extend your stay for a few hours. But if the hotel has an inflexible check-out time you’ll be forced to wait at the airport lobby instead. Will you ever return to that hotel that could not even accommodate you for a few more hours?
The core principle behind StayFlexi is flexibility. With this software, you don’t have to worry about assigning rooms manually. StayFlexi automation will do it for you. This allows you to not only allow flexible check-in/check-out timings but also to allow hourly bookings. Extension requests will never cause any headaches again. StayFlexi will simply shift the newly arriving guests to another room.
Ignoring Preferences and Specific Requirements
There’s nothing more inconvenient than stepping into the hotel restaurant and realizing that they have no suitable options.
A lot of people have dietary restrictions and allergies. You have to accommodate their needs if you want them to keep returning to your facility. With a PMS, you can be aware of your guests’ preferences and requirements even before they arrive.
As soon as a room is booked, send the guest a questionnaire. Food allergies are not your only concern. There might be guests who are allergic to the fabric of the bedsheets or the detergents that you use. Some people are allergic to feathers and hence cannot use feather pillows. These are not things that you can figure out by yourself. You have to ask the right questions.
And more importantly, you have to ask these questions well in advance so that you can make the necessary arrangements. The great thing about StayFlexi is that it remembers these preferences. This is the best way to ensure that loyal customers keep on returning.
Customers who have special requirements are not very likely to experiment with their vacation abodes. If you can prove to them that you will take care of their specific needs, they are bound to keep returning to you.
Lack of Routine Room Checks
Don’t be one of those hotel owners who stand there twiddling their thumbs while Gordon Ramsay screams at them. Don’t wait for complaints. Get ahead of the problem instead.
You should do routine checkups of the rooms even when no complaint has been lodged. This is to ensure that you can fix a problem before a guest spot it.
A guest spotting a flaw is a big deal. There’s very little chance that you’ll be able to supply an immediate fix. So, give yourself that time. Figure out the problem when it first occurs.
As I’ve said in the introduction itself, walk a mile in your customers’ shoes. Stay a night in one of your rooms. Eat the hotel food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Be critical of your own facilities. If you can see the flaws first, you can avoid external criticism.
Overinvolvement of Staff
Don’t brush this away by giving the excuse that this is the fault of the staff. Staff training is, after all, your job.
In an earlier article, I have elaborated upon the changing behavior of modern guests. As you can see, introversion is a growing trend. And introversion is aided by modern technology.
Your staff has to understand this. Guests want to be left alone. The staff members should not start knocking on doors every morning to change the sheets. Yes, you must maintain cleanliness and hygiene. Especially now. But a continued intrusion of the housekeeping staff will only serve to potentially contaminate the room further.
This, however, does not mean that you should deliberately ignore your guests even when they seek help. As I have mentioned before, a one-size-fits-all model no longer works in the hotel industry. Your staff has to modify their behavior and their roles according to the requirements.
I am sure you have faced at least one or more of these issues during one of your hotel stays. Your WiFi speed must have trickled down to almost nothing when you’d finally reached your room. You must have encountered a shower drain that refused to do its job, that is, to drain. You must’ve been forced to wait at the lobby for at least half an hour after an eight-hour-long drive.
These problems are worryingly common. But that is exactly what should give you the hint of a silver lining. If you manage to NOT do these 12 things, that’s more than enough to impress the majority of guests.
Loyal customers are rare. This is why they have to be treasured and catered to even when they are not staying with you. StayFlexi allows you to send them special discount vouchers to reward their loyalty.
Have I missed out on anything that drives you up the wall when you stay at a hotel? Do let me know in the comment below!