So you’ve got the booking. All you do now is wait for your guests to arrive. Right?

I’m sure you, like me, have made purchases – maybe bought a new pair of shoes, ordered a new car, or booked a holiday – only to reflect afterwards if we’ve done the right thing.

With a car it may have been an over-zealous salesman, and you later hear tales of unreliability. You’ve bought that new pair of shoes, and you wonder if you’ll ever get any wear out of them. And the moment you book your holiday you learn that you have to fly from some remote airport that means leaving home at some forsaken hour to get your flight.

So what has this to do with your hotel guests or restaurant diners or conference bookings? Why would they ever feel remorse?

Well, let’s think about that period between making the booking and arriving at their room or at their table. Do your guests get:

A stony silence for the intervening period?
…..Or do you:

  • Send a personalised confirmation email summarising their booking (not just the bland impersonal automated response from your booking engine)
  • Add value by sending details of other events and activities happening locally during their stay or visit so they can plan ahead or make a day of it
  • Offer to make dinner, theatre or event reservations for them as appropriate
  • Send them accurate and up to date directions (and by accurate this includes a post code that takes them to your front entrance, not the field around the back!) and journey times from their home/business postcode to reach you (this helps reduce the risk of stressed late arrivals too)
  • Pick up on comments or questions from guests on social media and start to engage early on so you show you’re listening and care about them

Frustrated at having to make a detour due to the local roadworks, missing the turn into the car park or finding the car park full?
….Or do you:

  • Advise them of any traffic problems by email or text with suggested alternative routes
  • Allocate ample parking for your expected guests opposed to the car park being full of employees’ vehicles
  • Warn guests in advance if you have limited parking and advise of the alternatives (with tariffs in case they need change)
  • Tell guests in advance of any security measures needed to enter the car park
  • Provide details of best and most cost effective routes from the airport or railway station by car, taxi or on foot
  • Ensure the hotel entrance and car park are well sign posted and lit so guests can easily find the entrance

A poor first impression
….Or do you ensure:

  • The car park is clean, tidy and well lit
  • The route from the car park to reception is well sign posted and avoids them having to walk past utility or storage areas
  • Staff on breaks, waste bins, and delivery areas are all out of sight
  • The walk to the entrance is easy to navigate with heavy bags (and potentially the pouring rain)
  • Every member of staff they encounter before they enter is an ambassador for your business, greets them and makes them feel welcome
  • The main entrance is clean (including any signage), welcoming, and obvious from the street and the car park
  • The first thing guests see as they walk in the door is a warm smile and a welcoming face…

A disappointing welcome
….Or do you ensure

  • Staff are warm, friendly and welcoming to guests – no matter what their role – either on or off duty
  • They are expected and reception staff has relevant details to hand
  • The route from reception to their room or table is easy (eg lift working correctly, clear signs, clear of discarded room service trays, key cards work properly)
  • They have time to relax and freshen up before bombarding them with every last detail, questions about their event or pestering for their order
  • Their room or the restaurant is fresh, well maintained and at a comfortable temperature
  • The bathroom or toilets are spotlessly clean

…..and if there are any problems your team are on hand, trained and work as a team to address these and deliver great customer service.

If you are in any doubt about any of these areas, take the customer journey, reviewing all potential routes; and encourage your team to do the same, as they may well notice things that you have become oblivious to.

The way your guests perceive you before they arrive and the welcome they receive will be a key factor in influencing the overall guest experience. A poor perception is likely to cause them to pick fault with everything, looking for confirmation of their first impression, so it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

In summary
Don’t throw away all that early goodwill. Get to know your guests by being visible in your business, making personal contact with them to build rapport and trust. They are then far more likely to tell you what they want and what would encourage them to return, and makes it so much easier for you to not only meet but exceed their expectations.

Always remember you only have one chance to make that first impression. Make sure it’s a good one.

Caroline Cooper is an author, trainer, and consultant on customer services and the customer experience, and founder of Naturally Loyal who helps businesses to get more sales through their existing customers.

Caroline Cooper HeadshotCaroline Cooper
Caroline Cooper is an author, trainer, and consultant on customer services and the customer experience, and founder of Naturally Loyal who helps businesses to get more sales through their existing customers.

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