Does your hotel really deserve Four (or more) Stars?

Every hotel and resort wants to avoid a disastrous TripAdvisor review of their property. And let’s be perfectly honest these posts are often simply conveying glaring truths written by someone in a nasty, snarky tone who has far too much time on their hands. In our social media driven world theseTrip comments have far reaching impact on your business, and almost universally what prompted them could have been avoided.

How much money do you spend annually on marketing your property? Has anyone from the agency handling all those efforts for you, including and especially social media marketing, EVER set foot on-site? Spent a night or two? Eaten in your restaurants? Used your facilities?  Prior to launching any initiative which will draw attention to your business let me share some practical advice with you; ensure that your property actually exceeds the copy being written by said agency.

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In Asia your bathroom could be outside meaning rocks, insects, amphibians, heat and humidity – #wearyourslippers

Over the years I have stayed in a wide range of Relais & Châteaux, Leading Hotels of the World, bed & breakfast inns and in the last year I have actually stayed in a couple of hostels. It’s safe to say I have accumulated a fair portfolio of impressions of ‘the good, the bad and the downright horrible’ and these extremes provide an ample baseline for what makes a memorable stay.

“Service is a promise that cannot be seen, touched, or felt through any of our external senses.” ~ Jag Randhawa

Every member of your staff has an impact.  While they are paid to ‘take care of us’ believe me when I say I can tell exactly who loves their work, people and your business. Equally so there are those who I stand in front of and wonder ‘who is this person related to?’ because there is absolutely no explanation for them otherwise having a job in the hospitality industry. My business partner was a guest at a hotel where we had previously stayed a year earlier for a mere three nights. On his arrival he was greeted with “Where’s Teresa?”. Why should this bell captain (of a luxury hotel in Istra, Croatia) who meets thousands of people a year and tends to all of their various pieces of luggage remember me?  What set him apart from his colleagues in the first place was his atttitude, and in turn that was rewarded with a note in an envelope with a tip on my departure. (I also take the time to make mention of extraordinary service in writing for the benefit of career advancement.) To guests reading this, when was the last time you did either?  When20150929_142514 thoroughly impressed I will likely ask to walk into your kitchens to praise the chef and the kitchen staff (usually resulting in a hug). Your wait staff, front desk staff, the concierge and the service staff usually know who I am because I ‘engage’ with everyone you have hired (and I do mean EVERYONE). And yes, I actively share on social media the (good) things that I notice.

“In bed my real love has always been the sleep that rescued me by allowing me to dream.”

~ Luigi Pirandello

It would be a great idea if management actually spent one night a week sleeping in every single room in rotation and applied a very critical evaluation to their sleep in said room. Springs that poke you in the back are not the way to win praise from your guests, replace them. The standard height for a chair or a sofa is between 26 and 30 inches so why would you let a designer convince you that a bed lower than this is optimal? Put your beds on a handsome frame, give the mattresses proper support and make them a height that anyone can sit on the edge of comfortably.  (I will also offer that the added height eases the stress on the backs of your housekeeping staff resulting in less days off or workman’s compensation claims.)

Those narrow strips of brocade or velvet at the foot of the bed are especially silly if they don’t even match the draperies or occasional pillows in the room, save the money, whereas a nice blanket is highly appreciated. You don’t have to turn down my bed and put a chocolate on the pillow (or offer me a small tray of them with a cordial – alcoholic or non) but it is very thoughtful.  Your sheets should be the highest quality your budget allows and there should never ever be a frayed hem, stain or hole in them. Same goes for towels, err on the side of generous in size and having thick terry robes or even lovely waffle woven ones wins serious points. It should be self-speaking that no guest should ever see black mold – you’d be amazed. Caulking should be maintained and/or replaced, facets and drains should work. Single use loofah mitts are biodegradable and eliminate the need for wash clothes (which seem to be an increasingly rare appointment in hotel bathrooms anyway).

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My pillows go everywhere.

I carry my own pillows with me.  Why? Because, with the greatest of exceptions, even fine hotels stock fiberfill pillows which are miserable and hot.

If your windows have three layers of curtains designed to ensure that your guests sleep well yet they are too short and the light creeps in (early morning or late night it doesn’t matter) – that’s an immediate fail. For goodness sake insist that the decorator add three inches to the overall length of the window PLUS whatever you need to hang them from rods to make certain that they cover your windows.

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Saddest. Plant. Ever.

Honest. This palm was sitting in the hallway leading to the wellness center and spa of a 5-star hotel I stayed at! Does this convey wellness to you? How many of staff members walked past this pitiful palm and yet didn’t ‘notice’ it?

Replace your lightbulbs! This should be perfectly logical but nothing says ‘down-on-the-heel’ or we’re not paying attention faster than a lightbulb here and there that is burned out.

Wi-Fi being slow isn’t even an option anymore. Test it. Put five staff members with devices in close proximity to one another throughout your facility and have them randomly watch videos, post photos and UPLOAD huge files – all the normal things we do as your guests – and if they can’t all do what they want simultaneously BUY MORE BANDWIDTH! Industry analytics are treading that (US) travelers (business and leisure) are now for swearing posh properties for value or economy hotels because these offer free, unlimited, always available Wi-Fi and luxury hotels are charging an additional $25 per day, per device. The old expression fits here “penny wise, pound foolish”.

Maintain your property with critical attention to detail. My business partner once waited 6 hours in a steam bath of a July hotel room for his AC to be fixed. He finally gave up and got into the shower only to finish and discover a ladder blocking access into his room and a man up in his ceiling finally dealing with the HVAC. This with no forewarning such as the simple courtesy of a knock on the door or a phone call! What’s more as the filter was taken down it was so caked with dust that an industrial vacuum was required to clean up the floor from beneath the ceiling to the door. Fail. Fail. Fail.

Which accommodation actually deserves four star designation? The bed & breakfast inn with exquisite (envelope) organic teas, made-to-order fresh truffle scrambled organic eggs, densely seeded home-baked bread (and a toaster) with small batch local fruit preserves or the hotel with Lipton 20150821_080944tea bags, buffet warmer scrambled eggs, with similar bread but no toaster and plastic packaged jams? It should be noted that the same bed and breakfast inn, staffed entirely by women, insisted on hauling my 35kgs of luggage upstairs (and then back down at check out) and the luxury hotel (staffed by muscled men) didn’t have a bell captain on duty.

I once left a pair of mixed suede and leather navy high heels outside my hotel room door at the Ritz-Carlton in Chicago for polishing, sadly they were returned in the morning universally polished (destroying the suede).  Management made it right by reimbursing me for a pair at the now defunct Marshall Field’s prior to my meeting later that day but training is obviously everything in preventing such ‘missteps’.

The realities of customer retention demand training your employees to become brand ambassadors in addition to their job descriptions. Everything that is right or wrong about your hospitality business is all too visible to your guests if not to you and your staff. It’s not an excuse but it’s easy to become inured to noticing details. Pay attention and you’ll never have to worry about how to bury bad reviews ever again.

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We’d like manage your online reputation and showcase your property with resonate content that will only serve to enhance your brand, grow your audience base to drive incremental revenue and ensure that ‘your story’ is the best it can possibly be. Get in touch. Visit @Commarglo to learn more about leveraging social media for your brand.

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