How can the hotel general manager drive guest satisfaction?

21 April 2022
General Managers love to watch happy guests and read raving reviews on the Internet. Everything and everyone should be impeccable to provide a remarkable guest experience. Many General Managers practice management by walking abound to ensure that everything is in order or help the team solve guest service problems. These hands-on General Managers indeed prevent a lot of potential guest complaints.
The focus is on giving guests a standardized physical guest experience and attentive to any wishes or solving potential problems the guest might have. If the guest does not have any questions, all is good, and there is no need to worry. It is time for the General Manager to take the next lap to ensure that everything is in order everywhere.
 
There are two ways to look at the guest experience. Most hotels see the guest experience as a way to process the guest as efficiently as possible. Therefore, operations have the ownership of the guest experience. A few hotels see the guest experience as a way to touch each guest emotionally and make the guest experience part of the brand. Therefore, marketing owns the guest experience since it is part of the hotel brand.

Focus on efficient operations

The definition of a guest experience is the offering from the hotel. The guest can hardly change anything in the pre-defined guest experience. Many hotels also make it difficult for guests to ask for something outside the standardized experience. Hotels have their standard operating procedures, which the hotel enforces for everyone to follow. Any deviation is problematic, and the guest is a troublemaker asking for services outside the fixed menu.

The check-in process is far from hospitality

Hotels love to talk about hospitality. Maybe this is true once you have checked in. During the check-in process, the hotel ensures that the guest is aware of all bad things that can happen and that the hotel will charge for. Hotels even secure a deposit on the credit card since they do not trust that the guest will pay before they check out and leave. Then, of course, all employees smile since they are now sure that the guest will understand all the rules and pay the bill.
 
All the standard operating procedures in hotels are exactly what the wording says. It is something standardized for all guests, no matter any special needs. It is for operations (internal focus), putting the hotel's best way of doing things before the guest's needs. The word procedure means that something follows a strict timeline, like an assembly line in a factory. When hotels design their guest experiences to favor their convenience rather than their guests, they create an ineffective experience for both parties. All hotels seem to have copied each other's standard operating procedures since the processes are very similar. It does not help if you stand, sit, or lay down during check-in. The process is still the same.

Guests only care about the rate

Guests are probably used to all the hotel processes and accept that this is the way it works. They do not stay at the hotel because they want to. They have to due to a reason to visit the destination. If the hotel team members are a little more attentive and friendly, the hardware is in good condition and works as expected, and the rate is reasonable, most guests are neutral or happy, and a few of them will rate the hotel positively.
 
The bad news is that all guest experiences in hotels are the same, making a hotel stay a commodity. The guest will get the same experience at a Marriott, Hilton, or any other brand. The only differentiator is the rate. The commoditization has happened to the airline industry, where airlines have raced to the bottom in services and fares.

Focus on the guest experience

Not all General Managers are the same. A few think outside the box and design an authentic guest experience to fit the needs of each guest. This job can be challenging for any hotelier, but it is crucial to providing a quality experience.
 
The first insight is to understand why the guest traveled to the destination and what they will do during their stay in the destination - not the hotel. Then, based on the reason for the visit, the hotel can customize the guest experience and touch the guest emotionally. When this happens, the guest will be delighted and become a hotel promoter.
 
It does not look easy to create customized guest experiences, but it is not as hard as you think. Any hotel can get started with these few steps to move in the right direction.

Focus on fewer target groups

To start you off, select a few (three to five) major target groups that have needs that the hotel should be able to meet better than any of its competitors. Meeting needs and expectations better means that these target groups will always have this hotel as their first choice when visiting this destination. Therefore, the strategy focuses on these significant target groups and refining the products and services according to their needs.
 
The hotel should say no to all other potential guests who do not belong to selected target groups. The targeted guests will think like this. "I feel comfortable staying in this hotel because many other people like me are staying there and the hotel understands and fulfills my needs."

Digitalize the guest journey 

The second step is to digitize the interaction between the guest and the hotel, removing friction for both parties. The tedious manual check-in process can be moved to the smartphone and be done 24 hours before arrival (like checking in for flights). The guest can check the information, accept terms, pre-pay, select the room, buy additional products and services, etc. The guest will do the job and be in control, which increases guest satisfaction. By using guest data, the hotel can easily customize the digital check-in. When the guest arrives at the hotel, the front desk team can focus on enhancing the guest experience and connect emotionally with the guest.
 
The customized process is pre-programmed for each guest type, but the guest will feel unique and appreciate that the hotel connects in a meaningful way instead of the standard procedure that guests need to go through in all other hotels.

Cash in huge rewards

It takes a lot of effort to break the traditional way of designing and delivering guest experiences, but the rewards are massive. Guests are willing to pay significantly more for a customized guest experience than a standardized experience. A customized guest experience increases the top line well above any standardized competitors. An emotional guest experience is also impossible to copy for the competition, so other hotels will not be able to steal the guests easily. Keeping guests returning or recommending hotels has an additional impact on the top line.