Making guests feel welcome with hotel customer service
What is hotel customer service?
Hotel customer service is the care provided by hotels to guests before, during, and after their stay. Because hotels rely heavily on loyal customers and good word-of-mouth marketing, hotel customer training is an integral part of a hotel’s customer service strategy. It’s difficult to get it right, but doing so will lead to guests who return, again and again.
With Zendesk, hotels can provide useful information via an FAQ in their knowledge base that will provide travelers with important information so they can make educated decisions about where to stay.
Why is it so important to provide great customer service in a hotel?
It wasn’t that long ago that travelers would book hotels without knowing much about them. Without that aid of review sites and social media, most people had to make do with travel guides and hotel marketing to choose where to stay. If they had a negative experience, they’d probably never stay there again, and maybe tell a few people, but that would be it. Even hotels that provided good service had the luxury of making a mistake now and then without having to worry about long-term repercussions.
As with everything else, the internet changed all of that. Now everyone can search online for the name of a hotel, browse review sites, and ask their friends for recommendations on social media. Negative reviews about hotels can be broadcast on the internet and shared with millions of people before the hotel is even aware that something went wrong. Now more than ever, hotel customer service must provide all guests with a great experience, or run the risk of some very negative attention.
8 Practices to provide the best hotel customer service to your guests
Not every hotel can give its guests a luxury experience. But that’s OK; people don’t expect 5-star treatment from a chain inn just off the expressway. They do, however, have certain baseline requirements that all hotels can strive to meet. When you exceed these expectations, you can boost guest satisfaction, improve customer retention, and see more repeat guests. Here are eight best practices for providing great customer experiences.
1. Understand who your customers are
Keeping track of who stays at the hotel, with tools like sign in forms, surveys, and email lists can help hotels create experiences that meet their customer’s needs. Are they in a hurry and need quick check in and check out, or do they want to take their time — and have a chat about the best local places to eat? Hotels will never know unless they endeavor to find out.
Really getting to know your guests will help you provide a better customer service experience. A hotel brand needs to understand what its customers really want to deliver the right kind of service. Only then can employees go beyond customer expectations to deliver service that is memorable.
2. Make customer service easy
Understanding the most frequently made requests makes it possible to quickly satisfy those requests. If a hotel knows that many people will ask for an extra blanket or towel, provide easy to find instructions in the hotel room for the best way to make those requests. Similarly, email receipts sent to guests who’ve checked out should include instructions for the best way to dispute billing charges. Nobody likes to deal with issues like that, but a little bit of work upfront can make it a lot less painful.
3. Put a heavy focus on hotel customer service training
Hotel staff are the face of the brand. But they can’t be expected to just know what that means. They need to be trained on everything from the hotel’s brand values to the proper way to effectively resolve customer service issues. Of course, training goes far beyond the initial employee handbook and video courses. Training is an ongoing process for everyone in the company, including hotel managers. From time to time, you can make use of hospitality industry training retreats, coaching sessions, and events to help your team grow.
It can also be helpful to put a secret shopper program in place to get an unbiased look at your service standards. And to make things a bit more exciting, consider setting up some sort of competition with rewards for employees. For example, the one with the most customer service points for that month (how you define and track that is up to you), could win a gift certificate to a local restaurant.
4. Ask the right questions
It’s easier to provide the best hotel customer service when you have the right information. Customer surveys are useful on many levels, but it’s also important to ask the right questions at the right times. A post-stay emailed survey is a good opportunity to get feedback on the guest’s trip. You can make post-stay surveys more exciting for guests by offering giveaway raffles for their entry. For example, you could offer a discounted room rate or an upgrade on their next stay. This lets guests know their feedback is important.
Also, don’t neglect the face-to-face checkout conversation. Work on one or two questions that the guest isn’t expecting. “How was your stay?” doesn’t count. You’ll just get a formulaic response. After that, ask something like, “How would you feel if our hotel was unavailable in the future?” This question flips things upside down, and you’ll get to hear what guests really appreciate about your business. Another good question is, “What’s the one thing you look for most when booking a stay?”
5. Make sure anyone can help guests
When a hotel guest has a problem or question, they won’t necessarily know who to talk to. That’s OK. To provide the best hotel customer service, anyone on your staff should be able to help them. The worst thing is for a staff member in an unrelated department to shrug them off and say they don’t know how to help. At a minimum, each department needs to know what all the others do. So, a gym attendant should know how to help a guest find the maintenance department, and maintenance should know how to help a guest find more linens.
6. Use omnichannel communication
Your hotel CRM software should be integrated with every channel that your guests can contact you through. So, when they chat with an agent before booking online, that interaction should be synced with the internal profile you have of the customer. When they arrive, the front desk should have access to their information so they know about any issues or questions they had asked between booking and arrival. That way, your front desk agent can check in with them personally.
Thailand-based Minor Hotels use Zendesk to improve response times in live chat and encourage more customers to book on its own site instead of third-party booking sites. The company found that customers appreciate instantaneous service through chat, and that chat helps the business maintain a customer satisfaction score of 97%. Minor Hotels also uses Zendesk to streamline communication between regional hotels and the corporate office, which helps its hotels solve guest problems faster.
7. Buddy up with local offerings
The best hotel customer service doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Many hotel guests want to experience the local area. And when they have a good time doing other things during their stay, they’ll have a positive association with their trip as a whole.
You can partner with local businesses to provide discounts and gift certificates on the kinds of experiences people remember. Whether that’s a free coffee from a shop down the street or a discount on white-water rafting tours, customers will appreciate the service. Also, don’t just stick coupons and deals on a shelf in some corner of the lobby. Instead, staff can actively ask customers what they are interested in doing and see if there’s a discount service that would complement that. The local businesses in your area will appreciate the partnership, too.
8. Go beyond service expectations
If you’re into providing exceptional service, you’ve probably heard the story about Nordstroms allowing a customer to return a set of tires (and giving them money back) when the store didn’t even sell tires. That’s an insane level of customer service. What can you do to stand out in the hotel industry in that way?
There are no pre-set answers for this question, but empowering your hotel employees is a good first step. For example, hotel management can give employees a budget per guest to solve problems on their own. Order flower delivery? Check. Call a cab in the middle of the night and pay for it? Check.
You don’t have to spend a lot of money to surprise a guest with something special and make their day. Service that meets customer expectations is good, but it’s not a memorable experience. To make a lasting impression, pay attention to each hotel guest and go beyond customer service expectations. Then you’ll be able to build relationships with your guests and foster customer loyalty.
How can you improve your hotel service for your customers?
There's always space to invest in hotel customer service. With all the available options for travelers, one negative review can influence guests to take their business elsewhere. And you don’t need a budget the size of Texas to do nice things for customers that will leave an impression. Many of the ideas we’ve outlined above can be done on a small budget. The main idea is to find creative ways to give your guests a customer service experience they will remember (a positive one, of course).
Happy guests start with happy employees. If your team members feel like they are just going through the motions and reading from a script, the guests will know. One of the most important things is to make your employees feel empowered in their roles, no matter what they do. Then you can be sure that your hotel guests will have positive experiences whether they bump into the pool attendant or the late night room service staff. Anyone on the team should be able to drop what they are doing to help a guest or connect that guest with the right staff member.
How Zendesk Customer Service Software Helps
Zendesk customer service software helps hotels provide excellent hotel customer service, from booking to checkout. Hotels can provide useful information via an FAQ in their help center that will provide travelers with important information, such as proximity to restaurants and attractions, or directions from the airport, so they can make educated decisions about where to stay. When customers book with the hotel, they can create accounts with Zendesk’s user portal, allowing them to log in anytime and check the status of requests for support (such as billing questions). This is great for hotels, because details about customers are captured in a single location and can be accessed anytime that person books another stay. The hotel can keep track of the traveler’s preferences and use that to create personalized experiences.
Before you check out
Learn more about customer service software that can help hotels greatly improve their customer support.