What is the singular reason behind the success of a business? Here’s a clue: it has very little to do with the product, the employees, or the boss.
The answer is the customer.
Why then, do so many businesses try to give the customer what they want. Wait, what? Notice that I didn’t say “give the customer what the customer wants.” And that’s the problem. All too often, the customer is given what the business projects them to want, meaning what the business wants them to want, which many times is not at all aligned with the customer’s true needs.
Discover the Customer Service Secrets of Top Hotel Brands:
Check out 11 hotels that are absolutely crushing what it means to provide great customer service.
1. Company: Starwood Hotels & Resorts
Case Study: In 1999, the (now) Chairman and CEO of Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Barry Sternlicht ignited the transition from ill-thought bedding to the now infamous Westin Heavenly Bed® by investing $75 million in 110,000 upgraded, consumer-tested beds. Sternlicht explained the customer-focused reasoning behind the overhaul: “I have always been somewhat astounded by how little hotel companies invest in their beds considering that our primary product is a good night’s sleep.” Soon after the transition, Starwood market share skyrocketed. Today, the company is a hotel market leader and sells the Westin Heavenly Bed® through their online marketplace.
Takeaway: Sternlicht knew that what was in the best interest of the company at the time (cheap bedding), was not in the best interest of the customer. Investing in his customer’s needs proved an immediate and massively successful return on investment.
2. Company: The Ritz Carlton
Case Study: When Chris Hurns’ family visited the Amelia-Island Ritz Carlton in 2012, they had a great stay, but it was what happened after they had departed that compelled the CEO of the Mercantile Capital Corporation to blog about their experience. Upon returning home, it was discovered that Joshie, his son’s beloved giraffe, had been left behind.
In an effort to subdue his child’s worry, Hurn reassured him that, “[Joshie] is just taking an extra long vacation at the resort.” After a brief call with the Ritz Carlton’s Loss Prevention Team, it was discovered that Joshie was safe, and the hotel assured Hurn that they would corroborate his story about Joshie’s extended stay. Two days later, Hurn’s son had Joshie back in his arms, along with a scrapbook of Joshie’s “adventures”. Turns out that the missing giraffe had visited the spa, made multiple friends, and was even given a Loss Prevention Staff badge that allowed him to be a part of the Ritz Carlton team.
Did Hurn’s son care much about anything aside from the safe return of his buddy? No. Did Hurn and his wife decide right then and there that they would be frequent return customers? You bet they did. Hurn was so impressed that he wrote a blog in the Huffington Post about this experience. Marketing literally doesn’t get any better than that.
Takeaway: The Ritz Carlton knows that personal attention to a guest’s needs will result in return customers and word-of-mouth marketing from the guests themselves. As if he were part of the Ritz Carlton marketing team himself, Hurn wrote, “Create an experience so amazing that someone can’t help but tell others about it, and you’re sure to succeed.”
3. Company: Marriott International
With the exception of Social Tables, this is the best thing to hit the hotel and meetings industry in decades. Marriott International has completely redesigned their customer service technique by taking the frustration and immediacy off of the shoulders of event professionals. Instead of offering the standard contact list of hotel staff, Marriott has literally placed the power to submit crucial changes into a planner’s hands.
Bonus: If you book 75+ rooms with the Marriott, they’ll give you a free mini iPad.
Takeaway: Marriott identified a need that wasn’t being met by their clients. Then they did something about it. Now, Marriott has considered an industry thought leader in customer service.
4. Company: Sunrise Premium Resort & Spas
Case Study: This Vietnamese based hotel, with its beachfront property and guest-centric culture, didn’t have any trouble attracting clients. But earlier this year, they decided they wanted to capitalize on the business they were already seeing in order to boost upsell, maximize direct bookings, and achieve their financial goals. In order to do so, they chose a guest communication tool to help improve their sales interactions before and during each customer’s stay.
Their Guest Messaging Hub helped them connect real humans to the online booking experience. And, at the same time, they were able to upsell packages as well as overcome communication barriers thanks to the tools translation feature.
Takeaway: The best way to maximize revenue is to meet your guests where they already are – on your website. By engaging with guests immediately after booking (through a pop up chat on the confirmation page), Sunrise Premium Resort & Spas captured their attention, asked thoughtful questions, and provided extra services right then and there.
5. Company: Hotel Conference Town
Case Study: For Hotel Conference Town in Chile, providing fantastic food and beverage options became a top priority for them in 2019. Which is why they began seeking and receiving feedback on their breakfast and lunch menus. Using an online reputation manager, the brand was able to make the necessary changes guests weren’t directly mentioning them.
Takeaway: Sometimes your guests won’t be upfront about their likes and dislikes, which is why online review sites are so important. Harness the candid information left on platforms like Yelp and TripAdvisor to look for patterns. Then, when those patterns emerge, find ways to correct the issue.
6. Company: Samuel Braun Hotels
Case Study: Samuel Braun Hotels set out to build their own online reputation through their dedication to improving guest experience. In an effort to do so, they chose to use management response time and quality as well as regular reporting to tackle complaints head on. As a result, they developed a system for accepting, managing, and resolving guest feedback to better improve their experiences. In day to day operations, this meant hiring a Quality Manager to oversee reviews (both online and off) and hosting weekly meetings to go over guest experience reports with customer-facing teams.
Takeaway: Having a dedicated task force for guest experience improvement can help hotel brands remain focused on their goal. Even if you don’t have the staff available, creating a system that allows for regular intake, review, and assessment of consumer feedback can work just as well as long as it is consistent. Here are some expert tips on how to bring joy to the process.
7. Company: Swiss Spirit Alisa
Case Study: Swiss Spirit Alisa was voted #1 for excellent hotel customer service in Ghana. How did they do it? By setting out to anticipate the needs of their guests. By capturing information about what guests plan to do on their visit, what kind of traveler they are, and what their expectations will be for the experience, they were able to personalize little touches that elevate the overall experience.
Takeaway: Use polling, surveys, and live chat pop-ups to get to know your guests before they set foot on your property. For example, if they are looking to relax, leave a scented lavender satchel on their bedside table along with a spa menu that highlights this season’s best services.
8. Company: Attitude Hotels
Case Study: Attitude Hotels noticed that their paper and pencil systems for customer service and feedback were failing them. Not only were they falling behind in their responses, they were also failing to address time sensitive issues before check out. To resolve this, they went entirely paperless and adopted a system for streamlining better, more actionable feedback from guests.
Takeaway: Whether your system is outdated or just plain ineffective, make sure to review it regularly. While Attitude Hotels’ guests weren’t interested in submitting physical notes as feedback your customers might welcome the old school approach. Moral of the story: find out what works for your clientele and don’t be afraid to refresh tired methods once in a while. Experiment with one of these great customer feedback management tools if you’re looking for inspiration.
9. Company: Beachcomber Resorts & Hotels
Case Study: This tropical brand knew that guests were enjoying their experiences overall, but they often saw complaints associated with pricing and value. In order to continue to showcase the ways in which Beachcomber Resorts & Hotels was unlike any other vacation spot, they chose to focus on highlighting their uniqueness throughout the whole stay. To that end, they paid found cost efficient ways to fill in gaps for things guests said they wanted. At the same time, they also used their marketing to promote the features and amenities guests considered the most valuable parts of the experience.
Takeaway: Even if you don’t have the funds to majorly upgrade your property or lower room prices, you can still make changes here and there no matter what your guests complain about. For example, something as small as providing more towels in the gym can help fill a service need guests often comment on without having to hire new staff. And if guest reviews aren’t providing any clarity, try these tips for viewing your hotels’ customer service through their eyes.
10. Company: Minor Hotels
Case Study: As a luxury brand in a competitive space, Minor Hotels knew that they’d have to provide exceptional customer service in order to stand out amongst competitors who offer nearly identical amenities and benefits. To that end, they focused on employee training, specifically when it comes to quickly identifying, diagnosing, and solving guest problems. Quick reactions from an empowered staff helped the Minor Hotels brand succeed in their mission.
Takeaway: First and foremost, Minor Hotels chose to adopt tools that were both easy for staff to use and helped make customer service more efficient. They also developed a set of rules for employees to follow when dealing with a customer service complaint. A combination of uniform online training, better onboarding practices, and advanced tools helped them push their customer service to the next level and you can do the same.
11. Company: ESS Group Sweden
Case Study: The ESS Group Sweden noticed a decline in repeat business and decided to diagnose the issue. After conducting a customer service survey, they discovered that guests largely agreed with their data – they weren’t interested in recommending the hotel to a friend or even staying any longer themselves. To remedy the issue, they came up with a follow up survey campaign that encouraged participation and asked laser focused questions about their weaknesses.
Takeaway: Sometimes data and feedback don’t align, which is why it’s always good to go straight to the source – your guests. If your customer service is failing your audience, it’s okay to ask them about it.
Follow in ESS Group Sweden’s footsteps and limit your customer service feedback survey to a single, open-ended question. Then, identify the top three customer service areas guests agreed could see some improvement.
From there, develop a plan of action for each segment, implement changes, and conduct the same survey with guests who got to experience the update. Not sure what to put in your survey? Here’s a template to get you started.
Want more info on hotel customer service?
Hotel customer service is the care and accommodation provided to guests before, during, and after their stay. It’s helpful to think of customer service as the service provided to guests that makes staying in a hotel more than simply a place to sleep.
Train and empower every employee to accommodate guests’ needs (within reason). Anticipate the most frequent requests (such as extra blankets or towels), and be ready to address them quickly. Reward employees who go the extra mile to improve your guests’ experience.
Now You’re Ready to Implement the Best Hotel Customer Service Based on Examples from the Top Brands!
You have customer service down pat, so learn how to drive group loyalty here.