Imagine this: a guest arrives at your property at 6 PM on Sunday night. They have dinner in the hotel’s restaurant, perhaps a drink at the lounge, and then head upstairs to get some sleep before their 9 AM meeting the next day. They check out promptly, gather their luggage and leave. At a glance, this seems like a harmless stay. However, within 48 hours after check-out, that same guest leaves a poor review on TripAdvisor.
“I requested a quiet room and was put right beside the ice machine. The room was dirty and carpet had stains. Will not return.”
This common scenario leaves hoteliers frustrated. Had the guest said anything during their stay they could have fixed it, but now they are in the tight spot of fighting the review and trying to make amends post-stay. When there is a service failure, managers must scramble to find solutions that will reach that former guest and encourage engagement. When hotels reach out via email, there is no guarantee they will be able to retroactively resolve the situation. Service recovery opportunities exist everywhere, but learning about them after your guest leaves makes them invariably more difficult to manage. This is why it’s so important to convert a negative customer service experience into a positive one while the traveler is still a guest in the hotel.
What Drives Customer Loyalty?
Service failures are inevitable in every industry, and studies show that bad customer service is costing businesses even more money today than in previous years. This lost revenue is coming from customers who swear off a brand and move on to a competitor because of a bad customer service experience. In fact, two-thirds of consumers have left a business primarily because of poor customer service. Modern consumers have generally shown a greater willingness to shop around for the service provider that best suits their needs, and will only become loyal customers if their standards are consistently being met. With so many different options available to consumers, brands need to work to keep their customers from exploring other options.
One factor that plays an important part in earning a guest’s loyalty is their emotional connection to the hotel, and more specifically, the hotel’s employees. However, this kind of customer-employee dynamic is somewhat rare. While customers are likely to keep using a service if they feel connected with someone who provides that service, studies show the average consumer only feels a connection with 30% of the companies they do business with. One of the biggest drivers of this feeling is the perception that the company cares about them, and capturing service recovery opportunities proves to guests that they are valued.
Customers have also cited long wait times, the inability to speak to an advisor and a lack of appreciation as reasons for leaving a business, three areas hoteliers need to focus on. Hotels are particularly dependent on good service recovery since online reviews can dictate the future of the business—for better or worse. Whether the response is negative or positive depends on how hotels handle service failures.
How to Prevent Service Failures
While service failures reduce loyalty, a prompt and meaningful response can build a relationship and increase loyalty. Quickly solving a guest’s problem lets them know that they are the hotel’s top priority and that feeling of appreciation helps build a valuable rapport between the guest and employee. There are three factors that will affect a guest’s perception of a service recovery effort: a fair process, a sincere apology, and adequate compensation.
Even better than a response to a problem is a proactive effort to prevent problems before they occur. There are ways to proactively handle guest experience issues, but they require timely solutions that engage with guests in a subtle way. Guest feedback is invaluable to hoteliers since identifying potential opportunities to reset service faux pas in real time is critical to keeping customers. In this case, had the manager known about the stains and the ice machine, they could have quickly captured opportunities for service recovery. This would have sent a clear message to the guest that the hotel cares about their travel experience, even when issues are not brought to their attention face-to-face.