Triage Like a Hospital, Not a Hotel

Capture issues. Delegate tasks. Track resolutions. 

While the fictional quote, above, is a great one-liner about the advertising business from the 1960’s era period TV show, Mad Men, it might very well be just as applicable to how many feel about the hospitality industry. 

On the one hand, on our webinar series we often hear from hotel general managers and other leaders that one of the primary reasons they got into the hospitality business is because they enjoy, well, being hospitable! They enjoy helping people, interacting and engaging with guests, and the feeling of pride and satisfaction when they help make someone’s stay or special occasion exceed their expectations. But, at the same time, we hear the inverted sentiment as well; that managing the often steady stream of guest issues, complaints, and negative reviews can be a daunting and emotionally draining task. That working in hospitality would be the greatest job in the world, except for one thing…the guests. 

In this article, we want to explore ways hotel staff can reduce the volume of guest issues they deal with during their shift, triage and prioritize the most critical concerns, and resolve them quickly so that complaints are flipped into complements!

What are the most common guest issues in hotels?

According to 2ndKitchen, here are the 9 most frequently documented issues:

  1. Dirty rooms 
  2. Loud neighbors 
  3. Lack of complimentary guest supplies
  4. Poor food & beverage experience (or none at all)
  5. Closed amenities 
  6. Disagreements or misunderstandings of hotel rules
  7. Unexpected fees
  8. Theft

As we’ve covered in previous articles, oftentimes these issues are minor enough to not trigger a call or trip to the front desk to log a formal complaint but significant enough to impact your performance on external review sites or internal satisfaction surveys. 

Imagine a scenario where you walk into your room and the bed has not been cleaned and the sheets are clearly still left from previous guests. You are 100% going to contact the front desk by any means necessary to rectify this situation; you’ll pick up the phone, wait on hold, make a trip back down to the lobby, or even send a carrier pigeon to ensure the message is delivered if need be! But this is an extreme example. 

Now imagine you arrive in your room and happen to check to see where the coffee maker is. You’re fine for now but are the kind of person who MUST have caffeine running through your veins within 10 minutes of waking up in the morning. You notice there is only one coffee pod, which is technically fine because you never drink more than one cup…but what if tomorrow is different? What if you have a rough sleep and need an extra jolt of energy before your big presentation? Maybe you’ll want two cups! Is the concern of an unlikely situation the next morning enough of an issue for you to go out of your way to call down to the front desk and request additional supplies for your room? Probably not. Let’s hope that guest doesn’t need the second cup tomorrow.

Respond as quickly as possible.

Research conducted by customer service consultant, Jeff Toister of Toister Performance Solutions, has found that nearly half of all customers (46%) expect companies to respond faster than four hours to the digital inquiries of customers, while 12% expect a response within 15 minutes or less. There are some in the industry who feel that guests have a right to complain if hotel staff does not respond to their SMS text requests in about 12 minutes. And according to the inbound marketing platform, HubSpot, “79% of customers expect a response to their social media posts within 24 hours. But, even though 63% of social media complaints are responded to within 24 hours, only 32% of people are happy with their response time.”

Respond like a hospital, not a hotel.

“Triage refers to the practice of dividing incoming work or customers by priority level so the highest priorities are handled first. Health care workers use medical triage when the number of incoming patients exceeds the normal capacity of the medical center or emergency room. All medical personnel learn triage procedures so that patients with the most serious conditions receive attention first.”

— Julia Kagan, Investopia 

In the definition of triage, above, does the line “the number of incoming patients exceeds the normal capacity…” hit home for you as a hospitality professional? It should, especially in the post-pandemic era! 

The difference between triage in an emergency room and triage in a hotel is that medical professionals are trained to be, well, kind of ruthless when it comes to who gets priority based on the severity of their issue. When you arrive at the emergency room with an issue, if you don’t have a head, neck, or heart issue with self reported pain in the 9-10 out of 10 range, good luck to you…you’ll be waiting a while to see a doctor while other patients with worse issues go ahead of you (please note: we’re Canadians so while that doctor’s visit will be free, this is how the process works here!). 

In your hotel, you would never operate like this. You would never look at a line of three guests at the front desk, ask each of them what their issue is, and then proceed to help the person with the most pressing, urgent, or significant problem. You’ll help the person who is first in line, whose issue might be that their kid’s Playstation isn’t connecting to the TV while the third person in line wants to inform you there is a dog barking at 1am in the room next to you, which violates multiple hotel policies. The longer the latter guest waits, the more annoyed they will become. 

So, how can your property perform triage more like a hospital and less like a hotel to ensure quick response and resolution times are being experienced by your guests?

Our hospitality clients see, in real time, as guests log issues over SMS, wifi, or through QR codes placed strategically throughout their properties. Those issues are then triaged through a blend of powerful artificial intelligence automations and human intervention from their staff. The impact of these efforts has led to a notable increase in TripAdvisor ratings, reviews, and rankings. 

Your hotel needs to leverage technology to capture guest issues as they happen, no matter how small they are. You need to respond quickly, delegate tasks efficiently, and track issue resolution in real time. The top hotels in the world do this better than any of their competitors and yours can, too.

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