Industry, Product  |  3 August 2021 |  Tom Brown

How to lose a guest in 10 ways: avoidable hotel mistakes

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If you’ve had the misfortune of watching How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, you’ll know that Kate Hudson’s character actively tries 10 classic tricks to get a guy to dump her. But as they’re in a Hollywood movie, of course by the end they fall in love. Your property, however, operates in the real world. Commit even one mistake and your guests are unlikely to have a happy ending. 

And that’s our tenuous segue to this article, a piece that will be much more useful (if not entertaining) than the Matthew McConaughey film. Of course, there are almost countless ways that you could annoy a guest and lose their future custom. Yay! But we asked around and found 10 of the most common and most simple to fix. It’s not rocket science (that’s a different McConaughey movie) and with any luck your hotel is already avoiding most of the below. But there’s only one way to find out... 

 

1. Sort out your Wi-Fi 

There are all sorts of bad Wi-Fi scenarios from the guest’s perspective. Scenario one: the signal strength is so weak that it’s like being back on a dial up modem (kids, look it up). Solution? Upgrade your Wi-Fi. If you’ve got a big building, invest in boosters to ensure every room has good coverage – it’s not that expensive and it makes the world of difference to a guest, especially if they’re relying on Wi-Fi because of costly data roaming charges

Scenario two: you’re inexplicably running an antiquated system whereby the connection drops out every half an hour or so and guests have to go through the laborious process of re-entering their reservation and room details. I don’t have anything to say about this, other than stop it immediately. 

Scenario three: you’ve got Wi-Fi throughout your hotel, but you’re charging for it. Why? How would you feel if you went to a hotel or a restaurant or anywhere at all and you had to pay to connect to the Wi-Fi? Like it or not, access to the internet has become a basic human right; not providing it for free sends a message to your guests that you have an old-fashioned mindset. 

 

2. Upgrade your entertainment system 

The vast majority of hotel rooms have a TV in them. If you choose not to provide them because it’s not the vibe of your property, that’s also cool. But nothing screams old fashioned more than old, boxy televisions that only offer a few channels in a language your guest can’t understand. 

Particularly for younger generations, watching film and TV on demand is now normality; at the very least, you should provide smart TVs with a nice big Netflix button on the remote. Or even better, go fully connected, with Chromecasts or similar devices hooked up so guests can stream what they like on demand. Being able to walk into your hotel room after a long day and instantly connect your phone or laptop to the TV is a great guest experience.

how-to-lose-a-guest-10-waysA guest struggles with a poor entertainment system.

3. Don’t make people queue 

Queueing is so last decade. The pandemic has made waiting in line even more stressful, and given the plethora of tools available to the average hotelier, there’s no excuse for lines stretching from your front desk. 

We all recognize the value of diversity in all walks of life, and the same is true for check-in. Do your guests have the option to check in online? Is there a self-service check-in kiosk onsite to speed things along upon arrival? And by the way, this doesn’t only apply to check-ins and check-outs. Restaurants and spas offer pre-booking, so why not extend this to other services you provide? For instance, Solay is an integration that lets guests book sun loungers in advance, so they don’t have to queue on the day or arrive super early to secure a spot. 

 

4. Use bigger glasses 

Morning. The gentle flood of sunlight washes over you as you wake. You reach over for your glass of water and take a swig – but it’s empty. What gives? Why are glasses in hotel rooms so small? After every few gulps I have to refill my glass and that’s not good for encouraging hydration. Sometimes, size matters. 

And the same goes for those tiny toiletries in the bathroom. Yes, it’s fun to pretend to be a giant while opening a tiny bottle of shampoo, but beyond that there’s no benefit for the guest. For those who are lucky enough to have a luxurious head of hair, those bottles never contain enough, and for those who care about the environment, it’s a huge turnoff. Switch to larger, refillable bottles and you’ll reduce waste and cut costs. 

 

5. Don’t stretch the truth 

American author and businessman Seth Godin has a pithy quote about marketing: “All marketers are storytellers. Only the losers are liars.” It’s tempting to oversell your product and services in order to attract guests, especially in such a competitive industry as hospitality, but if you tell too tall a tale and oversell your property, you’ll end up losing future custom. 

If you advertise a room as having an ocean view, that view better be visible front and center. If your guest has to crane their neck out of the window to catch a glimpse of the waves, or can only see a slither of surf between two large apartment blocks, they’ll rightfully view you as dishonest. The fact that you managed to lure them to your property is only a short-term gain; being truthful with your marketing (while of course accentuating your selling points) is better for you in the long run. 

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This guest has just discovered that the hot tub she was promised is just a big bath.

 

6. Check your plumbing 

Arguably the second most important and basic service that you provide – after a comfy bed – is somewhere for guests to clean themselves. Simply put, bad plumbing sucks. It can really drain your spirits. Thinking back, I’m a little shocked at how many times I’ve stayed at places where the shower doesn’t drain properly. 

Don’t just rely on your guests to tell you if there’s a problem. Be proactive. Once every couple of weeks or so, Schedule your housekeeping team to run a bath or a shower and test the draining. Smart hotel housekeeping software will let you manage these tasks with ease.  

Oh, and while we’re talking about showers, please please please check your water pressure. No one wants a weak, lukewarm trickle to start the day. Aside from regular scheduled checks, there’s no better way than to test your guest experience than by staying in one of your rooms; be sure to do so regularly and you’re much more likely to spot potential problems before they arise. 

 

7. Invest in better pillows 

If a guest doesn’t get a good night's sleep, there’s very little chance of them returning. Back in olden times, a pillow was just a pillow. No longer. The rise of hypo-allergenic and memory foam options means there’s more variety than ever, which does make things hard for hoteliers. One thing’s for certain, though: if they’re paper thin and lumpy, or too plush to get your head horizontal, your guests won’t be happy. 

I know, pillows aren’t exactly the domain of a fully digital hospitality cloud and there’s not much that Mews or any provider can do to help you with this one. That being said, we can help you in one area. If you’re still using feather pillows and duvets and don’t want to switch out your whole inventory, it’s important to provide a non-feather option for those with allergies (like me, in case you were interested). If a guest informs you in advance of any allergies (during booking or online check-in, for example) then you can easily store that information on their guest profile so that housekeeping know to put out the appropriate bedding. And it’ll be there for next time they return too. Nice. 

 

8. Make time for your guests 

Of all the many wise things that Maya Angelou said, this rings most true for us in hospitality: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” If your hotel team have to spend most of their time creating bookings, taking payments, and working on other manual tasks, they won’t have time to provide a truly memorable guest experience – something that will make them feel special. 

There’s no one magic trick that will solve this problem. However, one certainty is that the only way to do it is with a property management system that goes big on automation, freeing up time for meaningful, eye-to-eye conversations, rather than awkward snippets interrupted by requests like “and can you just put your card in here”. Likewise, make sure you give guests the option to contact you how they like. Introverts will much prefer a messaging platform if they have a question or request, so an instant direct messaging tool is a must. 

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This guest has just been told that no one is available to speak to her about her fern.

 

9. Stop it with the pointless hairdryers 

The majority of hotel rooms provide hairdryers, which is great as no guest wants to have to pack a bulky hairdryer from home and sacrifice precious suitcase real estate. However. Why is almost every hotel hairdryer totally useless? Are the energy savings you’re making from having such low power really worth a terrible guest experience? 

With every passing second of weak, tepid air, frustrations rise. It feels like time wasted, time when they should be heading back to the pool or to a trendy restaurant. And while we’re at it, please make sure your housekeeping team are properly cleaning your hairdryers as well. 

 

10. Be wary of overzealous housekeeping 

Hands up who’s hung a ‘do not disturb’ sign on your hotel door, only for housekeeping to knock and try to come in anyway? It’s annoying and intrusive, especially if you happen to be in a compromising position...  

Also, unless you’re running a luxury hotel where guests expect the freshest, crispest sheets every day, there’s really no need to be changing them every 24 hours. How often do you wash and change your sheets at home? Increasingly, guests are exasperated at the extra environmental cost that unnecessary housekeeping incurs, so why not switch your system around and make it so that if your guests want fresh sheets and towels, they hang a sign on the door – otherwise, you can just leave them be. As long as you’re clear in your communication with guests that this is your system, no one will complain, you’ll save on electricity, and you’ll be able to turn around the rooms that matter more quickly.

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Tom Brown
3 August 2021