According to a recent study, 70% of Millennial travelers wish to invest significant money in leisure travel. Additionally, millennials are the largest age group traveling abroad, comprising nearly 40% of Europe’s outbound travel, and technology is an integral part of their daily life. Therefore, it is even more crucial for hoteliers to develop a tech-savvy traveler’s journey.
Customers now interact with brands quite differently due to the internet and the rise of digitization. A unified, end-to-end experience powered by backend software and operations is necessary to deliver services according to the guest’s expectations.
What is guest experience journey?
A guest experience journey is a series of touchpoints every visitor experiences. That is either inside or outside the hotel’s actual physical borders. A touch point is any time a visitor engages with a hotel, online or offline. These interactions could be in person, over the phone, by email, or virtually at the front desk or lounge.
Every visitor should be part of a unique personalized experience when interacting with your company. Each customer journey will be distinctive to the person in question. For instance, a family of four is completely different than a solo professional visitor.
These are two different types of guests with completely distinctive needs. Creating guest experience journeys can help you meet these needs according to these individual traits. But wait, what exactly comes under a hotel guest experience? What are the stages of guest bookings, and how do we define them?
The hotel guest experience and its stages
The guest experience refers to your hotel guest’s experience while booking rooms and their stay. Traditionally, a guest’s engagement at a hotel starts when they make their reservation and ends when they check out.
But this guest cycle shifted with the introduction of the internet and digitization. Now the guest experience begins with something as simple as a Google search. For a guest to book your room, they typically look at reviews online before making any decisions.
According to Podium’s 2021 State of Reviews research,
- 83% of visitors agree that reviews must be current and meaningful to trust them.
- 38% of consumers want to see a 4-star rating before connecting with an establishment.
- Around half of the consumers are ready to travel further and spend more to visit a business with positive feedback.
A hotel with anything less than a 4-star rating is much less likely to experience full occupancy. Technically speaking, the guest cycle starts with the search engine. But, if we set such facts aside, the typical guest journey stages are the following:
- The Booking process
- Checking in and interacting with the front-desk agent
- The stay and in-hotel experience
- The check-out and departure
- Post-stay communication
A strong predictor of the quality of service in a hotel is the guest experience. Guests are more likely to return and recommend your hotel to others after a positive experience. So, let’s figure out what takes place in each stage of the guest experience and how you can improve them.
1) The Booking Process
When it comes to researching potential destinations and making hotel reservations, travelers have several options. They have three options for making reservations:
- Through a travel agent,
- Contact the hotel,
- Or book a room online.
Nowadays, the majority of consumers book rooms online. 90% of consumers, according to research, carry out all of their holiday planning online. Additionally, 70% of travelers conduct similar research on their smartphones.
In this situation, they may land on significant OTA websites or metasearch engines. OTAs are the most effective sales channels for tourists trying to reserve a hotel stay.
This emphasizes how vital it is to have a digital presence that will help you connect with your target market. OTAs are vital to a hotel’s sales and conversions. But direct sales will always be a better option because hotels lose a good chunk of their business to OTAs as commissions, which impacts revenue.
Direct bookings also allow you more control over your guest’s experience. Fortunately, hotel technology allows hotels to provide a comparable, and occasionally even superior, experience to OTAs. So, what can you do to compete and convert guests on your websites?
Tips to improve the booking process:
1. You must create a top-notch hotel website with relevant information. The website should display photos and guest testimonials for solid social proof. Lastly, it should be easily navigable (on phone and desktop), and the steps to book a room should be simple and precise.
2. Connect a booking engine with your website. A booking engine will help speed up the booking process.
3. Give visitors several ways to get in touch with you in case they have any questions. You could integrate a chatbot for these situations and have them answer some simple queries.
4. Send them pre-arrival emails and messages on their chosen platforms. Thank them for selecting your hotel by sending them customized texts and emails. Ask them to fill out a form regarding any preferences, aversions, and needs before they arrive. You can also highlight any upgrades or add-on services in this message.
5. Ensure that you provide contact and location details in these mailers. Offering your contact details will make your brand seem more trustworthy and reliable.
[Also Read: Travel and Tourism Marketing Tips to Boost Online Presence for in-depth and actionable strategies to improve direct bookings.]
2) Checking in and interacting with the front-desk agent
The front desk or hotel reception is where guests check in and check out. These traditional practices, unfortunately, are tedious with many bookings.
Guests often arrive during similar periods during the process. This means that a large number of individuals are arriving simultaneously. The operational procedure becomes slower as a result.
Front desk agents need to:
- Check documents and reservation details,
- Fill out the visitor registration page,
- Process payments
- Greet guests and inform them about the accommodation, services, and perks available on the site.
As we read the variety of things they have to do, we can sense the delays increasing. Online check-ins are a no-brainer for hotels that deal with numerous bookings.
Customers should be able to check in online using their PCs, tablets, or cell phones. They can quickly stop by the front desk when they get there to get their room keys. So how can you implement practices that empower your customers while checking in?
Tips to improve the hotel check-in process
Excel spreadsheets are no longer used by modern hotels to manage their properties. Instead, they use a PMS with practical features to automate several front desk operations. You need the following technology installed at your hotel to conduct online check-in:
- A Property Management System (PMS) with an integrated third-party application, or
- A Property Management System (PMS) or Hotel Customer Relationship Management Software (CRM) with native online check-in features
During the pandemic, hotels adopted contactless technology at a 66% higher rate. Nevertheless, providing online and offline options for your visitors is the best course of action. Some visitors may choose to check in virtually. While others may prefer to interact with a front desk agent.
Visitors can also bypass the reception and access the room as soon as it is ready with a digital key. Digital keys help eliminate unnecessary plastic waste and front desk trips to report misplaced key cards. Additionally, it helps reduce check-in line wait times.
Finally, always send pre-arrival emails with information about the venue. These emails can offer information about tourist spots, vehicle availability, and hotel services.
3) The stay and in-hotel experience
This is the most crucial part of the guest’s journey. Excellent service is the keystone of retention in the hospitality industry. The visitor will likely make use of various hotel amenities throughout their stay.
Visitors will also be more open to cross-selling and upselling during their stay. Guests will be more than happy to invest if it is a unique experience that adds value.
The guest will exert significant influence on the touch points during this period of the stay. For instance, if they are a corporate visitor, they can use the meeting spaces. The information should be one click away if the guest wants to know where they can find such a space. Let’s get right into how you can improve their stay.
Tips to improve the guest’s stay:
1. In this stage, it’s crucial to install technology that enhances ease and delivers excellent service. If guests need any service or information, your hotel teams should be aware instantly. Integrating your teams to centralize information using a CRM will help save time in this process.
2. Provide solid, stable Wi-Fi connection. This will make or break your guest’s stay, especially if they are on a work trip. Every room, the most basic and the most premium, should offer equal Wi-Fi access.
3. Your guests should have no issue contacting you during their stay. Omnichannel communication platforms are essential to see this through. Offer multiple platforms for your guests to communicate. For instance, imagine they primarily use Whatsapp or another messaging service. Your hotel should contact them on that platform.
4. Send forms regarding their preferences, dislikes, and any health concerns. For example, if the guest is allergic to nuts or has lactose intolerance, you can ensure that they don’t receive food with these ingredients.
5. If your hotel is large, ensure that you provide guests with enough information about the property. Place ample signs to restrooms, the spa, the pool, in-hotel eateries, and more. If possible, send them a digital map of the layout that makes things easy to find.
4) The check-out and departure
Departure is crucial for reasons completely different than the guest’s stay. The last impression you create takes place when your guests leave. It is, in essence, the series of tasks carried out by your front desk staff.
Typically, this comprises:
- Inquiring about the visitors’ stays
- Completing and verifying any extra charges
- Payment processing
- Assisting them with their baggage and vehicle situation
The check-out process is straightforward for the most part. But as I’ve mentioned, this is the lasting impression your hotel creates in its guest’s minds. So, let’s look at some ways you can create a positive impact on your guests as they leave.
Tips to improve the check-out process:
1. Offer guests the option to check out at a later time for an added fee if you have vacancies. Additionally, implement digital channels that update and confirm payment and contact details. You won’t have to ask the guests at the front desk about all their expenses this way.
2. Allow guests to book rooms for any future visits. You can also offer any deal of discount you plan on implementing soon. Finally, to ensure you have a chance to communicate after the stay, ask guests if they would like to join your mailing list.
3. Much like the check-in, let guests check out of the hotel rooms virtually. In the virtual check-out form, include the information detailed above. Some of these could be added fees, upcoming deals, and the option to subscribe to your emails.
5) Post-stay communication
Your hotel retention rates depend on your post-stay communication processes. Once your guest has left, ensure that you reach out to them to enquire about their experience.
The post-stay communication helps with retention and customer acquisition. They give you opportunities to figure out how you can create better experiences. They also help you figure out if your services make a genuine difference.
For instance, you may invest significant money in robes and towels. But guests may instead point out a lack of food and beverage options. You can reassess what facets of your hotel need improvement with the help of such feedback. Let’s get right into how you can get this information.
Tips to improve your hotel’s post-stay communication
1. Send emails with feedback forms that they can fill out and offer any suggestions for improvements. Positive guest feedback and testimonials can be powerful drivers of revenue. For instance, two out of three people state that video testimonials make them more inclined to buy a product or service.
2. Keep the feedback form simple and jargon-free. You can always throw in some open-ended questions for detailed reviews. But the language and wording you use should be readable and easy to understand.
3. CRM that integrates with your PMS solution ideal when collecting and analyzing such feedback. Most CRMs offer email automation features that help you send personalized post-stay emails. The email automation feature will also help with all your future marketing campaigns.
Using technology effectively can significantly improve the guest journey cycle at your hotel. You can better pinpoint instances where visitors might be having trouble or reach out when they’re interested.
Your hotel’s guest journey determines how satisfied your guests will be at the end of their stay. So make sure to implement these tips to improve your service.
Why is it important to integrate these stages?
Picture this: you’ve implemented all the improvements for each stage. You’ve installed a PMS for front-desk operations. You’ve deployed a CRM for your email automation and feedback collection.
You even communicate with customers on various platforms and apps. But you’re yet to see any real improvements in your hotel’s performance. Do you have any idea as to why you’re facing this issue?
The answer? A total lack of integration. You can implement every solution in the world. But if you fail to integrate your tools and centralize information, you won’t experience true efficiency.
Each stage requires a distinct set of tools and solutions for your hotel’s success. But several tools help improve multiple stages all at once. For instance, a CRM can help with pre-arrival, stay, and post-arrival information.
You can use a CRM to:
- Send pre-arrival emails welcoming guests while inquiring about any health conditions or requests they may have.
- Collect guest data and create detailed profiles to personalize their stay.
- Send feedback forms and post-stay deals and discounts using email automation.
A PMS, too, helps hotels in multiple stages. Hotels can use the PMS to collect payment information, digitize check-ins and manage bookings. Hotels must integrate these tools into a centralized system to easily access any vital guest information. Integrating these platforms into a single stack will also help track guest needs.
Let’s get into the top benefits of integrating tools for each of these stages:
1. You can significantly lower your margin of error when you integrate these tools. When integrated, the PMS will alert the CRM to maintain workflows on cancellations, updated reservations, and approved reservations.
2. By automatically updating the profiles with information from the website, integrating the CRM with your PMS lowers the need to manually modify entries in both systems. Productivity levels will improve as a result.
3. Guest data is critical to the success of every single stage. With integration, each stage will have enough information for the next stage’s processes to run smoothly. All your hotel teams can exchange information and guest data in a single location.
4. Lastly, integrating all touchpoints with the help of tools frees up time for your staff to provide better customer experiences.
LeadSquared CRM can be easily integrated with various platforms and simplifies guest experience with its marketing automation. It also helps you manage your sales teams to ensure that your hotel bookings continue to increase. Get in touch with our teams to digitize operations, integrate your teams, and improve guest experience.
Although the hotel guest cycle is more intricate and demanding than in the past, this is very positive news. Numerous new opportunities arise from a more extensive comprehension of the hotel guest cycle. Some of these can assist hoteliers in:
- Locating their target markets,
- Generating more income,
- And improve overall guest satisfaction levels.
Manually doing this would require significant effort and may not yield the best output. Automating simple tasks like email marketing and documentation will.
So, what are some steps to take when improving the guest journey?
1. Experience the guest journey for yourself. A/B test each stage and analyze what you would want as a guest. Do not blindly implement anything without prior testing and results that prove efficacy.
2. Implement a CRM to gather data, centralize the information and create comprehensive guest profiles. Each stage requires information about the guest. Integrating this data into a single system is essential to your hotel’s success.
3. Optimize experiences offline and online. Your guests should have the option to check in digitally or physically. They should have the choice to give feedback in-person or online.
4. And finally, remember that each guest will have unique needs. Meeting these needs in a proactive and timely manner is of utmost importance.
The essence of establishing guest experience is personalization and establishing the right touchpoints to interact with your guests. I hope this guide helped you understand the guest experience stages that you need to focus on.