The guest journey begins long before check-in. It often begins the moment a potential guest conducts a Google search like: “Five-star hotels in Tampa, Floria”. But not all guest journeys begin this way. Perhaps they discover your hotel while casually browsing Instagram or by opening up Booking.com.
And in truth, this journey continues through check-in, in-house, checkout, and, ultimately, post-stay. Perhaps guests love your property so much that they become loyal customers, returning year after year. In this case, a guest journey — in theory — could be indefinite.
But why is the journey important and how does managing it properly help you improve the guest experience and make more money? In this blog post, we’ll look at the five stages of the guest journey and how you can improve your guest experience every step of the way.
The Importance of Understanding the Entire Hotel Guest Journey
When you’re trying to understand who your guests are and what makes them tick, examining the guest journey is a great place to start. But of course, your guests are always evolving. Booking paths change and activities come in and out of fashion.
Understanding your guests’ journeys must be a continual process. By engaging in it, you can market and cater to guests more effectively and change strategies to best fit the needs of your unique audience.
Say your hotel is a business travel hotspot, but you also get a good handful of families. What works for a business traveler probably won’t work for a mom and dad with young kids. Getting to know the journeys of all of your personas will help each of your hotel departments prepare for how to handle these guests.
Ultimately, optimizing every stage of the guest journey will help you increase customer satisfaction and earn more revenue.
The Key Parts of a Guest Journey:
The guest journey can be segmented into five important parts.
Pre-arrival is the beginning of the guest journey (or cycle, if you like). At this point, guests begin their research, which may be taking place for a variety of reasons:
They don’t have a clear idea of where they want to go; they just know they need a vacation.
They know they want to visit Europe, but have no idea which country.
They want to visit Canada but haven’t decided whether they’d like a city or rural experience.
They already know they’d like to visit your hotel, but aren’t sure what type of room they want to book.
Your job, as a hotel business, is to be visible wherever they are searching and this is where your marketing team shines. Search engine optimization, digital and print advertising, social media management, distribution strategy, and your website are all powerful tools you can use to attract and engage potential guests.
Once your guest has decided they want to visit your hotel they enter the booking phase. Guests want to book their trip quickly and easily. Having a smooth, simple booking experience will give a great first impression to guests and add to the overall guest experience.
Then, all they have left to do is wait for their vacation! At this stage, guests appreciate timely responses to queries and inspiration for their upcoming trip.
Protip: The pre-arrival stage of the guest journey is one of the best times to offer room upgrades and other upsell offers for purchase. Guests have already locked in their reservation at your hotel and are getting excited for their stay. To capitalize on these good feelings, use a hotel upsells tool to deliver special offers via text and email.
The next phase begins as soon as the guest steps onto your property. Here, guests look for a warm welcome and a quick and easy check-in experience. A good greeting can help you:
Establish good rapport with the guest
Build trust and loyalty
Ensure the guest has everything they need throughout their stay
Many hotels today also utilize contactless check-in technology to allow guests to bypass queues and head straight up to their rooms. This works great for tired, jet-lagged guests.
Unsurprisingly, the guest’s stay is one of the most important parts of the guest journey. This stage lasts from the moment they check-in to the moment they checkout.
Every guest may be different, but it’s safe to say that most expect great customer service and a hassle-free, comfortable stay. This is your chance to anticipate needs and be proactive with your guest interactions.
Here are a couple of ways hotels can improve the in-house experience for guests:
Concierge service: Offer a knowledgeable concierge service that can provide recommendations for local attractions, restaurants, and activities, and help guests with transportation arrangements.
Room amenities: Provide high-quality amenities in guest rooms, such as premium toiletries, plush towels, comfortable bedding, and an in-room coffee maker.
Guest feedback: Ask guests for feedback during their stay and take prompt action to address any issues or concerns they may have.
Sustainable practices: Implement sustainable practices such as reducing water and energy consumption, using eco-friendly products, and supporting local communities and businesses.
This is the moment a guest departs your hotel. Nowadays, this can be done in a multitude of ways, such as checking out digitally via a mobile device, dropping their keycard into a box, or the traditional method: via the front desk. It could also start when the guest requests a late checkout.
At this stage, guests are looking for efficiency, flexibility, and a warm goodbye. Psychological analysis by Amadeus revealed that consumers are twice as likely to experience ‘anxiety’ and ‘uncertainty’ when making hotel payments.
When it comes to settling accounts, ensure the process is quick, easy, and secure for your staff.
The guest journey continues even after they leave your property, and it may even become continuous. This post-stay stage is your opportunity to nurture a guest into a loyal customer.
At this stage, guests want timely, helpful communication and many — especially those who remember your property fondly — will be open to receiving marketing materials. Some may follow your social media accounts, while others may sign up for your newsletter. The important thing is to conduct some type of post-stay follow-up communication that keeps your guests engaged and your property top of mind.
Protip: Canary’s Contactless Check-In solution can help you capture more current guest information such as emails and phone numbers — even for guests that booked through OTAs!
What Does a Great Guest Journey Look Like?
Show that you remember a guest and they’ll remember you! But you don’t always need a loyal guest in order to personalize their experience (though it does help). Sometimes OTAs offer very little by way of guest information. In this case, a great way to win bonus points is by greeting guests by name.
Once you know a thing or two more about a guest, you can congratulate them on special occasions and offer a complimentary add-on tailored to their interests. You could even prepare the rooms before the stay with a handwritten note.
Personalization also helps you upsell additional services, experiences, and add-ons throughout the guest journey. When you get to know your guests, you know what they might be tempted by.
Efficient & Enjoyable
The best hotels will make sure that every stage of the guest journey is effortless and enjoyable. They do this by implementing the right technology, reworking processes when necessary, and keeping their staff highly trained.
The use of technology such as contactless check-in or checkout, guest messaging, and cashless tipping can help save time for you and your guests.
Make sure your standard operating procedures are tidy, up-to-date, and regularly reviewed by the workers who use them. This will ensure that guests are taken care of in the best way possible.
Curated (Guests Control How Their Stay Goes)
Where possible, give the power to your guests to design their own stay. But how can this apply to each stage of the guest journey?
Pre-stay: During the booking process, give guests options. For example, allow them to pick a mattress type or specify the type of bedding they’d like. Give them ways to customize their room decor in advance.
Check-In: Give your guests the option to upgrade a room upon check-in. Show them options — but not too many. Allow them to book restaurant reservations for breakfast lunch, and dinner. Give your guests the option to check-in traditionally or digitally.
In-house: Allow your guests to easily book experiences — whether your own or off-site — via the front office or at any time via their mobile device.
Checkout: Allow guests to checkout traditionally or digitally.
Post-stay: Give your guests the option to opt-in or out of different communication types. Perhaps they’d like to receive your monthly newsletters but forego offers and marketing.
Attentive From Start to Finish
Hotels should be responsive and attentive from the beginning of the guest journey to the end (if there is an end!). Give your guests tools to communicate in whichever way they’d like — whether that’s by text, phone call or personal visit to the front desk.
Use guest messaging technology to help your guests contact you more quicker. Encourage them to bring up issues as they occur to avoid poor reviews at a later date.
Be proactive. Go out of your way to make sure the guest has everything they need. It can be as simple as refilling room amenities or asking if they need transport to the airport on the day of their checkout. Getting to know your guests better will help you understand when to offer your help and when to leave them be.
Augmented With Technology
Use technology in the right places to improve the guest experience. While the novelty of certain technologies can impress (like room service robots!), its benefits go a lot further.
The right hotel management software can also speed up processes for your staff so that they can focus on delivering better guest experiences.
Technology’s Role in Creating Better Guest Journeys
Contactless Check-In & Checkout
Save time and effort for both staff and guests with contactless check-in and checkout.
This approach alleviates the front desk staff's workload, allowing them to concentrate on other guest services. It also enhances guest satisfaction by providing a more efficient and customized experience.
Upselling is an important part of increasing your hotel’s revenue. But not everybody is a salesperson. Dynamic upsell technology is a great way to bridge this gap, take the pressure off of your workforce and allow them to tailor guest experiences.
Automated digital upselling solutions enable hoteliers to deliver special offers to guests at key moments when they are most likely to make a purchase during their guest journey.
Regular occurrences of data breaches and fraud have led many hotels to look for better ways to protect their guest data. Traditional paper and PDF credit card authorization forms that are not PCI compliant are prime targets for bad actors. These should be replaced with secure digital solutions to ensure the safety of sensitive guest information (e.g., credit card numbers, etc.).
People are carrying less and less cash these days. So, what’s the solution where tipping’s concerned? Digital tipping can increase the overall amount of tips your employees receive and boost staff pay by up to $3/hour!
This technology can save significant time and confusion in sorting out tip allocation as the funds are automatically dispersed to the appropriate departments or individuals through payroll integration.
Who is Responsible for Ensuring Great Guest Journeys?
Every single member of staff is responsible for the quality of your guest journey — from your front office staff to your housekeepers. Even staff members who don’t typically interact with guests play a role in improving their experience.
Getting the most out of your workforce starts with training and ends with the way you treat them. Supply high-quality standard operating procedures and training programs and staff will be more likely to prosper.
It’s a mistake to neglect the less obvious stages of the guest journey such as pre-arrival and post-stay. Hotels should make a conscious effort to evolve the guest journey as consumer needs and demands change, while maintaining a high-quality guest experience.
Understanding each of these stages is a great place to start, focusing on personalization, efficiency, curation, attentiveness and technology.
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