It's time to give guests what they really need and want daily.
By Doug Kennedy
Thursday, 14th September 2006
As a hotel industry sales trainer - speaker and consultant - I've been privileged over the years to work with just about every major hotel company and brand and have been fortunate to also have been their guest on business, leisure or a little of both myself just like a regular customer. Despite all the room upgrades and amenities bestowed, I have always continued to appreciate what a privilege it is to be a guest almost anywhere these days.

Yet as far as we have come with architecture, décor and guestroom ergonomics, and guest service/hospitality, there's still a number of key basics I've noticed most hotels still fall short on. Speaking from experience as a seasoned road warrior, here are some simple changes you and your team can make to give guests like me what we really want and need these days.

Don't freeze me out on arrival

Despite the skyrocketing costs of energy, why is it that about every room I walk into still has the air conditioning on the coldest setting in the summer? One can somewhat understand this at oceanfront beach resorts, where lowering the AC helps dehumidify the guestroom during summer months, but why elsewhere? Personally, I find it inhospitable to walk into my nice clean room and immediately begin shivering, often opening the window if possible to warm things up as it otherwise takes hours to reach a comfortable temperature.

Close that crack in the drapes

With all the money being spent on fancy linens and furnishing, I've never seen more beautiful décor especially when it comes to window treatments. Yet still I find myself being awakened each morning by a bright stream of sunlight shining into my eyes through the seam where the black-out drapes meet. I usually overcome this by bringing a clothespin or chip clip from home, but why not make this a new logo item to place in your rooms for when I forget mine?

Don't deactivate my key!

While I have always found it to be a frequent problem that electronic keys get de-activated during my stay, this appears to be reaching epidemic proportions. At 3 of the last 4 hotels I've stayed in this month, including an otherwise excellent Hampton Inn, an upscale Hyatt city center, and a brand-new Courtyard, I have returned to my guestroom at the end of a long day of meetings only to find my key had been deactivated for no reason. Worse yet, in all circumstances not once did the front-desk associate apologize for the inconvenience of walking back down that long hotel corridor to wait in line for a new one.

Do activate my phone for outside dialing

Another frequent front desk oversight is a failure to activate my telephone upon check-in even though I always present a credit card for incidentals. Recheck your standard registration process and make sure this becomes part of the routine, and once again, don't forget to apologize if it is inadvertently overlooked.

Offer to print boarding passes

Although most hotels of all levels these days have a business center, I usually find myself running out the door later than expected and without time to stop by to print out my boarding passes before heading to the airport. If you want your front desk or concierge staff to do something really special that the guest is sure to appreciate, set-up a system for offering this option to guests right at or by the front desk.

Offer matches or a lighter exchange program

Although the hotel industry apparently wants to banish our smoking guests forever, let's acknowledge a significant percentage of guests today still smoke occasionally, even if you force them outdoors. (By the way, if you have banished smokers outside, why not provide a covered, outdoor space away from the front door so other guests don't have to pass through a blue cloud of smoke to enter?) Even if your hotel is nonsmoking, I for one (and as a non-smoker) think it is still a good idea to offer matches upon request in the spirit of hospitality. Or even better, be the first hotel to start a cigarette lighter exchange box where departing guests can drop off their lighters and those on arrival can borrow one.

Change the air filter

Not only will attention to this detail as part of your ongoing room maintenance schedule save you significant costs since air conditioners run more efficiently, but the air in my room won't smell stale when I enter it.

Fix the stopper in the sink

By my personal estimates, at least one-third of the sink drain stoppers in my room don't seal properly when I try to fill up the basin for a shave, regardless of the number of diamonds or stars behind their front desk. Not only will this help guests like me conserve water while shaving, but it will also be very convenient if they need to wash a personal item.

Pre-printed directions

Too many front-desk associates still cannot tell me how to get to their airport, shopping mall, or other area attractions. Please don't make me rely on Mapquest to get to a meeting or area attraction. Know exit numbers, route names and numbers, and recommended best routes if there is construction.

Contact me first about my lost items and return them promptly

Not that I'm an absent-minded person, but I somehow manage to leave a steady stream of belongings behind and I sense I'm not alone. The problem is that I often don't even realize it until weeks later, and by then my success rate at getting things back is so low that I usually don't bother trying anymore. Rather than leaving it up to the guest to call and ask for their items, why not be proactive and contact them when the item is found? Seasoned hoteliers know that a good lost-and-found system is a great public relations tool that fosters viral marketing.

Don't greet me at the restaurant with, "Just one?"

When I'm traveling on business, I often find myself approaching the hostess stand of the gourmet restaurant alone, magazine or book discretely in hand. Please do not greet me with, "Just one?" and make me feel like a loser for not having a friend to dine with tonight. Instead, just welcome me and ask if I am ready to be seated. I'll tell you if I'm waiting for others.

Bring my restaurant check promptly

Similarly, and especially if I am dining alone in the romantic gourmet restaurant on Friday night, realize that a single patron probably wants a faster pace of service than those enjoying companionship at your two- and four-tops. Bringing my check promptly is especially important at breakfast as I need to get off to a fast start. Please also note this when I'm dining with others. Even at the end of casually-paced dinners, when it is time to go, it is time to go.

Doug Kennedy, President of the Kennedy Training Network, has been a fixture on the hospitality and tourism industry conference circuit since 1989, having presented over 1,000 conference keynote sessions, educational break-out seminars, or customized, on-premise training workshops for diverse audiences representing every segment of the lodging industry.


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