With so much attention on getting income up and costs down, have we lost sight of some of the basics?\
Over the past few weeks I've been interviewing a number of prominent hotel professionals in my series 'How to Give Your Hotel a Competitive Edge'.
One of the messages that kept coming up over and over was about getting the basics right. These are some of the points raised:The Welcome
The condition and cleanliness of all areas
- Do your guest always get greeted with a smile and made to feel special?
- How well do your staff anticipate guests needs before they ask for things?
- Do you give attention to detail and have any special little touches for guests?
- Do you know what constitutes a good welcome for your guests? Do they like to be fussed over, or would they prefer to be left to their own devices?
- When staff service a room do they routinely put everything back to the standard layout, or leave things the way guests have laid them?
Do you have a strict audited cleaning programme in place? And does this ensure that the bedroom and bathroom are spotlessly clean (including under the bed, on top of wardrobes, under the basin)?
And when was the last time anything saw a lick of paint? Take a look with a fresh pair of eyes and check whether anything looks tired and in need of a facelift. It's a good idea to walk the customer journey at least once a week to check this out. Better still ask others to do this on a rotating cycle; different people will pick up on different things, and even if you can't address everything at once, at least you'll know where needs attention and can schedule it into your maintenance plan and budget.
And when it comes to refurbs do you go all out on one or two rooms, or do you spread your budget to the benefit of all areas? There's no one answer to this question, but think about the impact on your guests, your staff and your business as a whole. Is upgrading just one room benefiting only a very small proportion of your business, whilst other areas visible to all guests are left wanting?The practicality
How practical are your hotel rooms? Unless you experience a night's stay for yourself you wont be able to see what works and what doesn't. I recently stayed in a very snazzy hotel, and it looked great, but when I met with my colleagues at breakfast we were all complaining that none of it was practical. Definitely a case of form over function on that occasion.
Ask yourself these questions:
A good night's sleep
- Do I have to strip the desk or dressing table of marketing bumf before I can put anything down?
- Is there anywhere to hang the hand towel? Or hang the bath towel so it can be reused?
- Is there anywhere to put down my toiletries in the bathroom, or put my makeup down where I can reach it and still see in the mirror?
- Does the kettle lead reach the socket without having to put the kettle on the floor, and still leave free power sockets accessible if I need to plug in my laptop or phone charger?
- Does the showerhead and water pressure give a decent shower?
- Is there anywhere to hang my dressing gown – either in the bathroom or bedroom?
- Can I see myself in the mirror whilst holding the hairdryer?
- Can I sit comfortably at the desk without banging my knees, and have enough light at the desk to read by without sitting in my own shadow?
- Can I open a window without using brute force?
- Can I comfortably watch TV from the chair?
- Do I have to strip off half a dozen unnecessary pillows before I can get into bed (and make extra laundry into the bargain)?
- Do you have to get out of bed to switch out the light?
When was the last time you slept in one of your own hotel beds? Even if guests don't make use of the hotel facilities or get up early enough for breakfast, the one thing that all your guests will expect is a good night's sleep. So check out your beds. A good quality mattress and base is key; and unless you check your beds regularly you wont know when they need replacing.
A good night's sleep will also be affected by light, noise and temperature. Do the curtains meet in the middle and cut out street lighting and the sunrise?
Is there any noise from outside such as bottle disposal from the bar, air-conditioning units, traffic, your own bar or other local bars? Or internally from lift shafts, banging pipes, neighbouring rooms. I remember one sleepless night being disturbed by music throughout the night, only to discover it was from a radio in the night manager's office in the adjoining room.
And how is the room temperature? Is the air conditioning or heating system clear to adjust without having to call reception? Perceived value for money
All of the above, of course add to the perception of value for money, but value for money will mean different things to different people. So how well do you understand what is important to guests? Is what they receive as good as or better than what guests are expecting?
You should be constantly looking for ways to add value for guests, and particularly look for items that are low cost to you, but high perceived value to your guests. Is everything provided that would be expected at the price point your guests have paid? People's expectation of what's included at breakfast, for example, will be very different if they are paying £12.95 rather than £4.95. Do you let guests know everything that is included in their rate? And do you include everything they might expect to be included, such as free WiFi.
Value for money also means a clear and transparent cancellation policy - having to pay for something you have not used will not be seen as good value!
Consider how you compare with your competition, and if you are competing with brands and budget hotels focus on the personal touches that you can add that they can't offer.
The full interview series, strategy planner and audit checklists can be found at ‘How to Give Your Hotel a Competitive Edge‘.Caroline Cooper is a business coach with over 25 years in business and management development. She is the founder of Zeal Coaching, specialising in working with hospitality businesses, and is author of the 'Hotel Success Handbook'For more information on Zeal Coaching see www.zealcoaching.com