3 Common Mistakes Hotels Make

Our blog is designed to pin point ways hotels can improve what they do, and ensure they avoid common mistakes. Hotels of all sizes and budgets should make sure they don’t make these three common mistakes.

Bad online presence

In recent years, it’s become evident that if you don’t have a nice website with great UX (user experience), you are throwing sales down the drain. We all know that. In more recent years, it’s becoming increasingly evident that if you don’t have a nice social media presence, too, you’re throwing your image down the drain, and hindering potential sales.

It’s amazing how many hotels, both small, budget, or luxury 5-star, have poor social media. It makes their hotel look shabby in a field where the attention is currently facing – social media.

Branding, image, and awareness are all important for hotels, so hire someone (like us) to manage your social media for you, and make sure you have a website which makes booking a stay as simple, and appealing, as it can possibly be.

Grab a broom

No one wants to see a hair on their pillow as they check-in, and no one wants to smell dirt or old food in the lobby or see muck on the welcome matt. We understand it’s hard for everywhere to be 100% immaculate at all times, but, if you’re cash-strapped, ask each of your team to go around the lobby/restaurant area with a brush and cloth every day, cleaning excess dirt, polishing those elevator buttons. It’s amazing the number of hotels which happily sit by with dirty communal areas.

If you do have the budget, hire a ‘perfection officer’ or ‘details officer’ or whatever you want the title to be – someone who goes around polishing the logo sign, straightening-out magazines, and ensuring everything looks spick and spam.

Say cheese!

Ever wondered the corridors of a hotel as a guest, seen a member of staff, and smiled at them – only to get a flat, emotionless face stare back at you? And you then say to yourself, “wait, I’m the guest, shouldn’t they smile at me?” – yep, us too. All too often.

Make sure it’s common practice for all your staff, from the sales manager to the housekeeping trainee, to say “good morning/afternoon/evening sir/madam” with a warm smile. It’s one of many details which go a long way in our world.

Secret Hotel Critic perfect your hotel, both in its physical and online presence. From social media management, to anonymous consulting, we leave no pillow un-fluffed, and no corner un-critiqued. Kindly explore our work by clicking here.

3 Ways To Make Your Hotel Stand Out

Particularly useful for independent, boutique hotels, making your hotel stand out is a continual aim. Even branded hotels with no element of luxury or specific USP should aim to be different. Here are a few ways to help.

A special welcome

Unique welcomes are the perfect way to kick off a guest’s stay. Special surprises combined with the excitement new guests often face increases the chance of guests sharing their experiences, or eagerly returning.

Try delivering some delicious cake, a homemade treat, or a glass of champagne as they check-in. Implement cultural elements, such as a local delicacy, where possible.  

Exceptional service

Often the most memorable hotel moments come from superb service. Integrate specific standards within your team so your service standards are set apart from the rest.

Make sure each guest has a hand-written welcome note, ensure concierge knows the nooks and cranny’s of your location, and take each stage of the guest experience to the next level – is Wi-Fi available in your airport transfer cars? Do guests get a call when in the car asking for any specific requirements and welcoming them? Do your team call guests by their name?

That element of surprise goes a long way in setting your hotel apart, and keeping you ingrained in guests’ mind, encouraging repeat reservations.

Special element to each room

Add a special feature to each room, each guest experience.

Maybe it’s a new theme to each room, a hidden area in your top suite, free tickets to a local attraction in your city, a story behind the history of each room written down as you arrive, or the history of your hotel’s building. Unique elements in your room can help natural, free PR, and always helps in getting people talking. Think of what is unique in your property and utilise it. 

Secret Hotel Critic is a British-based company helping hotels perfect their operations. Click here for more details or to enquire, and thanks for reading our blog.

3 Basic Things Hotels Fail At

If you have a bad experience with a hotel, you’re probably not going to return. That’s the vicious nature of this business. Let’s look at three things you need to avoid in your hotel:

First impression

Those shrubs outside your hotel, when did you last water them? Do you even have some flowers? This isn’t just for The Lanesborough, budget hotels can offer a warm welcome with a clean, pretty entrance. Move that garbage bin out of view, and keep your name sign clean, along with the windows.

Once you step inside, is there a strong smell of old food? Or just a bit of dust? Control the scent and use some plug-in scent infusers if you must.

You’ve gotten past the bad smell, and you’ve landed at the reception desk. Firstly, is the desk too cluttered, unorganised? Secondly, were you greeted with a smile? A “welcome to…”? Please tell me you were. It’s surprising how often the front of house team can be rude. I have walked up to reception desks and not even been looked at (i.e. ignored) for several moments before an unwelcoming “Hi” many times.  

Use a mystery shopper or external influence to judge your first impressions honestly, as they’re so important.

Basic standards

From the shrubs to the lobby chairs and the desk in your room, are the furnishings OKAY? I highlight okay because not every hotel can offer luxurious antiques, but all hotels should offer furnishings that are functionable and not battered – this looks bad and, in some cases, can be dangerous.

I understand refurbishment isn’t easy or cheap. But keep an eye on those knocks and bumps and replace furnishings when there’s a stain or crack. Don’t forget; whether you’re at a budget or luxury property, you should get the impression you are the first person to ever stay in that room, not a number on a conveyer belt.

Cleanliness is an obvious one. One hair or dirty pillow and the chances of a guest returning are basically written off. Critique your cleaning processes constantly, feedback to your maids and consult your hotel contacts to steal some tips and tricks (or, again, use a mystery shopper!).

Online presence

In the modern age, this is important. Very important. If you click on your hotels Instagram page, does it look like you’ve closed down? When did you last do a post? If you are a budget hotel, highlight why people visit you – social media isn’t just for luxury or boutique hotels.
Likewise, if your website is rubbish, it doesn’t inspire confidence. Potential guests are likely to check out your website, and perhaps Facebook and Instagram, before booking. Image is important regardless of your nightly rate.

I hope this blog was useful for you! Secret Hotel Critic are mystery shoppers for hotels, operating globally. Our anonymous and meticulous critiques identify how to perfect your hotel and increase revenue streams. We also provide social media management for hotels. Click here to discover both. Join us on Instagram here.

3 Essential Guidelines To The Art Of Customer Service

In the world of hotels, customer service is (arguably) more important than in any other. One bad guest-employee experience, and the likelihood that guest will return is virtually 0. On the flipside, a positive experience may see the guest boast about it to their friends and family for months to come. Let’s outline three key guidelines to successful customer service in hotels of nearly all types, sizes and budgets.

Taking the extra proverbial mile

Taking the extra proverbial mile may seem obvious, and may seem expected in the hotel industry, but so often, employees lack the inspiration or motivation to do so. Simple, quick procedures can be added to provoke that inspired guest experience. Take the step to ask guests if they’d like their boarding card printed, ask beforehand if their stay is for a special occasion, and remember their name (calling them Mr/Mrs x) will make them notice the extra effort.

A prepared welcome

Have you ever turned up to a hotel and been the first to say “hello” at reception? It’s not the best start. Make sure your team have prepared what to say. “Welcome to x” is simple, but continue to ask about their journey and if they need any assistance in their city. Avoid personal questions, but make them feel welcome and at ease.

That surprise element

The surprise element is an extension of taking the extra proverbial mile. A positive surprise will increase the chances of guests sharing their stay with friends and family. It will encourage the chances of them sharing their time on social media and should, at the least, put a smile on their face. A chocolate on the pillow is nice, but try calling them before their departure with a small local gift, or a simple “thank you for staying with us”. If they have airport transfer, call the car during and ask if they require anything upon arrival. These small, thoughtful touches go a long way.

Thanks for reading and I hope this was a useful blog. Learn more about Secret Hotel Critic here.

3 Ways To Give Guests A Terrible First Impression

Naturally, you do not want to give guests a bad first impression. From the moment guests, or prospective guests, enter your hotel, they ought to be wowed.

Many hotels, unfortunately, fail to deliver on this and leave guests with a sour taste before they’ve even checked in. First impressions are key (not just in the dating scene), and you never know who might provide future business, so here’s a few tips all hotels should be utilising.

A clean exterior

There’s nothing worse than arriving at your home-from-home, and seeing a disgusting exterior in desperate need of a face-lift. A dirty exterior will put off potential guests or local business before they step foot inside.

Make sure your designated smoking area is not right by the front door, there is no litter on your doorstep, and all ornaments, flags, signs etc., are all clean and in good shape. Further, keep room in your budget for the regular upkeep of window ledges, flower pots, and updating exterior panelling. If your exterior looks poor, expectations are shot instantly.

Keep it fresh

Once you’ve gotten past the (hopefully) immaculate exterior, make sure your immediate interior is looking just as perfect. The entrance rug should always be clean, your floor space needs to be equally spotless, and be sure to keep a form of scent diffuser present at all times. There’s nothing worse than entering a messy, smelly hotel lobby.

Other small touches include the polishing of lift buttons (germaphobes hate pressing clean buttons, never mind filthy ones), and making sure appropriate music (not chart bangers) is ticking along in the background. For an extra touch, keep some fresh water or treats on hand for lingering guests to enjoy.

A warm welcome

Ensure your front-of-house staff are well-dressed, well-groomed, trained to ask how guests how they are, how their journey was, and to (where necessary) apologise for a delayed wait. When check-in is complete, wish them a pleasant stay and be sure to offer any assistance whatsoever. All with a smile, of course! This is a basic requirement of any hotel that’s often unfulfilled. Of course, where bellboys are employed, this level of service is tailored differently.

Secret Hotel Critic offer online audits and mystery shopping for hotels. Click here to discover our packages, and many thanks for reading.

 

4 Ways To Impress Guests With Customer Service

Sometimes, the smallest touches and surprising elements of customer service leave the longest-lasting impressions. It doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult to ensure your guests’ stay becomes one of their favourites ever. Further, what better way to provoke positive word-of-mouth about your hotel? Below are four ways you can impress guests with your customer service.

Try to ensure all guest-facing staff memorise guests’ names (unless their behaviour has suggested this is not welcome). Calling a guest by their name adds a personalised and welcoming touch to their experience.

Upon booking, ask guests if their stay is for a special occasion. If it is, make sure you welcome them correctly. For example, if it’s an anniversary, surprise them with flowers and chocolates, followed by a free drink in your bar. Lucky guests who receive this service will remember and recommend you forever.

Upon check-in, ask guests what type of pillow they would like. Some guests are allergic to certain feathers, and others simply prefer one pillow type over others. The thought will be appreciated.

Place a card in each room asking guests to tell you how successful their stay was over social media. This is a good way to grow your social media and gain crucial feedback.

Secret Hotel Critic are mystery shoppers for hotels, operating globally. Our anonymous and meticulous critiques identify how to perfect your hotel and increase revenue streams. Read more, and book your secret hotel critic or audit, here.

3 Branding Tips For Hotels

As more and more hotel brands pop-up, hotels are increasingly looking for ways to gain that special USP and extra ounce of competitive advantage. Here are three tips and ideas for hotels looking to give their brand a memorable edge.

Unique design

If you observe Marriott’s upmarket brand Bulgari Hotels, you’ll notice each property has the same architectural exterior design. Each property has a stylish form of mesh which makes each hotel instantly recognisable. Further, the design’s uniqueness means it is frequently shared by guests and popular pages across social media.

While not all hotels can realistically and easily refurbish their entire architecture, rooms can be designed in a unique style (see CitizenM hotels as an example), or unique pieces of art could hang in the hallway of each hotel, for example.

Something unique, and ideally shareable (so guests will be more likely to share their experiences), is ideal for establishing a recognisable and memorable brand.

Synonymous look

Your brand guidelines should be intact so that your hotel is instantly recognisable across the board. From social media, website pages and brochures, to email signatures, business cards and stalls, make sure you use the same logo, font, colour scheme and design templates where applicable.

If a luxury hotel has a fabulous black and gold website, but a few horrible graphics and images on their Instagram feed, there’s a distinct feeling of poor communication, and no synonymous brand image.

Schedule a brand review with your marketing and communications team every one or two months to make sure all typology and all visual aspects look perfect and represent the same desired brand image.

Unique line of products

Does anyone remember the enjoyable piece of chocolate left on your pillow that you’d savour each night you spent in a Marriott hotel? This is an example of a branded product adding an extra dimension to the brand, and making each guest’s stay ever-so-slightly more enjoyable and memorable.

It doesn’t have to be chocolate (there’s probably a reason Marriott stopped doing that, after all), but a range of hotel-branded products which guests either enjoy on the spot, or take home with them, is a great way to extend your brand. A few ideas include branded toiletries, biscuits, coffee or tea, sweets, champagne or beer, water, slippers, eye-masks, earplugs, or books (who’s read the book about Four Seasons?).

It’s all about enhancing the experience, making each stay more memorable and developing an influential brand.

Secret Hotel Critic are mystery shoppers for hotels, operating globally. Our anonymous and meticulous critiques identify how to perfect your hotel and increase revenue streams. Read more, and book your secret hotel critic here.

3 Small Touches To Enhance Guest Stays

Sometimes, it’s the little things that make a stay memorable. While we all appreciate grandiose chandeliers and exquisite service, small touches will stick in the mind of guests, encouraging their return.

The local touch

Team up with your local bakery, coffee shop or jewellers and sell (or offer) a selection of products in-house. I am not referring to the placement of Starbucks within Marriott Hotels, here, but your corner bakery which bakes fresh Parisian croissants each morning. Offer guests a complimentary croissant, or sell them in your café. This is a brilliant way to incorporate local authenticity into any international hotel, while simultaneously helping your community.

Decorative touches

Decorative touches rarely go unnoticed, and will put a smile on the face of your more observant guests. By decorative touches, by the way, I am not referring to tinsel at Christmas time. Make a pattern with the end of each toilet roll, make a design with the towels or pillows which looks lush, but unique. The extra effort further bridges the gap between budget bureaucratic and luxury boutique.

A welcoming note

This can occasionally be found in Marriott Hotels – ask your housekeeping team to leave a small hand-written note in each room they clean. Something along the lines of “Laura enjoyed cleaning your room for your comfort today – we hope you enjoy your stay with us, and we look forward to welcoming you again soon”. Small, but personal and welcoming. Laura might even find herself with extra tips.
Along the welcoming note, upon check-in, make sure your reception team ask guests if they have a pillow of preference (this one, perhaps, is more atoned to luxury or boutique hotels opposed to bureaucratic operations). It’s easy to forget that some guests are allergic or uncomfortable around feather or duck pillows.

We’re so particular because that’s our job. At SecretHotelCritic.com, we check into your hotel, critique every nook and cranny, from staff friendliness to dust in the toilet, before compiling a comprehensive and useful report on how you can improve, what was great, and what wasn’t so great. Operating globally, book your secret hotel critic here.

Online Marketing That All Hotels Should Be Doing

The modern world of Marketing calls for more and more effort from Hotels, with enhancements in technology, analytics, and diversity of platforms increasing the necessity of Online Marketing for all Hotels.
Below are the key areas every Hotel should be utilising to not only keep up with the competitive standards, but to outperform them and see more traffic driven to their OTA or directly to their site.

Google Ads

There’s a reason Google practically own the internet – they can provide value for their customers. One of the most influential ways they do that is using their effective advertising tool Google Ads. Similar to Facebook ads only in a wider perspective, Google Ads allows you to target people via demographics, geographies, interests, search behaviour and more.
All hotels who take their online marketing seriously will be continually using Google Ads to drive traffic to their site or OTA. Just think of the potential: how many people each day will search (for example) “Hotels in London” into Google? If Google Ads ensure you rank top of this search topic, then your ROI will be recovered by the time anybody utters the word Expedia.

Online ads

A less-targeted but similarly necessary way to promote your Hotel online is using advertisements in trade publications, lifestyle, business or travel magazines.

Do you have a local convention in your town every year? Pull out an advert in their magazine/emails they send to their attendees, and you’re likely to see some reservations as a result. Further, if your hotel has business facilities to sell, look no further than advertising in local business-focused publications. These advertisements often cover physical and online formats, and can often be cost-effective.

Social Media

Social Media marketing for Hotels could take up an entire blog, or even book, to discuss fully. But we’ll do our best here. All Hotels looking to fully utilise the extensive benefits of social media should have an account on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. The core of successful social media is amazing content, regularly. But on top of that, social media influencers, paid campaigns, and contests should be used to give your social media an extra edge. Hotels using social media are still in relevant infancy, but it’s an upcoming space where you still have an opportunity to gain serious competitive (and lucrative) advantage.

SEO

SEO, or search engine optimisation, is the changes you can make to your site and your business to ensure it ranks higher in an online search. For example, if you search “Hotels in Manchester” into Google, there are (at the time of writing) 34,900,000 results. This means getting your website at the top, or even on the first page, requires some work. SEO experts will get your website ranked highly whenever certain keywords are used. For hotels, this is a massive advantage to overcome competition, but it requires a lot of knowledge, or a significant investment.

PPC

PPC, or pay-per-click advertising, is an effective form of online marketing due to the low-risk nature of it – with PPC, you won’t waste your money on unwanted traffic – but only relevant and useful traffic. Add a PPC campaign to your Google Ads, Online Ads, Social Media and SEO investments for the perfect online marketing campaign for hotels.

Blogging

Less-essential than the others, but still important in driving keyword traffic to your site, blogs are a great way to add an extension to your brand. For example: Secret Hotel Critic. We started a blog for three main reasons; firstly, to help our SEO ranking; secondly to convey our expertise, knowledge and opinions, and thirdly to provide content for our social media and other marketing streams. Blogs don’t need to be very long, don’t need to take up much time and don’t need to cost much.

The key advantages of investing time and money into online marketing are that Hotels can choose where traffic is driven to, competitive advantage can be achieved, you can extend your brand, and simply increase reservation numbers.
With most bookings coming from online, fail to use the above methods and not only will less potential customers discover your Hotel, but those that do will be driven directly to an OTA or competitor.

At Secret Hotel Critic, we have established specialist Social Media Marketing partners in order to provide our customers with a discounted service which is essential to an effective online presence. If you’d like an introduction, please email our team here.
Secret Hotel Critic is intense mystery shopping for Hotels. We check in anonymously, critique every nook and cranny of your hotel, before reporting back with an extensive insight into your hotel from an honest guest’s opinion. We also provide extra suggestions for ways to increase revenue streams and improve guest experience. Click here to learn more or to book your Secret Hotel Critic.

What Makes The Perfect Hotel Lobby?

First impressions are important. Hotel lobbies not only provide the first impressions of your hotel, but they are the centre-stage, the meeting space, and they offer the first taste of escapism guests crave after a day’s travelling. That’s why it’s important your lobby is in tip-top shape, at all times.

Decor

The most visual aspect to a lobby is its décor. A lobby is a reflection of your hotel and its rooms, so make sure it’s spotless and inspiring. Not all guests book in advance, and speculative future guests may be in town for a meeting at your hotel - if your lobby is horrible, they won’t stay with you next time they’re in town.
A grand entrance is preferred, and hotel lobbies should be renovated every few years to ensure all furniture, fittings and fashions are fresh and modern.

Facilities and Functionality

A lobby shouldn’t just look pretty, but it should be usable. I write this, coincidentally, while sat in a hotel lobby. As I look up, I see people working, meetings taking place, printing facilities, about 10 Apple Macs for guests to use, umbrellas, a café, comfortable seats, a café, ATM, basic kitchen facilities, a shop, TVs, local information and a water dispenser. They pretty much describe the essentials to a functioning lobby.
Functionality equals guest usage which adds atmosphere and an instantly positive impression for new or perspective guests. Make your lobby a place to be used and enjoyed, not just a place to pass through and pick up your key.

Aroma and Atmosphere

Somebody famous once said that the moment you walk into a Four Seasons, you’re transported into a feeling of comfort and relaxation. This is what you should aim for in the perfect lobby. No matter what stresses you carry as you enter the hotel doors, a perfect lobby will make one relaxed and comfortable.

Further, atmosphere is important. An empty lobby isn’t a good sign. Add some space for people to work, meet, read or even catch up on the news; this will draw guests into the lobby and provide some atmosphere. Make sure there are no irritating drafts, marks of dirt or damage, and ensure the music is appropriate and not too loud. An obvious, but incredibly important element is aroma. People want the smell of luxury they wouldn’t experience anywhere else, not the smell of the streets.

Secret Hotel Critic is intense mystery shopping for Hotels. We check in anonymously, critique every nook and cranny of your hotel, before reporting back with an extensive insight into your hotel from an honest guest’s opinion. We also provide extra suggestions for ways to increase revenue streams and improve guest experience generally. Our aim is to make your hotel perfect. Click here to learn more or to book your Secret Hotel Critic.