Every hotelier has a perfect journey that they would like their guests to take — booking their stay directly through the property’s website, having a memorable experience, leaving a glowing review on every platform available, and returning year on year. But much as that journey is the dream, turning it into a reality is no walk in the park. So how do the top hotels manage to provide consistently excellent experiences and see their guests leave glowing feedback at the end of their stays?
We asked some hoteliers from among the top-ranked 5% of GuestRevu clients to give us their tips on getting great reviews from their guests, and they were happy to help.
Make a good impression before your guests even arrive
A great experience does not start when a guest arrives at your property. In reality, it starts well before then, when they first come across you and decide to book their stay. That’s why, as Sophie Shotton, General Manager of Yorebridge House, explains, “we always aim to set a positive impression of the hotel and the team before the guest has even arrived.”
“Having a simple and approachable booking process with clear room prices and special offers is the start,” she continues. “Not rushing the booking process, and taking the time to record as much information as the guest gives, allows you to create personalised documentation such as confirmation letters and pre-arrival letters which contribute to this first impression.”
While guests are with you...
Make it personal
No guest wants to feel that the experience they’re getting is identical to every other at your property, and nor should they. Every guest will have a different reason for their visit, different preferences, and different personalities. As Christina Metcalfe, owner of Downham Hall, puts it, “alongside customer service is the difficult task of working out very quickly what your guest is like, what they may wish to hear and adapting your conversation according to who you are speaking to so that you can meet their needs.”
The great news is that you have the information at your fingertips to provide them with the individualised experiences that they’re looking for. From the moment a booking comes through, you can garner details about your guest and the stay that they are hoping for. How many people are in the party? Have they booked over an important period — Valentine’s Day? Christmas? Carnivale? Have they visited you before? Before you’ve even met your guests, you can start forming an idea of who they are, and begin personalising their stay accordingly.
Even the simplest gestures can have great effect when it comes to personalisation. As Lauren Berry, Marketing Manager of Lanzerac Hotel, explains: “Guests always want to be acknowledged and made to feel special – from the personalised greeting, hand-written welcome letter in the rooms to the generous amenities provided.”
Make your guests feel at home
Your guests may travel from far and wide, but making them feel at home, whether their home is across the globe or down the road, can set the experience that you provide apart from the rest. Whether it’s “a comfortable yet exclusive experience”, like the one that Banhoek Lodge provides, or the “personal connection and home-away-from-home feeling” that Lanzerac Hotel offers, managing to make your guests feel at ease is a sure-fire way to get great feedback.
Provide exceptional customer service
Exceptional customer service is at the heart of any great guest experience and, as Julio de Carvalho, General Manager of The Headland Hotel in Torquay, explains, can directly impact the kind of feedback that you will receive. “I believe that by doing your best while the guest is staying with you, prior to check-out, will determine what type of review you are going to get,” he says. “I know that if I invest nothing with my guest, I can expect them to feel the same about me. So we try our utmost best to engage with our guest and make a friend for life.”
Lauren of Lanzerac Hotel agrees, and to her and her team, doing the utmost involves a balance of intuitive service – “looking for unexpected surprises and delightful moments” — and “a back to the basics service culture”.
After your guest leaves, find out how you can do better next time and for the next guest
“We genuinely care about our guests and that is reflected from their first encounter with us to their last. Their opinions matter to us and they know that. So they don’t feel that leaving feedback is a useless activity.” — Jana Jones, Portmeirion Hotel
Getting feedback from guests is essential for any property. It can show you where your experiences are hitting the mark and exceeding expectations, and where they’re falling short. But finding the balance between encouraging guests to tell you about their stays and inundating them with requests for feedback is just as important. As Jeanine Erasmus, General Manager of Simonzicht Guest House, explains, “it is important to make guests feel comfortable to share their comments during their stay.”
So how do properties walk this fine line? For Jana Jones, Head of Marketing for Portmeirion Hotel, it’s about providing guests with every opportunity to give their feedback, but without forcing it. “We ask people to leave feedback in the way that suits them best. We offer a variety of feedback options and we allow guests to leave feedback in their own time, when it is convenient for them to do so,” she explains.
For Abigail Meade, Front of House for Careys Manor Hotel, it’s essential to get feedback from their guests before they leave, ensuring that any hiccups in their guests’ stays can be resolved before they result in a negative experience. “We strive to capture any grievances in-house and make suitable service recovery attempts to counteract disappointment,” she explains. “We also encourage our reception team to ask questions at check-out in relation to the various different aspects of the guest experience.”
And Jeanine of Simonzicht agrees. “When you do receive feedback, it is so important to action on it right away before they depart (if you can). Changing any negative experience around while they are staying with you, is vital — so that by the time our automatic GuestRevu feedback survey goes out to them, you would have managed to restore a more positive response rather than only then hearing about the negative issues that happened during their stay”
Finally, Abigail of Careys Manor Hotel has found that GuestRevu’s TripAdvisor Platinum Partnership has greatly helped her efforts in encouraging guests to leave reviews. “Have your TripAdvisor link turned on,” she explains, “as this has been hugely beneficial for us and has significantly enhanced the number of reviews that we receive.”
Once your guests have given you feedback…
Respond to it promptly
One of the most valuable opportunities for any property is the chance to become an active participant in your online reputation. Responding to reviews across social platforms, online travel agencies and review sites allows you to show your guests how much you value their opinions, and shows future guests how important your guest experiences are to you.
As Julio of The Headland Hotel explains, “responding to customer reviews, especially the negative ones, is an essential step in building trust and good will, so that we can create repeat business for our hotels.”
“A very important part of our day is to at least end the day with a 100% response to all negative reviews,” he continues, “as this has a massive impact on our ratings. Then focus on completing as much of the positives ones as you can, before the day’s end.”
Abigail of Careys Manor Hotel agrees that negative reviews in particular should be resolved as quickly as possible. “We respond to negative surveys within 24 hours, preferably contacting guests via telephone to form a better relationship.”
This personal approach is one the Julio of The Headland Hotel takes as well, referring to it as an opportunity to “make a friend”. “One of the best ways I have found to deal with negative reviews is to take it offline and call the guest personally,” he explains. “This way you are not having to explain your short comings online, but rather discussing the point in person. And I have found that half the time when you do have the chance to get them back to discuss the issues of their stay we end up talking about each other and not even about the problem, all they wanted was to be heard and know that we care about them.”
Look for trends and actionable insights
“Monitoring what people say about our business is the critical first step to creating a cycle that delivers more positive reviews, higher overall ratings and rankings and, ultimately, more business.” — Julio de Carvalho, The Headland Hotel
Getting feedback is not only wonderful for social proof, for your online reputation, for highlighting the areas of your stay that you are exceeding expectations in, but it can also provide valuable insights into your operations, indicating trends in your guest journey, experience and overall satisfaction.
As Vicky and Chris Saynor, owners of Bethnal & Bec explain, “where constructive criticism is passed on, we accept it with humility & look at where we can action changes to ensure that we are meeting the needs of our guests.” And they are hardly alone in this stance.
“We analyse the qualitative and quantitative data on a regular basis,” says Careys Manor Hotel’s Abigail, “and make attempts to improve any trending or common areas of disappointment.”
“The analytics and competitor benchmarking are great reports available via the GuestRevu platform,” Sophie Shotton of Yorebridge House points out, “and we regularly use these to compare our results over time, reward staff and incentivise them to perform the following month.”
Motivate your team
It’s well known that happy staff make for happy guests, and sharing feedback with your teams can go a long way to showing them how their hard work has an immediate impact on the guest experience that you are able to provide.
As Sophie of Yorebridge House explains, “it is great that our staff have access to our feedback to continuously strive for excellence in customer service – this gives them a real sense of ownership for their department and the overall hotel rating too.”
“We share positive feedback with team members on a very regular basis,” Abigail of Careys Manor Hotel agrees, “to boost morale and motivate employees.” And Maryke of Banhoek Lodge adds that “it definitely takes a great team to reach this, and we have been blessed with a group of hard working, ambitious and loving staff.”