At a time when consumers are bombarded with promotions of glitzy buildings, immaculate grounds and the alluring sea frontages of resorts, an executive from a leading international lodging company says the human touch is key to the building of memorable visits for guests and a major contributor to the operation of a successful property.
Speaking on the panel “People to People: The Importance of Service and Value” at the Caribbean Tourism Summit and Outlook Seminar in Montego Bay, Jamaica last month, Bill Clegg of Choice Hotels International contended there are at least 11 “touch points” during which each guest interacts with a hotel in one way or another.
Clegg, the Regional Vice President for Brand Performance and Programs, stressed the importance of these “touch points” and recognizing them, “from the start of on-line research to actually making reservations, from the van on the way to the hotel, through check-in, and even as they encounter housekeeping, grounds, restaurant, and other staff during their stay.”
Underscoring the importance of each staff member, Clegg reminded how the human touch makes a significant effect on visitors: “Each encounter a guest has with a member of the hotel staff presents itself as an opportunity to create a memorable moment. Each of us has a spark of hospitality within us – it’s how we all build on that spark, as team members at every hotel, that will ensure guests recognize and appreciate our commitment to hospitality and guest satisfaction.”
Clegg, who travels widely in North America and the Caribbean, stressed the gentle human touch had to be enhanced with constant training: “Owners and managers of Caribbean hotels must ensure that they establish and communicate, train and retrain, on specific points of hospitality. Extending a cool towel and cold beverage after the ride from the airport, greeting each guest whom we pass within 10 feet, calling all guests soon after check-in to ensure that the room meets their needs, leaving brief thank-you notes after tips are left in the guestroom, and sincere e-mails or written notes after departure – these should be the norm, the baseline, at every hotel in the region.”
Asserting social media presented many new opportunities to ensure value and satisfaction, Clegg appeals to hotel managers to “post and review with their staff at least weekly, the comments that guests have made through our Choice Hotels guest insight system, through our Customer Relations department, and on-line travel and feedback sites.”
And, he reported Choice Hotels managers are reminded of the need to monitor the competition on line: “We not only read and act on comments on Choice brand hotels, but we read those of our competitors to better understand what visitors to our islands expect and appreciate. And, many of our Choice Hotels franchise owners reward staff members whose names are mentioned in positive comments.”
Clegg noted the average visitor to Choice Caribbean properties is well informed and no stranger to hotel rooms, profiling them as “someone in his or her 30s or 40s, who often stays in hotels for more than 20 nights per year, and is a member of our Choice Privileges frequency program. These are guests who have seen and experienced a variety in hotel service and have come to appreciate good service. They hold their past experiences up as examples, and we must seek to meet or exceed what they’ve experienced in the past, in this unique and wonderful destination called the Caribbean!”
The Choice Hotels vice president was pleased to see visitation numbers, and returning guests, continue to increase across the Caribbean region, in particular, to the islands where Choice Hotels is represented by hotels in Ascend Hotel Collection, Clarion, Comfort Inn, Comfort Suites, and Quality Inn brands. “We’re seeing both first-time visitors, and those who have chosen to return, as the economic downturn recedes.”