We look in to what makes up the guest experience and how to ensure you’re getting the most of each aspect in order to boost footfall at your hotel.

Meeting and exceeding your guests’ expectations is the gold standard of the hospitality industry. The problem is, hoteliers are constantly engaging in guest experience one-upmanship, raising customer expectations with every feature that goes from a novelty to a given.

We were keen to find out what the most prominent factors are in contributing to the overall guest experience at a hotel.

Mark Dempsie, Operations Director at RBH Hospitality Management, believes that three influences to providing a great guest experience are quality of service, cleanliness and value for money.

“Value and service often go hand-in-hand. In the world of staycations, hotel rates continue to increase and so do guest expectations. It can be easier to manage these in a full-service hotel due to the facilities available and therefore satisfying the expenditure. Guests expect a high quality of service for the money they’re spending – great service is key to the whole experience.” Said Mark.

Brand identity can be effective in managing guest expectations as each brand has a set target audience. Mark explained that the brand identity filters through everything, from the interior design and use of public spaces, to the language used by the team.

“Guests may have also experienced another hotel within that brand, therefore setting expectations from prior experiences. Branded hotels, however, can be more constrained in the way they operate, whereas independent properties can have greater flexibility, enabling them to adapt their guest experience to attract leisure guests better.” Mark added.

It goes without saying that hospitality is a people industry, and therefore having staff that will have presence and who will engage with guests is key.

Mark explained: “By not training our teams properly, guest experience and quality of service won’t be there and nor will retention. At RBH, this is part of our Learning & Development, and it is continuously tracked through our guest reviews.”

On top of the staff members, wellness, food, the bedroom, amenities and the bar are all areas which build an experience; so how can hoteliers ensure that all of these work cohesively rather than as separate entities?

Mark agrees that one of the biggest challenges can be to attract hotel guests and external visitors to stay and eat on property. Often, hotel restaurants are perceived as being less ambient, particularly if the hotel is in a central location with a wide range of restaurants and bars around: “To combat this, hotels have to compete with the high street in terms of menu, range, appearance and perception. The restaurant concept needs to be well thought through and secure a high quality of staff.

“Understanding the market, your guest profile, what they expect, what they want to experience, and need, are vital. Make sure you can deliver on all these things.” Mark added.

Firstly, to ensure all areas of the hotel work in harmony, Mark believes it’s important that everything works as a concept to guarantee a consistent experience. If it’s a wellness-focused hotel, this needs to filter through all departments, from healthy menus and wellness-inspired spa treatments, to the interior design. Tech is increasingly playing a role in this but won’t be rolled out to the same level in all hotels, therefore staff are always essential.

Creating the perfect guest experience is what hotels aim to do, but how can this then be utilised to improve client retention and footfall?

Mark believes that guest reviews can be very effective in shouting about guest experience. People are more likely to make purchases that have been recommended to them by friends and family, and guest reviews have the same effect.

“Guests are also more likely to return when they have had a positive experience. In addition to this, loyalty programmes can also be effective in driving retention. Loyalty programmes can involve regular personalised emails and rewards, thus encouraging returning guests.” Mark said.

With influencer marketing continuing to grow in popularity, specifically in the hospitality industry, it is a key tool to promote guest experience. People buy from people, therefore influencer content showcasing the experience they received can be particularly appealing.

Mark finished by saying: “Social media continues to play an important role in the overall marketing strategy for hotels. As image and video-based channels, they allow us to present the experience guests can expect to receive.”

In the opinion of Oliver Brown, General Manager at the Wivenhoe House Hotel, check-in, sleep and service are the three most important factors to the overall guest experience at a hotel.

While it is possible to reverse somebody’s first impression, you’re making it a lot harder for yourselves if you have to start on the back foot.

Oliver commented: “Nailing the check-in is really important to shape the guest’s opinion of the hotel and their experience from the offset.

“A good night’s sleep is also one of the things that a hotel absolutely must get right. If a guest wakes up tired and agitated after a disrupted and uncomfortable sleep, they may as well have stayed at home!

“Delivering a very personal and professional service is one of the only things that hoteliers have complete control of, and therefore there’s no reason not to get that part spot on. When guests feel valued, that’s what keeps them coming back.”

Oliver agrees with Mark that brand identity is a huge contributing element to the overall guest experience in that it pre-empts the guest expectation, and if they are not in sync, it will result in a poor experience.

“It’s all very well working hard to create the perfect brand persona, tone of voice, website and social media, but ultimately when the service you offer does not marry up, it can be particularly detrimental to the brand. People are your strongest marketing tool, so positive reviews, testimonials and word-of-mouth anecdotes all go a long way in strengthening a hotel’s brand.” Oliver added.

Going back to ensuring that all areas of the hotel work cohesively is important to success, and Oliver agrees: “Simply ensuring that there is a one-team approach, that all the teams are working closely together, and have access to the same information.”

At Wivenhoe House, they hold a daily briefing each morning so that all team members working that shift are cohesive in approach, aware of any challenges and clear on the main objectives for the day.

Opening up communication channels that all parties have access to is a great way of keeping everybody well informed and maintaining a sense of equal importance regardless of the department. 

Julia and Nick Davies, Owners of The Cottage in the Wood Malvern, see that the key to providing seamless guest experiences is by making visitors feel welcome and addressing all their needs before they even ask.

“We like to start the guest experience before they even book – we personally message every new follower on social media, so as soon as they hear about our hotel, they have a personal, one-to-one human interaction inviting them to discover more. This is continued throughout the booking process, and when they arrive to a warm welcome at the hotel.” Said Julia and Nick.

Having a strong CRM system allows Julia and Nick to get to know their customers before they even get there, and they ensure their preferences are met – whether that’s a bigger bed for a tall person, a bath instead of a shower or specific dietary requirements. Often, it is the smaller things that make guests feel at home.

“The quality of the product is obviously also key – and needs to be consistent throughout. Part of our refurbishment process focused around ensuring all our spaces look great and work seamlessly together so that guests can have a great experience throughout.” Added Julia and Nick.

Julia and Nick have spent a lot of time over the last couple of years honing their brand and communication style to guarantee the two are consistent with what the hotel now offers after its refurbishment: “We want it all to be a journey – the image a guest sees on social media and our website is the same as when they arrive, and the language we use is warm and welcoming throughout. We have changed our language and photography to better represent the style and quirky sophistication of the hotel, and it is all mapped out to fit the audience we want to attract.”

With staff playing a huge part in ensuring a guest’s experience is faultless, Julia and Nick have found that recruitment starts way before you start interviewing – it’s all about defining what you are looking for and what type of person you need before you even advertise the job: “When we were looking for a head chef, for example, we had 190 applicants – but only five actually fit the criteria we had decided we needed. Once you have narrowed it down, it is about personality and fit. When the right person starts, you don’t have to tell them what to do because they understand what it is you’re after.

“We have a very strong leadership team who work well together, and although hospitality recruitment is a rolling process, our team is always very specific about what they are looking for from the start, which makes it easier. We often promote from within, we pride ourselves on offering above industry-level salaries and tips are shared equally. The culture within our hotel is also key – we are involved and engaged with all our staff. We talk a lot and have respect for each other.”

The team at Farlam Hall pride themselves on offering a home-away-from- home environment. Antony Penny, Executive Director at Farlam Hall, agrees that the venue’s brand identity being prominent throughout a stay is highly important to the guest experience: Our mantra forms the DNA of our identity, and is replicated in everything we do – from Sales & Marketing collateral, to every aspect of our product delivery.”

Creating the perfect guest experience can be nailed through taking on the words of wisdom from industry experts. To really enhance the success of your business you should foster an environment where guests are actively encouraged to review their experience via online platforms, which is pivotal in this day and age.