It’s a no-brainer in the accommodations industry: you want your guests to be happy.
After all, happy guests mean glowing reviews, word-of-mouth referrals and repeat guests. Plus, you get the personal satisfaction that comes from mastering the ancient art of hospitality.
With time, though, it’s common for your “guest happiness “goals to fall by the wayside in favour of the daily nuts-and-bolts of running a short-term rental or small hotel. Sometimes it’s easier to just cross your fingers and hope for easygoing guests.
If you’ve forgotten your raison d’être—guest happiness, of course—now is the time to refocus and reposition your goals toward ensuring that every guest leaves with a smile on his or her face.
Here are Touch Stay’s recommendations for reaching your guest happiness goals.
1. First and foremost – ask your guests.
Happiness Goal Number 1 – Before each guest stay, find one thing that will make the guests time in your property extra-special. Then do your best to deliver.
It might seem obvious, but many hotels and rental hosts forget to simply ask their guests what would make them happy during their stay. And it’s not a one-size-fits-all set of standards.
It only takes one nugget of information—a comment on the phone, an email exchange, a casual conversation during check-in—and you have an opportunity to create a moment of happiness. As a minimum, include a quick (templated) email in your pre-arrival processes. Ask them a simple, straightforward question, like: “What brings you here to [destination]? What’s one thing we could do that would make your stay great?”
Take note of their answers, then let your staff know of any guest needs—a small gift and handwritten note for a couple celebrating their golden anniversary to baby-proof cabinet locks for families with toddlers.
Not every set of guests will answer your “what can we do?” query. Even if they don’t, they’ll appreciate being asked. It’s a win-in.
“But,” we can hear you say, “that’s not scalable for my 100-property business!”
Wrong! We know PMs that successfully do this. It’s all about developing more thoughtful (and auto-repeatable) processes.
2. Get a friend or family member to spend the night at your accommodation.
Happiness Goal Number 2 – Invite your brutally honest friend to stay in your rental, ask them a series of specific questions about their experience, and then put their feedback into action.
For a 100% brutally honest view of the customer experience at your accommodation, no one is better than an outspoken friend or family member. Choose someone who you can trust will give it to you straight, and then let them know that their brutal honesty will be a huge benefit to you and your business.
Start them right at the beginning of the booking process, and treat them like any other guest. Have them book through your chosen portal and either set the rate at zero or have them stop at the point where they input payment details. Ask them to point out any hiccups or annoyances with the booking procedure.
Then, follow up with your usual arrival/check-in instructions email (or preferably a digital welcome book!) and ask them to let you know if everything was clear and easy to understand.
Remember to resist the urge to give your friend/family member any special treatment. You want them to have an identical experience to your everyday guests.
Then have them point out anything about the actual rental that was less-than-perfect. Sometimes, real guests will be too polite (or too distracted by their vacation) to alert you about small maintenance issues at the property, like a burned out lightbulb or a glitchy coffeemaker.
Be prepared with a list of specific questions for your “test guest,” such as:
- Was there a moment at any part of the process—from booking to check-out—that caused you stress?
- Did you feel well taken care of?
- What most surprised you—good or bad—about the rental or renting experience?
- Were the basics up to scratch? Beds comfortable? Bathrooms clean? Kitchen knives sharp?
- Are there any maintenance or operational issues we should be aware of?
- Was anything broken, out of place, or confusing to operate?
- What’s the one thing we could do to improve guest comfort at this rental?
Of course, then comes time for Step 2: use what you learned to offer a cut-above experience for future guests.
3. Make sure you provide crystal clear check-in and arrival information.
Happiness goal number 3 – Improve your post-booking welcome materials to help your guests feel content in advance of their stay.
Whether you’re attracting business travellers, millennials or retired couples to your accommodation, eliminating uncertainty and the potential for (unwelcome) surprises is the true foundation of guest happiness.
Your place isn’t the Hilton. Thank goodness! But, because your brand isn’t mainstream, most guests will have at least some anxiety leading up to their stay. Put them at ease with clear, easy to understand pre-arrival instructions.
To really go above and beyond, consider a short video that starts on the turn in to your street, up the road, to the front gate, to the door access code, and through the front door.
This step eliminates that twinge of uncertainty—“will I be able to find and access the rental/accommodation after a long, stressful day of travelling?”—and puts your guests in the mood to enjoy their break!
A digital welcome book is a great way to provide guests with information that they can digest before their stay. Or simply an email with clear instructions. The point is simply to inform in an easy-to-digest format.
4. Keep an eye on your pre-booking marketing material: are glittering promises a reality?
Happiness Goal Number 4 – Ensure your pre-booking marketing material honestly portrays what you have to offer.
You know that perfect, golden hour at your rental in the late afternoon after a day on the beach or exploring the city…when the sunlight pours in, a cool breeze rustles the curtains, perhaps a glass of wine is waiting, and you feel welcome and happy to be there? That’s the moment you want your marketing to capture.
But… the old adage “under-promise and over-deliver” is so important. You had better make sure I can experience that moment at some point during my stay, or else…!
Sure, rave about the super-fast fibre WiFi, the Sonos sound system, and the floor to ceiling windows overlooking the ocean. But make sure you’re not over-selling. And make sure everything works! No guest wants to feel let down when they arrive.
Your OTA listing—the online description, headline and photos of your property/properties—are so important. How closely do they match the reality of your accommodation? There is a sweet spot when it comes to marketing—you want to show your property in a flattering light, but not oversell it.
If you’re looking for professional help sprucing up your property headlines and descriptions, head over to Guest Hook.
5. Unpick your past guest reviews to identify the things that are loved (and possibly loathed!).
Happiness Goal Number 5 – Consider what constructive reviews have to say and whether you can implement changes to improve guest satisfaction in the future.
Everyone loves positive feedback. And when presented with any negative comments we’ll often look for reasons to discount them: unrealistic guest, difficult guest, they don’t understand, they didn’t read, etc, etc.
But it can be incredibly helpful, as with everything in life (and as we regularly do here at Touch Stay), to identify the genuine learning opportunities that come from feedback. Does the place really need a little sprucing up? Was that guest confused because my communication was poor? Did my website photos mislead the guest?
Be prepared to read the good (yay), the bad (boo), and the downright ugly (it could be time to rethink that sofa) when it comes to lifting the lid on your holiday home.
Then, if/when a negative review comes in, pay attention. Not every unhappy guest will be reasonable, and not every complaint will be warranted. Nonetheless, take a breath, read, reflect honestly, and then make changes where necessary.
Looking for a way to keep guests excited post-booking, as well as providing important pre-arrival information? Touch Stay’s digital guidebook solution provides you the software to do just that. For more information head to our home page or drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.