How to create a great guest experience in the time of mask-wearing and social distancing
There’s no question that the pandemic has created a strong sense of anxiety within us all, especially when traveling. And although travel volumes have increased slowly since 2020, many are choosing to travel for the first time in over a year. When these hesitant travelers make their return to the hospitality experience, they will likely find the “new normal” to be significantly different than they recall. And although the savvy traveler is adaptive to new experiences, one element is always expected to be consistent: Customer Service.
How does a hotel, timeshare, etc., maintain a superior level of customer service and guest experience in an age of mask-wearing, social distancing, and vaccination requirements? Let’s take a look at some ways to ensure your customer services are consistent, if not improved as a result of these strange times:
Forewarned is forearmed, and this truism has never been more relevant for the hospitality sector. Preparing guests for what they can expect from their onsite experience is essential to ensure a smooth beginning to their stay.
A few ways where transparency can enhance customer service and guest experience include:
- Promote your commitment to your guest’s safety and health through preventative measures to combat the spread of COVID. While many choose to bury this information in their FAQ section, make these procedures visible and easily accessible on your website and any pre-arrival communications.
- Similarly, communicate the same commitment to the health and safety of your staff. Compassion for your team says more than words can convey and lets guests know that your commitment to their safety is holistic and not just something that only applies to them.
- Social distancing, staff shortages, and other safety protocols often result in slower check-in for guests. These elements can impact other processes and procedures as well. Be transparent with your guests about some delays or increased time is taken to observe safety protocols.
- If areas of the hotel or specific onsite amenities have been closed or only allow a limited number of guests at once, communicate these impacts to your guests in advance.
- Stay abreast of ongoing changes and updates to COVID safety, and adjust your operations as needed. Be transparent about these changes as well.
Empathy and the Personal Touch
Although some have not fully embraced vaccinations, many do so out of fear. It can be frustrating to interact with someone whose viewpoints on the pandemic are directly opposed to yours. Still, compassion and empathy are the best options in your toolbox to ensure a positive customer service experience for those guests.
- Acknowledge the guest’s potential fear and anxiety through your own experiences. We are all feeling a little apprehensive about mingling in public these days, so let the guest know that it affects you as well. When we think that we’re all in this effort together, we feel a little better about the current situation.
- Reach out personally via phone or email to confirm they understand what to expect and answer any questions or concerns they may have.
- When possible, please communicate with your guests personally, whether it be via email or telephone. Most people know when they are dealing with an AI or an automated response. Letting them know they communicate with a live person who understands their concerns goes a long way when building trust.
- Be wary of pre-arrival marketing and sales efforts. Once you are confident that the guest’s experience was positive and worth repeating, they will likely be more receptive to that call to action.
Listen and Learn
Measure your efforts via customer feedback and surveys. Use that information to constantly adjust what isn’t working as well as it could. Consider permanently implementing the measures that are working well. The chances are that you’ve created innovative efficiencies worthy of your investment.
- Treat COVID-aware modifications to your operations as an investment in future convenience. These aren’t temporary measures when efficiency is the result. Even after the pandemic, many will continue to shop online, choose delivery over in-person, etc.
- Implement a comprehensive customer feedback survey that covers all aspects of their guest journey. Your survey solution should include the ability to analyze survey results across a wide range of parameters. Adjust your operations to maximize those survey results.
- Listen to your employees. Front line employees can also attest to what is working and not working, both for customers and employees. Your experienced staff understands your business better than most, so encourage and reward any solutions brought to the table.
- Measure which innovations and adjustments have resulted in cost savings for you and the customer and keep the ones that work best for all.
The pandemic won’t last forever, and the hospitality industry will weather the storm. In the meantime, every ounce of patience and compassion will make the difference between a positive or negative interaction with your guests. Your guests will not forget their excellent customer service and guest experience, especially when they needed it the most.