One of the biggest differences you can notice right away is the level of service when you switch from a bigger hotel with lots of staff, to going to a boutique hotel. Since staffs are very limited, everyone is forced to drop what they’re doing at a moment’s notice to assist guests. One minute you could be at the front desk checking a guest in and the next you can find yourself delivering them their room service, asking if they want milk or cream with their coffee, and even pitching in with housekeeping duties. This is the main difference between a big hotel and a boutique.
Many feedbacks and surveys collected from these boutique hotels had a top reoccurring Issue: Complaints about slow or unresponsive staff when it came to service requests.
To see what’s going on, below are the exchange between the guests and the extremely busy staff
Client A: May I check in now, it is time already?
Front Desk (A): Please let me check if your room is ready.
The front desk gave housekeeping a call who didn’t answer, so the staff decided to
leave their post to run upstairs and check for themselves. The second after she left, the phone
rang. The employee who was still at the check-in desk picked it up.
Front Desk (B): How can we help you today?
Client B: There’s a water leakage in our room
Front Desk (B): We take note of the issue and a technician will be on his way up.
The employee wrote the request down on a piece of paper and put it aside as the check in line grew. He then began to check the next party in, but the phone rang again. He answered the call and then attempted check in the next party. But the phone rang again. As the staff reached to pick it up the phone
Client A: For goodness sake, check me in first and let the damn thing ring it can wait, I can’t! The first staff left to check the room, now I am left here hanging with no answer. You haven’t dealt with my issue yet, and yet you are trying to check other clients in, this is unprofessional.
Embarrassed, the employee let the phone continue to ring while he finished checking in the frustrated Client A.
Front Desk (A) returned in time to pick up the overdue call from a Client (C) requesting for the baby cot. As similar to before as things were getting out of control, the staff got a piece of paper and jot it down.
Front Desk (A) received a call from Housekeeping mentioning that the room will need an additional 30 minutes but as the staff could not see Client (A) in sight so the answer given was again delayed. During this time the staff then checked in other parties.
A call from Client (B) rang again mentioning that no technician was sent and now the carpet is flooding.
At the end of the day, when the urgency was over, these 2 front desk staffs were going through the gigantic pile of post-it notes to decode what they had to do. It is still uncertain whether the water leakage was attended to, the baby cot was sent, or that the guests were checked-in properly.
It was disordered and this inefficient process made the hotel look like unprofessionals.
It is clear that the standard operational procedures are an issue and that it needs to streamline its processes and increase its efficiency and productivity.
The very first thing hotel needs to determine is whether the service issues lies within the process, training and systems or potentially a combination of those factors. By interviewing the frontline employees including the front desk agents, concierge, F&B, maintenance and housekeeping, Hotels can identify the challenges they faced every day.
Hotels needed to provide more convenience for guests so that they don’t have to
call the front desk for basic requests and questions like “what’s the WIFI password?” or “how can I change the room temperature?” This can help ease the front desk agents from being on the phone all day. 75% of the calls are frequently asked questions. If we can answer these questions without having the client coming to wait in line or give a call, we will have increase our productivity and efficiency in terms of customer service. Imagine how freer your staff will be with 75% less calls?
We are in an era where everything is on-demand and real time and controlled by the consumer as demonstrated by the likes of Netflix and Uber. It is essential that hotels translate that into the guest experience by offering in-room tablets that enabled guests to find information, request service, control the room temperature and even check out.
Since most hotel guests are usually out and about or lounging by the pool, the only device they would usually have on hand is their phones. With mobile and instant messaging being so widely adopted and convenient, Hotels should decide to implement a guest text messaging channel/platform that will enable their guests to engage with hotel staff with questions and requests from anywhere whether on or off property.
With messaging automation capabilities like sending a room-ready message after a guest checks in, it eliminates the need for guests to stand around the lobby or go back in line to find out if their room is ready. Instead, they can simply give their luggage to the bell and start to enjoy their day whilst waiting for the automated massage once the room is ready.
Staffs can only be as efficient as internal systems allow them to be. Even if guests can request service faster, it doesn’t necessarily mean they have the process in place to fulfill it quickly. Both internal system and processes had to work together if hotels wanted to see real, permanent change. To deliver faster service hotels need to know who and where her guests are, and how to directly send requests to the right department, without creating unnecessary work for their staff. This would also help reduce errors in request and orders. It is recommended that hotels integrate the messaging software into the service optimization system. The integration will allow them to accept guest service requests via text message and automatically create the service ticket for the right department without having to write it down and manually submitting the request. The communication and process improvements made, ensured that there will be no more uncertainty of guest being undealt with whether the water leakage was attended to, the baby cot was sent, and that the guests were checked-in properly, the system will keep all departments up to date, when they needed to be.
Ultimately, it is essential for hotels to consider the “Guest Journey Map” and consider how technology can offload certain routine jobs and frequently asked questions at each customer touchpoints. This will enable staff to have more time and be more efficient at their primary job rather than the haphazard tasks that arises.
By: Chawin Pilunthanakul