Hotel expert Giovanna Grossi first joined the AA – the prestigious UK brand that has been inspecting and recommending hotels for more than 110 years – in 1999. Starting out as an inspector, she progressed through the ranks to spend a decade as head of the company’s inspection team, amassing a wealth of experience in the process. She still sits on the AA’s awards panel and now co-directs Sauce Intelligence, a hotel and restaurant consultancy. Here, she explains four of the most common mistakes hotels make.
Mistake one: getting the welcome wrong
For many guests, particularly with the growth of online bookings in recent years, their first proper interaction with a hotel will be the moment they arrive. The first 30 or 60 seconds are massively important - that’s when they’re going to be formulating their opinion of that property - but many places miss out on the opportunity to shine.
Give good eye contact, smile, be engaging and welcoming. Building rapport is essential. It’s important to ask open questions rather than closed ones – “How was your journey?” will proffer much more information than “Did you have a good journey?”.
It’s like when a friend comes to visit you at home. You don’t open the door and just walk back into the house, you say ‘hi!’, you smile, you really engage and welcome them. It’s the same principle with hotels. Those first moments should be warm and welcoming, whether you’re in an international, branded five-star hotel in London or a small two- or three-star rural property.”
Mistake two: treating all guests as having the same needs
You can’t open a hotel and just think: here’s Guest A coming through the door, here’s Guest B, here’s Guest C. You need to treat them as individuals – every guest is different. You have to understand them. Imagine you have a business group on one table in your hotel restaurant, and a couple celebrating an anniversary on another. Those two tables will almost certainly not want the same treatment. Business people generally want slick polished service but won’t want to be disturbed with frequent satisfaction enquiries. The couple are more likely to want more fuss and attention.
Encourage your teams to find out as much as possible about guests - not in an inquisitive way, but in a fact-finding way that enables you as an operation to understand their needs and how you can make their stay smooth, enjoyable and memorable. The team should then remember to communicate this information to other departments. For example, if a guest asks concierge to book a taxi at 7pm to take them to the theatre, they could then let the evening housekeeping team know not to do their turndown before then because they’ll probably be getting ready to go out. It’s not rocket science.
Mistake three: misunderstanding what housekeeping means
Cleanliness is always one of the things that tops the list of most guests' priorities. No-one wants to stay in a dirty hotel. It is, however, about more than the housekeeping team cleaning every bedroom and bathroom. No guest wants to see cigarette ends or litter outside the hotel as they arrive, or to check in at a reception that’s untidy with piles of paperwork. Similarly, they don’t want to see crumbs from the previous diner when they sit down in the restaurant or to pick up a glass or a fork that hasn’t been polished properly. The reality is that every staff member has a responsibility to keep the property clean and tidy.
Maintenance of the property relies on all members of the team reporting issues promptly so that they can be addressed before they result in a much bigger issue. A noisy bathroom fan, if not fixed promptly, can quickly result in a damp, mouldy bathroom that has to be taken out of service to air and redecorate.
Mistake four: not investing and developing staff
Recruitment is one of the biggest issues hotels face, but many properties do their budgets for the year and don’t even think about training and development. One way to keep your teams motivated and happy is to invest in them. If you can develop them and make them feel valued, the rewards are huge. I regularly get feedback at the end of delivering a training session, thanking me for an amazing and inspiring day – delegates feel valued when their employer invests in them and it helps create team spirit.
A hotel’s staff should be one team. It’s really important for the different departments to bond, to communicate with each other. Hotels need to ensure that when they employ new people, they allow time for them to spend a day in other departments. Just because someone works in F&B, for example, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t know what time the swimming pool or gym opens or what treatments are available in the spa. Guests won’t make that distinction - they expect everyone to know about what happens in the hotel, which is not unreasonable.
Think about and plan inductions thoroughly. Orientate new team members about the property and its history, about the various departments and about any sister properties. Don’t leave a new trainee on their own on reception when check-ins or check-outs are at their peak or on breakfast at peak time. Support them while they are still learning. It’s about developing team spirit. If your staff are fully trained and engage well together, they will believe and act like a high-performance team, and will be confident and fearless in their service delivery.
It’s really important to get to that stage because it is conducive to keeping guests happy. And happy guests tell their friends and family how great your hotel is and will return.
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- Get the welcome right - it’s massively important
- Treat guests as individuals - not all have the same needs
- Think of housekeeping as something the whole team should take responsibility for
- Develop team spirit, invest in staff and make sure they understand not only their own jobs but the way the wider hotel works