Owning Your Guest

Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) have been taking ownership of the guests from hotels ever since they began operation. TripAdvisor is now joining them with their TripAdvisor Connect services. Letting OTAs have ownership of the guest increases the hotel's costs and decreases guest loyalty. What can hotels do to combat this and regain ownership of their guests?

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Videos for Hotels

I recommend all owners at least explore the possibility of having a vacation rental video in their marketing portfolio. Please, whatever you do, don’t invest in one of those slideshows that has photos whizzing in from outer space or messages disintegrating into mist. A slideshow displaying different photos of your property does not constitute a video: even if it has music or voiceovers. A video is an actual video. One that communicates space and personality and ambiance. Ask to see your videographers portfolio before signing up. And don’t think of videos as your first two-piece suit. Rather, a compliment to that. Matt Landau, Videos are for Winners

Matt is a smart guy. I have mentioned him previously in a post about The Value of Professional Photographs for Hotel Websites in which he tested how the quality of photographs effected overall bookings. In his latest post, he talks about the value of videos for promoting the vacation rental, but it also works for properties of all sizes.

Videos are becoming more common on hotel websites, but it is extremely important that they are done as a professioanl. It will help you control the viewing experience that potential guests have when watching the video. What I mean by this is that if a promotional video is a minute long, but starts off a bit choppy or uninteresting, people are more likely to click forward on the video, perhaps missing parts you wanted them to see.

The other reason why hotels should consider including a video on their website and cross-posting on YouTube, is because people are seeking out these videos more and more. For example, yvr2002rtw is a user on YouTube who posts only videos of hotel rooms and luxury airline services. He has over 60 videos posted, and over 600,000 views. That’s an absolutely staggering amount for videos that aren’t popular music videos or comedic events gone viral.

The problem with his videos, which becomes quickly evident after watching several in a row, is that they are a bit disjointed. There is no real story with them, more “show and tell.” This style of video is difficult to watch all the way through and leads to people skipping forward or not bothering to watch it at all.

Something else that Matt touches on his post is the value of capturing both the neighbourhood and the owners’ personality. The rooms at your property are only part of the story there. As I said in my post on Aligning with Your Guest’s Needs:

If people can recognize the indentity of the property immediately, they will buy into the services that are offered, and the ones that are not.

What better way to help people identify what your property is about than by watching a video? A quick two minute video will give a person much more information than two or three pages of text. Plus, it will be more enjoyable to watch than to read something on their computer screens.

Matt paid for two videos, one of the property, and one of the neighbourhood around his property. They are both very well done, and I encourage you to click through to watch them. The one of the neighbourhood is posted below to show you the effect a promotional video can have.1

If I were to do a video of a property, here are the elements I would be sure to include:

  • Share the experience of the property (the lobby, the restaurant, staff, pool area, lounge)
  • Share some of the experiences from local activities (a neighbourhood pub, a winery, a market, coffee shop or other destination activities like a golf course, ski hill, beaches)
  • Share the experiences of your more popular rooms (the sitting area, the bathtub/shower, and finally the sleeping area)

I would probably design multiple videos depending on the amenities your property offers. Perhaps a video to showcase your amenities that would draw in the corporate people (meeting rooms, a focus on the work space in the hotel rooms, business services) or a meeting planner (catering, meeting rooms, accessibility to/from hotel rooms).

To find a media company to work with, do a quick Google search, and be sure to look at several of their portfolio videos before making a final decision. It would also be useful to have a sit down meeting with them to discuss your needs and what they can provide to you. If you need assistance in tracking down a company, get in touch and I will gladly assist you.

  1. Of course, the video may also compel you to want to stay at the property. Los Cuatro Tulipanes is located in Panama City.  ↩

Nothing They Could Do

I told the front desk person that she was overcharging me, and she disagreed and said there was nothing she could do.

That is a snippet of an email received by a client’s Front Desk team this morning. It contains the four words a guest/customer cringes at hearing.

Nothing they could do

When a guest approaches or calls the Front Desk with a problem, there is only one thing they are after: a solution.

They are not there to listen to the agent complain about how there is nothing they can do, how they are restricted by management, or how they will get in trouble if they push forward with that decision. They want to voice their concerns and have them resolved. That’s it.

When I was a Front Office Manager, I encouraged my staff to charge of the situation and resolve issues to the best of their abilities without concern. If someone is reporting that they were quoted a lower rate, it is better to offer them the lower rate than to dispute it with the guest. Take note of the issue so the manager could look at it the next day. It is much better to investigate an issue at the Front Desk and come up with a solution to prevent future issues the next day, than to investigate the issue but then report back to the guest the next day to resolve their issue.

My rule of thumb is that if a decision effects a small percentage of the rooms for one night’s worth of revenues, make the change. That decision isn’t going to effect the bottom-line dramatically, and may in effect help by preventing the guest from spreading a negative review about the property.

This rule can be applied from the top down, as well. One of my former General Managers wanted to be informed of the decisions we were making, but if a problem was going to cost less than $5,000 to repair, he gave us the authority to resolve the issue (it was a multi-million dollar property, so the cut-off amount will likely scale up/down depending on the size of your property).

Putting this policy in place will relieve a lot of stress in the work place, and keep the guest calm. It will put out the fires before they grow into an unstoppable force. I wrote about this in my article for Rethink Hotels, How to Minimize Damage and Fight Fires with Reputation Management

In the case of the email above, not only did the guest send multiple emails to the hotel about the issue, but she then went on to leave a sour review on TripAdvisor right away before the management could respond. The damage has been done, and we are having a meeting with the Front Desk to make sure they never utter these words again, “nothing they could do.”