"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step" is a famous saying from the ancient Chinese philosopher Laozi. In the travel and hospitality industry hoteliers frequently refer to ‘the guest journey’, and yet what are the actual steps of that journey? Does it begin when a guest sets foot in the hotel lobby, and end when they check out? - Hotel guest journey touchpoints are more complex than that, and hoteliers who understand this will see their business flourish.
What is a guest journey?
The geographical distance of, ‘a thousand miles’ doesn’t matter as much as the distance a guest must travel in discovering, evaluating, and then trusting what your hotel has to offer. The hotelier’s job in this pre-arrival part of the guest journey is to make the steps as easy and short as possible.
People are now very skilled at looking for hotels, using all the popular search engines, and OTA sites. The establishments that are at the top of the rankings tend to make more impact than those that the guest has to dig deep to find. It follows that hotels with an attractive online presence get noticed by tech-savvy guests at the start of their journey.
Different things appeal to different people, so now the potential guest will be looking for what they need. It might be a swimming pool, stable wifi, or proximity to tourist attractions. It could even be price, although this is rarely the first factor people pay attention to. A hotel’s online presence needs to accurately show what is on offer, with great copywriting and attractive images.
In the hospitality industry a hotel’s reputation is of huge importance, and having discovered and evaluated a hotel, most guests will want to know if its reputation can be trusted. This is an easy task, because there will be numerous reviews on OTA platforms and across social media which tell the story of other guest’s experiences. The hotelier who is not monitoring and responding to reviews is turning away from a vast resource. Maintaining and encouraging great reviews is key in the pre-booking phase of the guest journey.
The importance of the holistic guest journey
Understanding that a guest’s journey commences with their very first thought of travelling to a place and finding a hotel is part of the holistic approach that modern hoteliers must take. That journey will continue long after the guest’s stay, and at every touchpoint it’s possible to monitor and nurture the relationship. Seeing the guest journey holistically means understanding the motivations and needs of travellers, what delights them, and what sometimes irritates them. But it can be difficult to appreciate the territory we are in without a map - so, let’s do some guest journey mapping!
Hotel guest journey mapping
Every point of hotel guest journey touchpoints can be visualised, and recorded in a flowchart, either hand made, or automated. For example, in the Discovery phase, the guest should easily be able to find your hotel online, and it must look attractive and be described accurately.
Do you want it to be easy for a guest to book accommodation? Obviously smooth and seamless is the answer, but at each touchpoint there’s always at least two options. Mapping each and every option gives a clear guide to ensuring that the guest journey works in the best possible way for the guest, and for your hotel.
Queues in the lobby for check in? Frustration for staff and guests alike? There’s a hotel guest journey touchpoint that can really spoil things before the stay has even begun. However, by mapping what should happen, optimal results can be achieved. For example, modern hotel softwares enable guests to pre-register their personal and payment details, and hotels with keyless access or reception check-in kiosks mean that a guest’s arrival is quick and easy. It also means that staff are more free to meet and greet guests, rather than attending to tedious registration processes.
- During Stay
OK, now the guest has made it to their room, so the guest journey is complete, right? Of course not - a new phase begins, which can also be mapped. Technology such as SabeeApp’s GuestAdvisor allows guests to provide instant feedback during their stay. What’s more, it enables the hotel to provide enriched information about trips, special offers and upselling that helps enhance the bottom line.
If there’s one thing worse than queuing in reception for registration, it’s queuing for departure. Guests often have transport to catch, so check out must be quick and easy. That’s simply done with modern technology, to the extent that it isn’t even necessary for a guest to set foot in reception on departure. Compare and contrast with the old way of shuffling forward in a line of other guests, all concerned about their deadlines.
The key hotel guest journey touchpoints
So at every point of the guest journey there are at least two options (and often many more) that can play out. Guest journey mapping provides a clear route to providing the best service, so now let’s get granular and focus on providing memorable moments at the key touchpoints of pre-arrival, arrival, stay, departure, and post-stay.
Seamless booking: Of course the booking process must be seamless, through a user-friendly online booking platform that’s simple to navigate, and which shows accurate info about facilities, room types, and rates. Cancellation policies, and additional services can also be outlined here.
Personalised Communication: An ever increasing trend in hospitality is that guests are looking for a personalised experience. This can begin prior to arrival, through personalised communication, such as email or text messages giving pre-arrival welcome messages, confirmation emails with relevant details, and offers to enhance the stay, such as room upgrades.
Special Requests: A platform which provides guests with the opportunity to log personal requests, such as room preferences, dietary restrictions, or special occasions, allows hoteliers to anticipate and cater to their needs before they arrive. An anniversary during the stay? - The hotelier can be alert to marking it in a memorable and personal way!
Streamlined check in: Use modern technology to make check in seamless and ‘contactless’ with self check in through kiosks or mobile apps, therefore completely avoiding long waiting times in reception. The data is all available through a modern PMS, so leverage it for a seamless check in experience.
The welcoming smile: The more free staff are from doing routine check in jobs, the more they can devote themselves to great face-to-face communication with arriving guests. A smile, the offer of assistance with luggage, and recognising guests by name creates a positive first impression which can set the tone for their stay.
Information, information: On arrival, guests need lots of information about the hotel's facilities, services, and amenities, wifi, and so on. Except that’s a lot to take in. An app such as GuestAdvisor is accessible within 30 minutes of check in and can supply ‘virtual concierge’ advice, and updates on special offers and events during the guest’s stay.
Going the extra mile: The ‘magic moments’ are what guests treasure about their stay, and these can be easily enhanced, such as with a welcome gift in the room, or marking an anniversary or birthday in a way which is personalised and thoughtful. Messages which address the guest directly, and show an awareness of their interests add to the perception of value.
Responsive staff: Hotels are the ultimate ‘people business’, and staff need to be really customer facing, even during the occasional challenging situation. When a guest is greeted by name and with a friendly smile, it goes a long way to enhancing a hotel’s reputation. Technology helps make the ‘boring stuff’ easy, and enables real engagement with guests.
Comfort and cleanliness: Is it even necessary to highlight that all facilities should be in full working order, spic and span, and everything clean and tidy? Hoteliers must always see their hotel through the eyes of their guests. OK, so that hallway really does need a lick of new paint, and maybe the room aircon is a little bit noisy… You may be taking the long view about issues of maintenance or housekeeping, but for the guest this could be their one and only stay in the hotel, and everything has to be right.
Simple and smooth check out: Ensure that departure is smooth. If the technology is in place for a seamless check in, then for sure it has to be functioning for the check out, to help guests feel satisfied and to ensure a positive last impression. Express check out options, including clear billing procedures, minimise hassle. Your staff may have all day to do their work, but for sure your departing guests don’t, so use the technology to decrease or eliminate queues in the morning rush, and send your guests off with a smile!
Satisfied guests: Hoteliers should encourage guests to provide feedback about their stay. This feedback can be collected on departure through surveys, comment cards, or online platforms. You need to know if you satisfied the expectations of guests, and if not, why not.
Your friendly and responsive staff have waved off the guests in their taxi, and another satisfied customer has left your property. So the guest journey is complete? No way! Post-stay there is still plenty of attention required for the guest journey.
Follow-up: Contact with guests should continue through personalised follow-up emails thanking them for their stay, offering coupons for future visits, or asking for further feedback. This reinforces a sense of appreciation and builds long-term relationships, encouraging repeat bookings and recommendations.
Monitor and respond: Now is the time that it’s crucial to monitor reviews on social media and OTA platforms to find out what guests are really saying about their stay. Respond to ‘positive’ reviews, and address issues that may arise in ‘negative’ reviews. Your hotel’s reputation is now on the line ‘out there’, so this final stage of the guest journey is hugely important, it’s the hotelier’s secret weapon for growth.
Learn from the feedback: Do more of what guests tell the world you did well, and fix the things they said you were less good at. Then make sure you get the message out on social media and your own website about both the congratulations, and the fixes.
How SabeeApp can help
What should be clear by now is that there are highly effective, modern automated systems specifically designed to support and refine the hotel guest journey. SabeeApp has over 10 years experience with our all-in-one Hotel Management System, serving customers in 70 countries, with a suite of Smart Solutions apps which significantly enhance the guest experience. SabeeApp makes the processes which support the guest journey easy, allowing much greater staff engagement with guests. Guests experience a personalised stay, which enhances the reputation of your hotel, leading to increased business.
Steps to increased success in the hotel industry
A journey of a thousand miles doesn’t have to be long or difficult. In fact with a well realised guest journey map, and SabeeApp’s flexible, customised Hotel Management System, hotel guest journey touchpoints will lead to increasingly satisfied guests, and an improved bottom line. Look out for our ebook on the Guest Journey, coming soon, and book a free demo today. You can learn a whole lot more about leveraging technology to benefit the guest journey.