If you’re in the business of running hotels, experience is everything. With the hospitality industry being more competitive than ever, the best way to set yourself apart is to offer unparalleled experiences time and time again. After all, consistent quality is one reason the hospitality industry can give guests to chose hotels over AirBnb.
However, doing this at scale can be challenging. When you’re overseeing multiple teams across several locations, it’s all too easy for details to fall through the cracks and consistency to erode.
In this post, we’ll be discussing strategies and tactics on how to prevent that from happening, so you can ensure to keep your hotel’s brand experience consistent across the board.
Establish your brand standards internally
Consistency starts with agreeing on the set of brand standards that everyone must follow. The hotel’s leaders must establish what the company’s brand is all about. How do you want others to perceive the hotel? What’s your style and story? What makes your hotel distinct from your competitors?
These are all important questions that leadership and management should answer, as they will inform the company’s standards at a high level. A hotel that focuses on indulgence, for example, would have very different standards from establishments that are all about value and convenience.
From there, you need to figure out the best way to communicate those standards to the rest of the team. This typically involves documenting them using brand guidelines, employee manuals, and SOPs.
Calvin Ling, the managing director of Ling Group, a branding and marketing agency, summarizes this process quite well: “The first thing is to understand the key experience touchpoints of your hotel brand. Having clearly identified them, this should be documented as part of their standard operating procedure or playbook and included in their employee training.”
Better yet, use a platform to execute your brand standards and programs across all hotels, whether there are franchisee owned or corporate.
Beef up your staff training
Your employees play a critical role in maintaining your hotels’ standards, so ensure that your training programs are on point.
As Ling puts it, “We usually find the key success factor for a consistent experience is ensuring all your employees understand the importance of a branded guest experience.”
So, give your staff members everything they need to be excellent brand ambassadors and stewards. Equip them with a handbook containing your guidelines, as well as handy tools like step-by-step guides and checklists.
It’s also important to conduct brand training exercises to ensure that staff members successfully embody and represent your hotel.
Why not run interactive sessions that educate team members on the hotel’s story and market positioning? But don’t just stop at telling them what the company is all about; let your team members weigh in and have them tell you what they think the company’s brand is all about. This is a good way to start two-way discussions and ensure that everyone understands what the hotel stands for.
Consider cross-training and shift exchanges
Training at an individual or branch level is important, but if you want to take things a step further, consider implementing cross-training or shift-exchange initiatives at your hotels.
“One of the best ways any manager can implement operational consistency in multi-location hotels is to implement a cross-training and shift exchange program that rotates key employees to work inside various locations in your chain,” says Baron Christopher Hanson, lead consultant and owner of RedBaronUSA.
He continues, “The biggest mistake hotels make when it comes to maintaining consistency is expecting isolated teams who never cross-train or work together to do the same work uniformly. The only way to get different employees’ eyeballs and hands on each location is to physically transport them to work inside different locations.”
In addition to promoting stronger relationships among team members, sending employees to work outside their home location can also shed light on any issues that are taking place.
According to Hanson, when you rotate employees through different locations, the most vocal ones “will honestly report back any inconsistencies for immediate attention.”
This, in turn, will bring problems to the forefront, so you can address them sooner rather than later.
Ensure consistency across physical and digital channels
Maintaining consistency isn’t just about keeping all your physical locations in line. You should also ensure that the online experience of guests lives up to your standards.
“Like any industry, a consistent customer experience starts with an authentic brand that has a clear mission and foundational pillars that drive how they perform,” says Meredith Kasheta, owner of MMC Agency.
She continues, “That clear mission begins before guests enter the hotel. It starts online. Research is reporting that between 75% and 80%+ of customers are booking travel electronically, without any human interaction. It’s imperative that the online customer experience matches what they’ll experience in person.”
You can accomplish this by making sure that key branding or design elements that you have in your hotels are also present online. Your company’s website should reflect the theme and motif you have at your hotels.
If you have a digital customer support team, they need to be well-versed in your branding and communication best practices. The way that they interact with guests online should mirror the conduct of those in your physical locations.
This is something that the Great Wolf Lodge puts into practice. The family resort chain’s chat agents are prompt and respectful, without being overly stiff or formal — and this demeanor is consistent with the behavior of the hotel staff on-site.
Keep your tech stack in check
The hardware and software that keep your hotels running can greatly impact the guest experience. So, make sure you’re using the right solutions AND that your tech stack is the same across the board.
For instance, using the same hotel booking system for all of your locations will create a consistent booking experience for guests, so they always know what to expect.
Similarly, if you offer certain tech amenities or services on-site, you should strive to do it across the board. If a solution is still in its testing phase, you need to communicate this to your guests to set the right expectations.
“Upgrades in technology or facilities should be shared online and onsite,” says Kasheta. “Consistency is broken if guests experience self-check-in at one location and not the other without indicators that the technology is a new program or rolling out in phases.”
Beyond creating a uniform experience, using the same solutions in all your locations also makes data collection easier. Multi-outlet businesses that use different software in their locations often have to cobble together reports from various sources, which then leads to wasted time and human error.
On the other hand, having one hotel management software for all outlets can streamline your reporting and analytics, so you can efficiently drill down on hotel performance and uncover actionable insights.
Gather feedback from your guests
Need to find out if your initiatives are working? Get feedback straight from your guests.
This is quite simple to do, and it’s something you could even put on autopilot. Many hotels send automated feedback request emails after the guests’ stay.
Here’s an example from Getaway House. The message starts off by thanking the guest for staying at one of Getaway’s cabins, and it invites them to share any “opinions, reactions, criticisms, and observations” to help the company improve the guest experience.
Review the feedback that you receive on a regular basis, and take note of any recurring issues or complaints, so you can take the appropriate action to correct them.
Conduct Property visits
Initiatives like yearly hotel performance reports by third party services and surveys can certainly give you insights into how your hotels are doing. However, let’s not forget the importance of physically evaluating your own properties and franchisees on a regular basis.
As Willie Greer, founder at The Product Analyst puts it, “Unless you are at the location to actually rate or observe how the system is doing, you can’t ensure that guest experience is consistent. No matter how many protocols you put in place, without an actual visit, you won’t see whether the protocols are being followed.”
To that end, schedule regular site visits so you can inspect and evaluate each hotel’s practices and operations. Make this practice easier by using an audit solution like Bindy. Bindy allows you to create and configure checklists to ensure that never miss a thing when conducting hotel visits. Plus, with features like photo attachments, date stamps, and detailed histories, you can guarantee that any action items are completed in a timely manner.
Other hotel and hospitality resources
Refer to the Hotels and Hospitality category for checklists, how-tos and best practices for hotels and hospitality.
About the author:
Francesca Nicasio is retail expert, B2B content strategist, and LinkedIn TopVoice. She writes about trends, tips, and best practices that enable retailers to increase sales and serve customers better. She’s also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores.