How to Enhance the Guest Experience: Trends and Best Practices

In the dynamic world of hospitality, the ability to manage and enhance the guest experience often spells the difference between those who win and those who get left behind. With today’s travelers raising their expectations while being exposed to a seemingly unlimited number of hospitality solutions, it is critical that operators deliver experiences that reflect the lives of their customers. 

What is Guest Experience?

Guest experience refers to the overall impression and satisfaction that a guest has during their interactions with a hospitality brand or establishment, such as hotels, restaurants, resorts, and attractions. It encompasses every aspect of their stay or visit, from the booking process and arrival to the accommodation, services, and departure.

A positive guest experience involves going beyond basic customer service. (More on this later.) In hospitality, factors that contribute to the guest experience include personalized attention, efficient service, cleanliness, ambiance, health, wellness, and safety, and the overall atmosphere of the establishment, among others.

Operators today should strive to exceed guest expectations and create memorable guest experiences to encourage repeat visits and positive word-of-mouth recommendations. By understanding and anticipating the needs and preferences of your guests, you make them feel valued and ensure that every touchpoint in their journey contributes to positive and enjoyable experiences.

The Importance of Guest Experience Management

Guest experience management is vital for hospitality brands looking to build a positive reputation, foster customer loyalty, achieve competitive differentiation, and ultimately drive long-term success and profitability.

Guest experiences impact reputation. Positive experiences build a favorable reputation, while negative experiences can harm it. With the prevalence of online reviews and social media, managing and enhancing guest experiences is crucial to maintaining a positive brand image.

Positive guest experiences lead to higher customer satisfaction levels. A memorable and positive guest experience drives customer satisfaction and fosters customer loyalty. Happy customers are more likely to choose the same hospitality brand for future stays or visits, while also recommending the brand to others, contributing to repeat business and long-term profitability.

Guest experience differentiates your brand. With travel consumers exposed to seemingly limitless hospitality solutions, providing an exceptional guest experience helps differentiate your brand from competitors. 

Guest experience management drives data-driven decision-making. It often involves collecting and analyzing integrated CX data, which can be valuable for gathering actionable insights, making informed business decisions, improving service offerings, and tailoring experiences to meet customer expectations.

The Difference Between Guest Experience vs. Customer Service

You may be wondering, “What is the difference between managing the guest experience and delivering customer service?” 

Traditionally defined, customer service is the act of taking care of your guests’ needs by providing service and assistance before, during, and after their requirements are met. This is provided, for example, by the receptionist at the front desk checking in hotel guests upon arrival; the tour operator explaining the historical or cultural significance of landmarks in a local area; or the sommelier giving detailed advice about which wines pair best with which dishes. 

Many think of customer service as the act of reacting and responding to guests at certain points of contact: a hotel check-in, a tour, or a restaurant visit. It is often transactional in nature and focuses on meeting immediate needs or resolving issues.

The guest experience encompasses all these touchpoints and is part of a larger strategic effort in which customer service plays a crucial part. 

A single point of contact doesn’t determine the guest experience. It encompasses the entire customer journey — through processes, policies, and people. It can include the guest’s initial awareness or discovery of your brand and can begin long before they set foot in any of your property locations. This means that all interactions and touchpoints the guest has with your brand are considered.

Guest experience isn’t a department. It’s a core value that should involve everyone in your organization, from the C-suite to the front-facing staff. Every team or department, from marketing and sales to front office, customer support, and after-sales, has a stake in managing the guest experience. 

Guest experience management isn’t reactive. You don’t wait for a phone call, an email, or a slew of negative reviews to resolve the guest’s problem or meet their requirements. The premise behind guest experience management is that operators become truly proactive and intuitive, with the goal of seeing through guests’ eyes and better understanding their needs, wants, and expectations.

Key Trends Impacting the Guest Experience in Hospitality

Hospitality is a dynamic industry and new trends continue to emerge, raising expectations in a way that forces operators to rethink boardroom strategies, marketing and sales processes, and business models. Here are some key trends that are currently shaping the guest experience in hospitality.

A Multi-Channel Strategy is Essential

To validate their booking decisions, travel buyers are navigating multiple digital channels to conduct research and find solutions that are suited to their needs. These include online travel agencies (OTAs), social media, mobile apps, and brand websites. Deal-seeking behavior is also on the rise due to the cost of living crisis and record-shattering inflation rates.

A multichannel strategy is therefore essential for hospitality brands looking to reach a broader audience and maximize reach and visibility. Today’s consumers expect seamless and convenient interactions across multiple channels. A multichannel approach allows your organization to meet these expectations and provide guests with the flexibility to engage through their preferred channels.

Each channel should also provide an opportunity for you to collect valuable data about guest behavior, preferences, and booking patterns. By integrating data from multiple channels, you can gain insights into customer trends and make data-driven decisions to improve your marketing and service strategies.

Guests Want More Tailored Experiences

More tailored and personalized experiences, from customized room preferences to targeted offers, are a growing trend in the hospitality sector. Today’s travelers appreciate options and flexibility, choosing providers and operators that go the extra mile to make their stay unique.

Tailored experiences can also create a sense of exclusivity, with things like VIP treatments, exclusive access, and special privileges for repeat guests contributing to a feeling of being valued.

To meet these expectations, a growing number of brands are leveraging customer experience analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) to understand guest preferences and deliver tailored services.

There’s an Increased Demand for Local / Regional Experiences

The rise of the independent traveler means that guests are seeking both extreme personalization and unique, authentic local experiences. Guest experiences that give back to local communities or support the local economy are in demand, as are niche properties, staycations, and holidays and retreats that integrate attractions and activities within the local community where the business operates. More travelers than ever are also drawn to properties that reflect the local character and charm. 

This is why hospitality brands are incorporating local elements into their services, from locally inspired decor to partnerships with local businesses for unique guest experiences. Operators are also focusing more on local and hyperlocal sourcing, establishing close partnerships with farmers, artisans, producers, and suppliers.

Guests are Focused on Health, Safety, and Wellness

While health, cleanliness, and hygiene have always ranked among the top factors for travelers when choosing a hotel property, it has risen to the top of the list in the post-pandemic landscape. When making booking decisions, guests are researching sites that specifically offer cleanliness and safety information. 

This means that operators should double down on efforts to ensure that guests feel safe, secure, and clean. Beyond simply meeting compliance requirements issued by authorities, your company should work to respond to guest expectations amidst heightened sensitivity around cleanliness and safety.

Wellness is also a significant focus, with hotels offering amenities like fitness facilities, healthy dining options, and wellness programs. Some brands are incorporating spa services, mindfulness activities, and sleep-focused amenities to deliver a better experience for guests.

How to Measure Guest Experience

You cannot manage something you aren’t measuring. Hospitality brands can measure the guest experience using these common approaches:

  • Guest surveys and feedback forms: Implementing surveys allows guests to provide direct feedback on their experience. To gather both structured and unstructured feedback data, your team can use Likert scales, open-ended questions, and the Net Promoter Score (NPS) survey methodology. 
  • Online reviews and social media listening: Tracking reviews as well as mentions and comments from social media platforms provides a valuable source of unsolicited feedback, which operators can analyze for common themes, areas for improvement, and high-impact issues impacting the guest experience.
  • Employee feedback: Gathering feedback from employees who directly interact with guests can offer insights into the guest experience and areas that may need improvement.
  • Operational metrics: Monitoring and managing metrics such as check-in/check-out times, room cleanliness, and service response times should help you identify areas where operational efficiency can enhance the overall guest experience.
  • Customer experience metrics: Connecting feedback data and operational metrics to customer experience KPIs such as NPS, Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT), and Customer Effort Score (CES) lets your organization achieve a more complete and accurate view of the guest experience. 
  • Loyalty program engagement: The level of engagement guests have with your loyalty program will also help you look into repeat bookings, member satisfaction, and redemption patterns in order to gauge overall loyalty and guest satisfaction.

By combining insights from these various sources, hospitality brands can get a more comprehensive understanding of the guest experience and make data-driven decisions that enhance customer satisfaction and loyalty.

How to Enhance the Guest Experience: Best Practices

Learning how to enhance the guest experience is essential for attracting and retaining customers. Here are some best practices applied by today’s top hospitality brands.

Improve Guest Communication

Effective communication plays a crucial role in shaping the overall guest experience. It can enhance guest satisfaction, foster loyalty, and contribute to positive reviews; meanwhile, poor communication can lead to misunderstandings, dissatisfaction, and negative feedback. Throughout the customer journey, ensure that you’re sharing relevant information with your guests to make their visit or stay as comfortable as possible.

  • Pre-arrival: Information about amenities, policies, and local attractions enables guests to plan their visit and enhances their overall experience.
  • Check-in: Smooth and efficient check-in procedures contribute to a positive first impression. Welcoming and friendly communication sets the tone for the guest, making them feel valued and comfortable.
  • Problem Resolution: Handling guest complaints or issues quickly can turn a negative experience into a positive one, and helps demonstrate your commitment to guest satisfaction.
  • Post-stay: Seeking feedback through surveys or follow-up emails allows guests to express their opinions and provides an opportunity for your company to address any concerns. 

Map the End-to-End Guest Journey

Customer journey mapping allows hospitality brands to gain insights into guest behavior, preferences, and pain points at each stage of their interaction with the brand. Understanding how guests navigate their journey provides valuable information for improving services and anticipating needs. 

Mapping the customer journey also helps identify various touchpoints where guests interact with the brand, both online and offline. This includes pre-booking research, booking processes, on-site experiences, and post-stay interactions. Recognizing these touchpoints allows brands to optimize each stage of the journey. With a customer journey map, you can pinpoint areas that may need improvement or innovation to enhance the overall guest experience.

Embrace Digital Transformation

Hospitality consumers demand tools that simplify and streamline the entire booking or buying process — from research and planning, through engagement, to the post-sales phase. This makes it critical to invest in smart technology that will better engage consumers and make every part of the customer journey pain-free.

Undergoing a digital transformation should help streamline your operations, reducing wait times and improving the overall guest experience.

Having free Wi-Fi for guests isn’t enough. Investment areas you can focus on include digital and contactless services (like contactless payments, voice control, and biometrics); mobile check-ins; smart home devices in rooms; AI-powered chatbots on your digital properties; virtual tours that recreate a digital environment for consumers to picture themselves in; and instant messaging channels that direct guests to management for any questions and issues. For larger chains and enterprise-level organizations, deploying a local listing management solution should also help maximize your visibility and support your brand’s multichannel strategy.

Personalize the Guest Experience

Personalization plays a significant role in meeting the diverse preferences and expectations of travelers. It also fosters a sense of loyalty among guests. When a company consistently delivers personalized services and memorable experiences, guests are more likely to choose the same brand for future stays, leading to repeat business and long-term loyalty.

Examples of tactics used to personalize the guest experience include: 

  • Optimizing your local business listings and refining your marketing content based on guest personas 
  • Providing options to specify room preferences 
  • Giving personalized welcome letters and amenities
  • Creating targeted offers and promotions (for example: emailing guests with their membership details, unique vacation ideas, or personal offers that are in line with their preferences and expectations)
  • Curating local experiences and recommendations
  • Incorporating voice-activated assistants in rooms

Personalization is impossible if operators don’t have the ability and the means to relate to and understand the needs of their guests. To address this, you can implement technological tools like a customer relationship management (CRM) or customer experience management (CEM) solution, which analyzes big data to create highly customized one-to-one interactions between the guest and the host at scale.

Leverage Guest Experience Surveys to Capture Insights

Guest experience surveys help your team capture valuable insights essential to improving your brand, products, services, and overall customer experience. Organizations that can distribute surveys and solicit feedback efficiently also often have a more complete understanding of their guests and can more easily measure satisfaction and loyalty.

The challenge is to move beyond simply collecting data. As part of your strategy, consider investing in a Voice of the Customer program or guest experience software to ensure you are hearing your guests and extracting rich, meaningful insights from their feedback.

Invest in Online Reputation Management

One of the most important aspects of guest experience management in hospitality is your ability to build a strong brand reputation and respond to online reviews and customer feedback. People are drawn to brands that know how to respond to negative reviews, promptly answer phone calls and emails, and proactively join conversations on social media. Online reviews are especially important:

  • 94% of consumers say a bad review has convinced them to avoid a business. 
  • 53% of guests expect management to respond to negative reviews within 7 days, but 63% say that a business has never responded to their review. 
  • 45% of consumers are more likely to choose an operator that knows how to respond to negative reviews. 

If a guest wrote a 5-star review or gave your team a nice compliment via email, take the time to say thank you. If the feedback is negative or the review came with a low rating, acknowledge the guest and work quickly on resolving any issues related to their experience.

Power Your Guest Experience Management with InMoment

The future of hospitality is bright for customer-centric operators, restaurants, and hotels that are demonstrating a commitment to managing the guest experience. With InMoment, the leading provider of Experience Improvement solutions, you can adapt to meet evolving expectations, leverage experience data from every touchpoint, and power your guest experience program. Schedule a CX demo to learn more about how InMoment can help elevate your guest experiences.

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Migs Bassig

CX Writer

For more than a decade, Migs has dedicated himself to crafting insightful and educational content focused on reputation management and customer experience. Leveraging a wealth of knowledge and collaborations with industry experts, Migs has empowered numerous companies to enhance their brand visibility significantly.

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