Personalization has become more than just a buzzword in the hospitality industry. These days, ensuring guest expectations are met is key to boosting sales, elevating customer loyalty and retaining a competitive edge as properties re-gain their footing. Fortunately, personalizing the guest experience isn’t as complex as it seems.
“[Personalization] is about knowing who your customer or team members are,” says Ian Jones, general manager, The Westley Hotel Downtown Calgary. “It’s about knowing what makes them happy and understanding that we’re not all wired the same. I’ve always prided myself and our team on making an incredible impression on a guest’s stay by personalizing their experience and tapping into something inside to evoke an emotion. Is a guest here for a wedding, funeral or work event? Whatever it is, we want to create something that will make an impact on their stay.”
“Personalization is a way to show appreciation for your guests,” says Eugénie Jason, general manager, Muir, Autograph Collection in Halifax. “At luxury hotels specifically, personalization is an expectation and can set the tone for their stay.”
Today’s travellers expect hotels to keep up with technology. From pre-arrival through to check-out, there are opportunities to leverage technological developments to effectively personalize the guest experience while boosting operational efficiency, including automated pre- and post-stay emails, mobile apps, in-room technology, chatbots, quick and simple booking processes, contactless check-in, digital menus and more. These features have emerged as must-haves for hotels as guests have come to expect certain conveniences.
“Technology is helping us become more efficient and communicate better both as a team and with our guests,” says Jason. “We meet the guests where they are – whether they prefer to pick up the phone and contact our front desk or send a quick text. This gives us the agility to reply quickly and accurately and gives us the opportunity to anticipate guests’ needs while offering a personal level of service.”
“Hilton Honors guests can make a reservation, select their hotel room, check-in and obtain a room key online and completely bypass the front desk and head straight to their room,” says Jones. “We use another tool called Kipsu, which allows us to send a SMS message welcoming our guests who took advantage of the virtual check-in process. Although we have a virtual check-in experience, we still connect with our guests to let them know we respect their privacy, and should they require anything during their stay, just reply to the message and we’ll respond.”
Additionally, The Westley Hotel created a four-digit telephone extension called Westley Wants to relay messages about guests, as well as staff. The information, including birthdays, anniversaries, preferences and interests, is then downloaded by the night team to build Hilton guest profiles.
“Our team is able to send internal messages through our Westley Wants telephone extension and thus far has yielded wonderful results,” says Jones. “It’s all about delivering those little extra touches. It’s simple, easy to use and we’re able to gather a lot of guest profile information from listening to our guests and paying attention to their interactions with others. We need to keep our eyes on the prize, and that prize is called customer engagement.”
While technology can streamline certain processes, retaining a human element is important to interact with guests in subtle, more meaningful ways.
“We connect with our guests either before arrival, upon arrival or during their stay to collect golden nuggets of information to create ‘wow’ moments,” says Jason. “We want to understand what brought them to the city and to our hotel to ensure we provide a memorable stay. It can be as small as wishing someone good luck before a business meeting.”
Travellers are craving adventure and fun new experiences, providing hotels with an opportunity to design packages or programs that will add value to a guest’s stay. These elevated experiences can be created in partnership with local businesses, too.
Last year, The Westley Hotel partnered with Bird Canada, which offers electric scooters and bike rentals through the Bird app. At the front of the hotel, guests will find several scooters and bikes, as well as a map displaying nearby attractions for guests to explore during their stay. The hotel also offers guests coupons so they can ride for the first few kilometres free of charge.
“It’s a win-win partnership, because a local Calgary group brought Bird to our city so it’s nice to be able to support them and at the same time provide a convenience for our guests,” says Jones.
Similarly, the Muir, Autograph Collection offers guests bikes, kayaks and excursions on board Little Wing, Muir’s yacht, for an active wellness experience. In addition, Jason says one of the hotel’s most popular experiences is the Halotherapy Salt Room, located in Windward Wellness, “a tranquil room where Maritime salt air is infused into the space, allowing guests to completely unwind and relax.”
Jason continues, “We understand that wellness is becoming increasingly important for travellers – but also that wellness means something different to everyone. From the natural benefits of salt air, thanks to our location on the very edge of the Halifax waterfront, to amenities that prioritize mental, physical and spiritual wellbeing, the wellness experience is ever-present throughout Muir.”
Additionally, guests will be looking for recommendations, so sharing local knowledge not only enriches their stay but also allows hotel staff to connect with guests on a personal level.
Anticipating Needs and Preferences
Since the onset of the pandemic, many travellers have a heightened awareness of cleanliness and sanitation practices, which have significant influence over the entire guest experience. To help guests feel safe, many hotels have updated cleanliness protocols, offered COVID-19 tests upon arrival, installed hand sanitizer or hand-washing stations and ensured thorough cleanings of guestrooms.
As the pandemic eases, many travellers are seeking wellness services and amenities to renew their mental, spiritual and physical wellbeing. This presents an opportunity for hotels to provide value to guests through onsite wellness facilities and spas. Rosewood Hotels has expanded its wellness offerings to meet the growing demand. In fact, A Rosewood Spa at Rosewood Hotel Georgia in Vancouver was named Canada’s Best Hotel Spa in 2020 by the World Spa Awards.
Ultimately, the goal of almost every hotel is to provide memorable experiences. The ability to create these experiences is a team effort and requires participation not only from management but also the housekeeping departments, maintenance teams, restaurant servers, bartenders, valets and concierges.
“Each member on our team brings something unique to the hotel,” says Jones. “We receive a great deal of positive customer feedback, including name recognition. It’s a testament to how they go above and beyond to make an impact and learn who our guests are. I can’t give our team enough praise. They are passionate about personalizing service and delivering the best customer experience – they are passionate for perfection.”
“There has been a shift in enthusiasm,” says Jason. “Our staff is happy to create these memorable experiences for our guests. Our guests have become more attentive and appreciative of the services that they’ve missed out on these last few years.”
By Nicole Di Tomasso