According to a recent survey conducted by Market Probe, there are a few key ingredients that really delight guests and keep them coming back to luxury hotels in Singapore.
Whilst technological enhancements (e.g. apps where you choose your own room, keyless mobile check-in) may be the front and centre of any future changes to the guest experience, the research suggests that some of the more rudimentary factors are still pertinent today.
The research outlines a list of "must dos" that need to be delivered in order to delight guests. Note that this does not mean that other aspects of the hotel experience should be ignored – they are still fundamental but these are simply the key levers that drive delight.
The key factors are best represented by the guest journey, and are shown below:
1. Reservation – Accuracy of information provided. The description of the hotel on a website simply must match the reality of what guests experience. The old adage of managing expectations really comes into play here.
2. Check-In – Knowledge about personal preferences. Many hotels are already doing this, but it is crucial to understand preferences whether these be related to room type, meals, or concierge services.
3. Room quality – Cleanliness of bathroom. Whilst there are many features of the room that guests will put under a microscope, they are particularly sensitive to the bathroom.
4. Dining – Courtesy of staff and variety on breakfast menu. The dining staff are ambassadors of the hotel and interactions with them are a natural extension of the hotel experience. Breakfast items must appeal to all tastes – guest tend to stick to certain types of foods, so hotels must have a broad variety to cater to all tastes.
5. Check-out – Efficiency. Guests do not want to linger. Often they will have to rush to the airport or their next destination, so the key factor here is speed.
There is one final factor that leads to delight. A surprise gift or gesture that is personalised can make the experience a memorable one, and one that is often shared on social media or directly to friends and family. Examples provided in the survey include pillows with the guests' name on it, a favourite bottle of wine being presented at check-in, and highlighting dining specials which match guests' preferences.
The key here is the element of surprise: hotels need to constantly think of new innovative ways to surprise guests, otherwise these gestures will become part of the norm.
The research also highlighted how sensitive guests are towards these experiences. A drop in performance on just one factor will reduce the chances of the guest looking to stay with the hotel again, or leaving positive sentiments about the hotel, by about a third. Consistency is king when it comes to luxury hotels: what's more once you fail on one element, exceeding expectations on another cannot offset this drop.
Luxury hotels in Singapore generally perform very well on these criteria. Variety on the breakfast menu, check-out efficiency, personalisation and surprise gifts are particular strengths, particularly for Hilton, Marriot, and Shangri-La hotel chains. However there is still room for improvement with respect to dining staff and bathroom cleanliness, with some guests receiving sub-optimal experiences. Starwoods, Accor, and IHG tend to lag a little on all key measures.
The moral of the story is a simple one: hotels need to consistently deliver the basics at a high level, and create that 'magic' by providing a surprise gift or gesture. Technology may change the way guests interact with hotels in the future, but the core deliverables should not be forgotten.
The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Singapore Business Review. The author was not remunerated for this article.
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Raymond Lo is an insights professional with 15 years of experience consulting to companies in the telecommunication, banking, hospitality, and airport space. His experience spans across the APAC region with a particular emphasis on customer experience and engagement.