Remarkable customer service pays dividends in the travel industry by increasing loyalty and word of mouth buzz.
But while customer service has always been a prerequisite to success in the hotel industry, in this social media era where everyone acts as a publisher, there is additional marketing value to being remarkable.
Getting the basics right, but also looking to create so-called talkable touchpoints.
Here’s a collection of interesting examples I’ve seen recently in the hotel industry that might inspire you...
1. Greeting guests with hosts at Andaz Hotels
Hyatt’s Andaz brand replaces the traditional front desk reception concept by having hosts circulate the lobby to meet guests as they walk in.
Joe Brancatelli, a business travel columnist, observed:
"You’re invited to sit down and are offered a complimentary glass of wine or a cup of coffee. (Andaz properties have a barista on duty 24/7 in a lobby café.) The host then completes the check-in on a tablet computer. When you’re finished sipping and signing, the host escorts you to your guestroom."
"Andaz is about giving great service in a relaxed way," says Toni Hinterstoisser, general manager of the Andaz on Wall Street.
"A host’s job is very different [than a front-desk clerk's]. They are supposed to be like the conductor of a symphony. We want them to anticipate your needs when you check in, make you relaxed, and be the person you call throughout your stay when you need help."
It seems this approach pays off in guest satisfaction – both Andaz locations in New York were among the top ten in the city according to online guest reviews.
2. Instagram Moments book at Sheraton Bratislava (Starwood)
Photographer and travel blogger Jen Pollack Bianco found a book of "Instagram Moments" when she checked into the Sheraton Bratislava. It came with a note that said:
"As we know that Jennifer loves to take Instagram pictures, we thought you’d enjoy this hand-picked selection of 25 of our most favorite shots of Bratislava…;)"
It’s a good example of a simple gesture that makes a big impression.
3. Service personalization with Facebook feedback at The Ritz-Carlton, Naples
The Ritz-Carlton Resorts of Naples asked Facebook fans how they like their coffee.
If you answered, then stayed with them, your coffee would arrive perfectly sugared — without having to ask. It’s a little detail that can be used in other ways, as we see in our next example...
4. Social media increases loyalty at Accor
Accor Hotels tried something cool at its Sofitel and Novotel properties in Philadelphia, Chicago, New York and Washington DC – identifying loyalty members checking into the hotels that month, and then checking (public) social media profiles to identify the guests’ interests.
A gift was then selected to "take guest recognition to the next level, to a more powerful level," said Magali Jimenez Bervillé, director of e-commerce North America for Accor.
5. Fun, free amenities at CitizenM Hotels
- For the guest who likes fine dining, an all-day behind-the-scenes tour of Tru in Chicago along with a night at the Sofitel Chicago Water Tower.
- For the guest who likes fishing, an eco-friendly fishing trip in the San Diego Bay.
- For the guest who likes luxury cars, a certificate to drive a Ferrari and Lamborghini.
CitizenM Hotels succeeds by understanding and offering exactly what their guests care about. In addition to free wifi and movies, they are constantly introducing cool new amenities.
For example, when I was staying at their Amsterdam property last Fall, they were giving away free chicken curry rice to guests before they went out on the town.
I took a photo, shared it with my Facebook friends – and am still using it as an example in presentations:
6. Sleep menu at Conrad Chicago
A number of hotels offer pillow menus, but the Conrad Chicago takes this to another level, offering a full pillow menu, herbal sleep elixirs and night caps, "sleep chocolate", h20 hydrating treatments, thermal acqua masks, sleep sound machines – among other amenities.
They even created a separate website: ConradChicagoSleepMenu.
7. Music Playlists from Morgans Hotel Group
Many hotels overlook music as an essential experience element – and a powerful way to provide a sense of place for globetrotters. Not Morgans Hotel Group.
It's created playlists for each of their hotels.
8. Tattoos at the Andaz 5th Avenue
Jonathan Frolich, general manager of Andaz 5th Avenue in Manhattan, is committed to connecting guests with New York culture.
According to this CNN article:
"His team commissioned street artists to graffiti the walls of the hotel and offered guests an opportunity to jump a multi-month wait list to get a tattoo created by world-famous artist Mister Cartoon, whose client list includes Beyoncé and Justin Timberlake.
"Years ago, the grandest hotels were bastions of culture, representing whatever was happening artistically in that city. That commitment and connection has disappeared for a very long time — we’re trying to bring it back."
9. Destination information from Mandarin Oriental
Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group takes content marketing to a new level with Destination MO – its online magazine. Readers find everything from celebrity recommendations to how to find the perfect "moment" in a city.
10. Personal recommendations from Hilton
Vanessa Sain-Dieguez runs a team of people at Hilton Worldwide that manage the Twitter account @HiltonSuggests.
They work around the clock to provide real-time advice and recommendations based on questions and ideas they pick up from social media monitoring. They even recommend competitor hotels if they don’t have a property that suits the needs of a person in their audience.
All recommendations come from personal experience. Britnee Johnson explains at Digital Royalty:
"Hilton Suggests communicates solely through Twitter to help those in various destinations find the things that will make their travel easier. The customer service organization lets users know that all suggestions are based on their team members’ personal experience and opinion."
"Simply put, someone might ask about the best iconic places for walking and dining in the Los Angeles area and @HiltonSuggests will reply with the places that they’ve experienced to be the best- Santa Monica Pier and Venice Beach.
"The team does its best job to help others in the cities listed on their Twitter background (Atlanta, Austin, Chicago, etc)."
11. Concierge videos from InterContinental Hotels
Back in 2007, InterContinental Hotels began creating videos featuring hotel concierges offering destination advice. Here’s Domenic Alfonzetti, Chief Concierge at the InterContinental New York Barclay, showing you an insider’s tour of New York:
InterContinental has also tested providing concierge service through live video chat on Skype or Apple’s Facetime to provide a higher level of service through digital channels.
12. Holographic concierge at Aloft Hotels
This isn’t Tupac at Coachella, but Starwood’s Aloft Hotels is testing a little Star Trek technology to give guests a new way to access information and offers on local businesses.
A holographic image is projected onto a life-sized cut-out of a person in the hotel lobby of an Aloft Hotel. Guests can then use their smartphones to download and save information.
13. Scavenger Hunt contest at Palomar San Diego
Helping their guests explore the city of San Diego, the Palomar, a Kimpton Hotel, created a scavenger hunt that doubled as a social media contest.
Participants used clues provided through the Scavenger Hunt with Friends mobile application, and then took and shared photos as they found the items.
Mark Van Cooney, general manager, says:
"We think this is a perfect way for participants to have fun and experience the nooks and crannies of San Diego, while having a chance of winning some great prizes. We see it as a creative take on our ‘Live Like a Local’ programme, which provides guests with an authentic local San Diego experience."
14. Facebook updates from the Ushuaia Beach Hotel
The Ushuaia Ibiza Beach Hotel used RFID technology in an interesting way: creating wristbands that are synchronized to guests’ Facebook profiles.
Guests wearing these wristbands could check into places on property and update their status (eg, “I’m dancing at the Ushuaia”). They could also get photos taken of themselves at events, and have these images sent directly to their Facebook newsfeed.
The marketing results were impressive – read the full story.
15. Free mountain-top photos for Facebook at Vail Resorts
Every winter sports fan wants a photo on top of the mountain, and professional photographers have exploited this for years, charging exorbitant rates. Vail Resorts offered an alternative – taking mountaintop photos that were free to post on Facebook and Twitter.
It’s a powerful way to serve your guests – and increase your brand visibility at the same time.
How will you deliver remarkable service?
This is undoubtedly a very eclectic mix of ways hotels are providing their guests with remarkable service.
But whether you are working with hotels or another area of the travel industry, I hope it inspires you to think of how you might creatively provide memorable experiences. It's better for travelers, and it's better for your bottom line.