Online dating, job interviews, seeking out a guest – what do they all have in common? Obviously, the need for a good first impression! However, where does that first impression take place? If you’re looking for that special someone, a long-term relationship, you complete the form, post it, take a photo, post it and then wait. I mean, wait! Isn’t there something else?
What are one’s expectations when applying online to meet a prospective partner? Are you looking for just anybody, do you care about their appearance or what their beliefs may be? How about their education? Background? Likes? Dislikes? Putting forth a best effort to attract someone is a process that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. The application is carefully completed, understanding that whatever is posted makes an impression on the individual about to delve into your personality. Is just any photo used to make a good impression? Or is that too, a thought-process? Do you check your hair, make-up, your clothes, the smile, body language, were your eyes closed? Oh no, too many laugh lines are showing! Now, wait. I mean, now it’s a waiting game, with high expectations that someone will make contact. Then, another first impression, when you go for that first coffee at a favorite café. Hair checked? Make-up perfect? Tie straight? What’s the appropriate attire? You walk out the door with confidence and then you wait.
Which touchpoint is your guest’s first impression? Is it when the guest browses the web, choosing to look inside your brand? On your own web site? Is your potential guest using Trip Advisor or another third party booking agent to review your hotel? Maybe it’s the call this guest makes to the hotel? Or the walk-in looking for a comfortable place to rest? It’s very much the dating game, when you think about it; “Hotel seeking long-term relationship with the right partner who has similar interests; works hard but loves to play. Enjoys an occasional workout, but sometimes would rather be that couch-potato. An early riser, who is ready to take on the day after a hearty breakfast. Walks in the woods, along the beach or strolling the city promenade makes life pleasurable.”
For each of those touchpoints, you need to have a plan in place.
Your web site
How does your hotel look, does your hotel “smile” for the camera? Is it bright, cheerful looking? Landscape immaculate, hedges trimmed? Do the photos represent its best side? Are the pictures honest and tell a true story?
It’s possible that once a guest checks out your web page they move on to a third-party site. Are the photos you’ve submitted professionally made? Have you posted a sufficient number of pictures to whet the guest’s appetite to continue seeking out information about your property? Too few photos may tell a negative story, they may wonder what’s being hidden from view. Guest photos may support your cause, while some may be less flattering; the closeup photos of that yummy breakfast, right next to the over-ripe bananas. The newly renovated room decorated in the most complimentary colors, could be the room with the safety pin hemming up the curtain or with a shining porcelain sink with the black mold covering the grout or caulking. It’s all there for everyone’s viewing pleasure or dismay.
There are so many good reviews, but probably some not so good. Are you responding to them all in a positive manner? Consumers will still consider staying at your hotel if they see you have an interest in all guest reviews and have responded appropriately with a personalized message. Create a battery of responses for your most typical reviews and then customize every post to deliver a heartfelt message. Your guests can read between the lines. Make sure the words and the message are true and sincere.
Does your property look inviting to the potential walk-in or do they walk-by? A newly paved, newly striped parking area says welcome, come in. Is all the debris picked up? Does everyone at the hotel pitch in to pick up newspapers and empty cans left behind by the careless or forgetful? How about your neighbor’s property? The adjacent property may directly affect the image your potential guest has about your hotel. Your guests don’t care if you own it or not, if it directly affects your guest’s first impression, then pick it up. Is there a waste receptacle close to your entry, is it overflowing? Are all of your associates responsible for helping to keep it clear?
Front desk and associates
Anonymity provides some guests a convenient avenue for venting, posting photos and reviews. Third party web sites are filled with pictures of reception areas and front desk associates interacting with guests. Is the area clutter-free, well-lit with a comfortable feel? Are associates well-groomed and in the appropriate attire? Uniforms look good and display solidarity, efficiency and organization. Shirts, worn tucked in or out, should look good, not sloppy. Is the 10-5 rule consistently practiced – as a customer approaches are you smiling and making eye contact with them when they are 10’ away and talking to them when they are 5’ away? All customers want to be acknowledged. It puts them at ease, making it less stressful for the associate to deal with them when it’s their turn up at the desk. Offer a warm welcome, a smile, and an “I’ll be with you in a moment.” Then work intelligently and efficiently to help every guest in their quest for service.
So now, back to that first impression. Where does it all begin? Whether it be online dating, a job search or capturing that loyal guest, you have approximately 7 seconds for your first impression. You must be prepared at every touchpoint as every encounter is an opportunity to turn a satisfied guest into a loyal one. If you’re proactive, ready and prepared…the waiting game may be shorter than you think.