Clients are now thinking ‘Post-Covid, Pre-Vaccine’ is the new normal and have asked us for thoughts and ideas.
5-20-2020: Check out the interview with Jim Coyle about this topic on NPR.
New Table Stakes for Hotels
When hotel operators previously discussed Guest Experience, conversations rarely included talk of cleanliness and sanitation. That’s a compliance thing, not an experience thing. As one client remarked a few years ago, “If I am using Coyle to measure cleanliness in our public areas, I’ve got bigger problems than you can solve. My staff is all over it.”
While a guest can spot a water-stained wine glass or a smudged front door, they cannot spot COVID-19, and that creates uncertainty, doubt, and as a result, it makes guests uneasy.
Uneasiness creates vulnerability and guests will be seeking and receiving subjective data. They will be looking for reasons to trust you. Give them reasons.
Here’s what hotel operators can do to show they should be trusted:
Conspicuous Acts of Cleanliness
Staff should behave like they have to prove safety to an invisible inspector who is always watching them. Wipe anything handed to the guest in front of their own eyes. Hotel guests will notice staff members sanitizing bell carts, door handles, the room key they receive, and so on. They will be reassured by that and other suggestive markers like perfectly crisp uniforms, form-fitting masks, and spotless floors.
In order to gain trust, guests will have to know that you care, and they will want to see that you have bona-fide systems in place. Don’t wait for them to ask.
Many hotels today are relying on the brands to provide generalized guidance. That is a mistake, in our opinion. Be specific about what you are doing today that you were not doing pre-Covid.
- A one-page piece of collateral or link to a specific webpage should be going out with all reservation confirmations.
- The same collateral should be available at check-in
- Place a display stand at the door and elevator showing what systems are in place
- Tell guests what cleaning chemicals you are using to keep them safe
- New options for check-in, check-out, room service and transportation
Don’t forget the back of the house. There has always been a curiosity about what happens behind closed doors; guests will want to know now more than ever. Communicate how you are keeping the staff safe. One of our resort clients has staff staying at the hotel; guests responded positively to that for many reasons.
Remember, one Instagram picture of staff gathered tightly around a time clock, eating elbow-to-elbow in the break room, etc. could blow a lot of work and effort in an instant.
There is an increased awareness in the media and in society in general about the safety of frontline workers. Solicit feedback from staff, and remember they are vulnerable to guests in ways they never have been before.
Get Rid of High-Touch Items
Think of things that guests touch and don’t take with them. While you cannot remove drawer handles, doorknobs, and faucets, the following items should be eliminated:
- In-room compendium and directory
- Pens, pencils, pads of paper
- Water glasses and water bottles
- Menus, magazines, and brochures
The Pesky Appliances
If you removed the telephone from the guest room, how many guests would notice it? Our guess is: not many. More important is the answer to the guest who asks why you removed it. High touch surfaces that require trust that they are cleaned should be examined and nothing should be considered sacred. Think about:
- Removing the mini-bar or locking it
- Removing the guestroom phone and instead display a number to text* for services
- Providing a ‘certified sterilized’ USB cord for the TV for guests to connect a laptop
- Placing the TV remote in a ‘certified sterilized’ envelope, case or pouch
- Removing the alarm clock
Worst-case scenario is a guest asks for one of the above. The message is clear, though: you left no stone unturned.
*We have clients who have had success with Kipsu
Hotels will have a hard time enforcing PPE on guests. Some guests will be looking for an escape and not want to wear a mask, and already the mask has become a political hot point. With that said:
- All staff should have a mask and we recommend a color other than blue or white
- Gloves should be worn by staff members who handle food and enter the guestrooms
- Make it clear you have PPE abundantly available
Empower the Guest
Sanitizing wipes should be available in guestrooms, at a minimum. Guests will also want the option to wipe down their pool chair, dining room table, elevator buttons, or bottle of wine themselves.
Making it clear to guests that you support their self-sanitation guidelines is better than being gimmicky or overdoing it.
Clients are already spreading guests out where they can. Rooming groups together makes sense, as does rooming guests in ways that prevent crowding at the elevator.
During reservations, get as much arrival and departure information as possible. Advise guests who are flexible of the best/slowest times to check in and out.
If guest occupancy starts leading to crowding in the breakfast room, consider reservations or staggering guests by preference or room number. Grab-and-go will likely be the most desirable option for coffee, fruit and pastry. Have PC packaging ready to go wherever possible.
Eliminate check-in and check-out altogether if possible. Long check-in lines are bad enough; standing around with guests, who decided not to wear masks, who arrived from who-knows-where, will be a massive stressor.
Listen, (don’t talk), Listen
In a time where there is little certainty, one thing that is for certain is guests will talk to you and your staff. And, their attitudes and needs will evolve and change rapidly.
The less you assume the better. Already (May 2020) polling is showing extremely sharp divides about the seriousness of COVID-19. Expect these divides to increase if COVID-19 comes back in the fall or there are significant reported outbreak spikes.
In the United States, it is an election year and COVID has a central role in both parties’ election strategy. Expect people to be polarized. While it will be important for your staff to communicate about your COVID-19 programming to guests, now is not the time for staff or management to be sharing personal opinions, anecdotes, or evangelistic philosophies.
We have hundreds of clients in China, Singapore, South Korea and Europe and we continue to measure customer experience in multiple industries there and other parts of the world. We will keep you posted as things evolve, so please stay in touch.