Let’s say hypothetically that you had no legacy commitments to OTAs and other commission-hungry third party relationships. (I know this is impossible, but bear with me for a moment.) Now, what would you do? If we make the assumption that you would still have guests, how would your service delivery change? What would you do differently if you did not have the pressures of margin-eroding distribution systems?
Chances are that you would put your efforts back into doing what we, as hoteliers, are trained to do: Provide true and meaningful guest experiences. Guest service taken to its extreme connotes providing experiences that exceed your customers’ expectations. Service of this caliber is generally reserved for exclusive (read expensive) five-star, five-diamond professionally rated properties like the ones you read about in Travel & Leisure and Condé Nast Traveller. These properties are generally inaccessible to the average or even somewhat above average traveler.
However, in my travels, I have found a small hotel chain that somehow manages to deliver this seemingly unheard of customer service, and it does so while keeping within the bounds of the upper-middle range of pricing. In doing so, not surprisingly, they are not just loved, but revered by their customers, resulting in TripAdvisor rankings “well above their pay grade.”
Library Hotel Collection (LHC) operates four properties in Midtown Manhattan. I have now had the privilege of staying at all of them. They are all small, each less than 100 guestrooms. They are not the newest properties, nor do they have the most modern accouterments such as separate showers from bathtubs, large bathrooms or colossally sized television screens. In fact, without the service component, a property inspector might be hard-pressed to award a four-star or four-diamond award on these locations.
Yet, there is magic in the air, and before you discuss a multi-million dollar renovation with your asset managers and owners, a trip to Manhattan might present a bountiful learning opportunity. That’s because LHC gets it! They truly understand what today’s guests want: To be treated like highly appreciated guests who have arrived in someone’s home, and not nickeled and dimed to death. When you check-in at a LHC property, your room rate plus tax is the rate you pay. While there are services you can choose to add like dinner, parking or flowers on arrival, guests enjoy a multitude of added amenities without adding anything else to the bill.
Their leading concept revolves around what they call the club room. Here, you can indulge in food, snacks, beverages, read the newspaper or a magazine, surf the Internet, and just relax. Bring a friend? No problem and no additional cost. Want to have a snack in the evening? Why not. Glass of wine? Bottle of water for the trip? But of course! This is your home away from home so help yourself. There are no additional charges. Ever. A cash register is not in sight.
So, how do they somehow get this done when no one else seems to get it and where every hotel that I know of is into value-engineering your stay to the point that full-service and limited-service are virtually indistinguishable. In a world of seemingly endless resort fees and surcharges, LHC’s approach is truly refreshing.
To help ameliorate this dilemma, I spoke to Adele Gutman, LHC’s vice president of revenue management and marketing. Her acumen in this area is both refreshing and eye-opening.
“For our New York City properties, we have maintained all of our four properties within the top ten on TripAdvisor for eight years now, but our goal is always to have the top four places,” Gutman says. “With 450-plus Manhattan properties listed, this is a tall order, but we have done it before and the whole team is focused on achieving this again. More than anything else, our stellar reputation is due to our staff members who are excited to be the object of such enthusiastic appreciation on TripAdvisor. Every positive review motivates the staff to do even more for the next guest.”
She continues, “This single-minded goal is communicated to our entire team and becomes the mantra of our organization, with every other metric being secondary. We know that the majority of new guests are generated through TripAdvisor search. This, plus our past guest referrals, delivers our occupancy goals. And, since all four of our properties receive similar ratings, cross -selling to another location when one of our hotels is full becomes so much easier.”
The system works, and with new properties outside of Manhattan now under construction, LHC may be coming to a city near you. Could its approach work for you? I suggest you visit one of their properties and experience their magic for yourself.