Managing expectations with prearrival communications

The post-pandemic travel landscape has seen a victory for hotels in terms of incredible revenue numbers in most destination markets. Unfortunately, guest reviews and satisfaction levels haven’t kept pace, mostly due to the sudden swing back to full occupancy and the lack of variable labor to meet this giant uptick in service requirements.

The long-term consequence of this discrepancy between occupancy and satisfaction is that it can erode brand trust and loyalty. Guests aren’t prioritizing your back-of-house problems ahead of their own needs; after sheltering in place for nearly two years, they just want a fantastic hotel experience, especially if they are paying a yielded price for it all. On a micro-level, this plays out as a conversation amongst friends akin to, “Yeah, we stayed there for our first trip after international restrictions were lifted; the hotel was nice but service had some huge flaws, so we don’t recommend it.”

While these service issues will inevitably get ironed out as brands regroup, reassess and retrain over the off-peak winter months, what you may be missing in this example is the importance of vigilantly managing guest expectations.

For instance, it’s one thing for a guest to arrive on site to unexpectedly discover that one of two elevators is down due to maintenance and that there may be delays in getting to the guestroom floors. This can be incredibly frustrating, particularly after flight delays or cancellations. But this situation can be moderated by informing guests in advance. Consider getting an email or text with a kindly written note that implies, “We know your time is valuable, so we are doing our best to resolve this maintenance issue and our bellhops are on hand to assist wherever they can.”

Expectation management in 2023, though, is integrally linked with having a great guest communications platform that can seamlessly and time-efficiently coordinate all these sorts of use cases. You simply don’t have the resources or the budget to handle this operation any other way.

Knowing how vendors are innovating, there are a few other key features that we’d like to highlight in terms of what to look for when evaluating your own needs in this area:

  •  Personalized automation of outbound messages. With data fed in from the PMS, guest messages can be segmented – by name, arrival date, guest type, package, primary language, loyalty status, by booking channel – to ensure maximum readership and conversions. Personalization should also extend to dynamic inserts including templated surveys, links to upselling offers, or express check-in.
  • Statistics. What good is automated guest comms without some way to benchmark performance and then evolve your pre-stay messaging to increase desired actions? From the perspective of expectation management, such platforms must critically be able to validate guest accounts so that you know which messages were actually delivered.
  • Multi-channel messaging. You want your communications to be received on the channel where the guest is most likely to read them. With the ability to send one-time SMS alerts or to disseminate messaging through an omnichannel cascade, modern platforms can discern this guest behavior and then hone in on the best way to reach them for future uses.