We are supporting characters in a guest’s story

Hotels are all about delivering an experience — bestowing guests with an uplifting story to enrich their lives. At least that’s the aspiration. Sadly, we fall short sometimes. Whenever we cover this topic, we often discuss a hotel in terms of the “narrative” it offers to who visit. But this narrative must change from the hotel’s point of view to that of each individual guest.

Although it’s a step in the right direction to even contemplate what a property’s narrative is, any efforts along these lines may prove to be a tad blindsided or self-centered if you are only considering what the hotel is doing. In terms of coalescing all operations — guest services, décor, amenities, loyalty member perks, local experiences — into the semblance of a unique narrative for your property, you should instead aim to meld them from a guest’s perspective.

It’s a minor tweak in how you approach guest relations, but it can elicit very positive results. The key here — and I say this as objectively as possible and without any inherent misanthropy — is to assume your guests are selfish. Assume they are rushed for time, tight on cash and only have enough energy to serve their immediate needs. Superseding any narrative you bring to the table, you should be asking: how will this (whatever “this” is) benefit a guest’s story?

Even though it’s your hotel, your property, your team, your operations and your amenities, each guest can only see things his or her own way. It’s all in the eye of the beholder. Notice the repetition of the word “your” though. If you really want to deliver an exceptional experience for your guests, you have to steer away from the attitude of bringing guests into your narrative and instead focus on helping guests fulfill their needs and realize their dreams.

As such, you should set each new customer as the protagonist and then train and position your staff to be attentive supporting characters for each new story that graces your domain. How this philosophic shift is applied in real time to your operations is a far more complex matter that is best articulated on a case-by-case basis. And most of those cases will come through in the form of day-to-day, bread-and-butter interactions between your staff and hotel guests.

These are the fine-print changes that might go unnoticed if not otherwise instructed. For instance, instead of starting a reply to a guest request with a “We can’t” or “Our policy is” begin with a positive response to bring you both onto the same page. Or, rather than introduce new features of your hotel, ask guests first what their plans are and what they hope to gain from their stay with you (and then launch into the sales pitch!). Subtle changes like this will make your staff feel compassionate and win over guests.

What other examples would you add to this discussion?