What’s the secret to getting happy customers who rave about your hotel?
Simple: by setting the right customer expectations, you get happy customers.
If customers start off with the wrong expectations, they end up feeling cheated and disappointed. And you end up with negative reviews, lowered customer loyalty, and lower revenues.
If you want to learn how to set the right customer expectations in hotels, read on!
The importance of setting the right customer expectations in hotels
Does this sound familiar?
You buy a product or service based on all the good things you’ve heard about it. When it doesn’t turn out to be what you expected, you feel let down.
That’s exactly what your guests feel if you don’t meet their expectations.
You see, people remember bad experiences better than good ones. And even if you don’t hear a lot of negative feedback, it might be costing you. Only 4% of disappointed customers get back to you. You never hear from 96%.
Plus, negative feedback reaches twice as many compared to positive feedback. Considering that hotels depend on good reviews, you can’t afford to tarnish your reputation.
We can convert these stats into specific numbers. Say you hear back from two disappointed customers every year. For the sake of clarity, we can assume that they make up 4% of everyone who had a bad experience at your hotel. In that case, the number of disappointed customers is closer to 50.
Now you know why customer expectations matter. Next up – how do you create the right customer expectations?
How do you know what your customer expects?
Not meeting a customer’s expectations doesn’t mean your hotel is bad. It just means that you’re targeting the wrong customer and/or you’ve created false expectations.
To solve this problem, you need to know a) who your customer is and b) what he or she expects.
Who does your hotel cater to?
As a business, you must know who your customers are in order to serve them properly.
Different customer groups have different expectations. If you target senior travelers, they might prioritize service and comfort before anything else. Families with children might be looking for child-friendly amenities. And business travelers want convenience.
If you have trouble figuring out who your target market is, the most effective way is simply to talk to them. Why did your current customers choose your hotel? What are their travel plans? After a while, you’ll see a pattern that will help you understand who you’re serving with your hotel.
What do your customers expect?
According to a MIT study, customer expectations have two levels – a desired and a sufficient level. Customers find a certain service sufficient or acceptable and desires another level of service.
Both scenarios mean your customer remains happy. But by fulfilling the latter expectation, you’re much closer to getting customers to give you positive word of mouth and become loyal customers.
The study shows how you can effectively tap into customers’ desired expectations. You need to know what your customers expect. Then, the key is to underpromise and overdeliver, instead of overpromise and underdeliver.
Some customer expectations are pretty straightforward. For example, customers expect to get more if they pay more. But some expectations are tied to specific customer segments and that’s where you need to do your research.
To figure out what your customers expect, ask them. Send a survey before or after their stay or ask them directly: What expectations did they have? How were their expectations met?
How do you set the right customer expectations in hotels?
The best way to set the right expectations is to be transparent, truthful, and to build trust.
Here’s an important rule of thumb:
Don’t leave out things in your marketing material that you think might be perceived as negative. For example, your hotel might be located outside of the city center. In that case, don’t make it sound like it’s in a prime location. This helps you set the right expectations and your guests aren’t negatively surprised when they arrive.
Now, you can absolutely highlight positive aspects. In the example above, your hotel might be in a calm and family-friendly area with lots of transportation possibilities. But just don’t leave out the exact distance to the city center.
Use customers’ own words
Another powerful way to set the right expectations is to use guest testimonials and reviews in your marketing content. In general, testimonials function as social proof to increase conversions. In short, they assure customers that others are staying at your hotel, which lowers the threshold for booking a room.
However, testimonials that don’t give any context can lower customer conversions. Highlighting negative testimonials can even increase conversions in comparison to these testimonials.
This means you should only use testimonials that give context and help you set expectations. Leave out any meatless testimonials, such as “Great hotel!”. Instead, use more informative testimonials, even if they include negative aspects that are true.
What can you do if you fail to set the right expectations?
You might inadvertently set the wrong expectations. If you fail to create the right expectations, see it as an opportunity to learn from your customers.
Reach out to them and try to understand why they feel the way they do. If you can, make it up to your customers by providing a free stay or a reduced price the next time they’re in the area.
Conclusion: Your turnover depends on setting the right expectations
Setting the right customer expectations in hotels is a necessity if you want your hotel to stand out.
Start by figuring out what your customers expect. Then, proceed to communicate what guests can expect at your hotel. This way, you target the right customers and you help them make an informed decision.
By being upfront from the start about what you can offer, you build trust with your customers. In turn, they’ll reward you with positive reviews and loyalty.
Want to learn more about customer service and making your hotel stand out from the competition?
Camilla Hallstrom is a freelance writer based in Berlin, Germany. Camilla is a contributor to publications such as The Huffington Post and Elite Daily. Say hi on Twitter: @c_hallstrom.