When you’re traveling for business, it’s amazing how much your mood can be affected by the way things go at your hotel — and when you’re in a bad mood, performance may suffer. Meetings may not go as well as they could have. A whole chain of events may be set in motion that ultimately results in the biggest mistake of your entire professional career.
Ok, that may be a little dramatic. But it’s no exaggeration to say that hotel experiences do affect business people in many different ways. Since travel for business is on the rise, and the number of business trips (especially to/from China) will increase into the foreseeable future, how can hotels be more business ready, and avoid common annoyances? Here are some of the things every business traveler dreads, and what hotels can do to make it better.
1. The long sermon
It’s natural for receptionists to have information for incoming guests. Depending on the hotel, there might be a lot of material. The pool, spa, business centre, ice machines, vending machines, restaurants, breakfast, vouchers, shuttles, loyalty points, and the list goes on. Many a weary businessperson has suffered through a long introductory speech when all they want is a hot shower and a bed.
Well, why don’t they just say so? Because many people are too polite to cut in. They know receptionists are only doing their job, and don’t want to create a tense moment. The fix is simple. Ask yourself what tired businesspeople really want to know, and what they need to know. You can even ask directly if they’d like information about the hotel, or would rather get to their room quickly. The question will, more often than not, be greatly appreciated. (And when in doubt, it is even easier to direct the guest to the TV-based compendium or ask them to call you when they need more information.)
And by the way, if you offer online check-ins but don’t have a separate queue, consider revising that approach.
2. The antique ironing setup
When preparing for an important meeting, it’s nice to find your Zen. This is difficult to do with an ironing setup like the one your Aunt Edna used to have. We’re not longboarding here, we’re ironing. Sleeker, newer, user-friendly ironing boards (and irons, for that matter) are useful items that score big points with business travelers. And do we really have to go searching to find the iron? A helpful hint – place the iron right next to the ironing board!
3. The dysfunctional workspace
Among the most frequent in-room complaints from business travelers are poorly placed electrical outlets, uncomfortable work chairs, and inadequate laptop spaces. If the essential workspace elements of your guestrooms aren’t up to date, business travelers aren’t going to come back. Yes, we know many people like to work on their mobile device whilst sitting on the bed, however for serious office time, nothing beats an ergonomic seat (not a dining chair) and desk at the right height.
4. The mystery shuttle
There’s something about waiting cluelessly for an airport shuttle that just isn’t very…businesslike. It’s not that people expect a free shuttle to be as convenient as a private car — but detailed information would be nice. According to a survey conducted by the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) and AccorHotels, improved technology around hotel shuttles is high on the wish list for frequent business travelers.
This improved technology is already in use by Uber drivers, taxi companies and pizza restaurants across the world. By fitting hotel shuttles with GPS technology, and by offering real time tracking through an app and/or web site, your guests can make an informed decision on whether to wait for a shuttle or seek alternative transport.
5. The darkened kitchen
Here in Australia, we pride ourselves on maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Business travelers, however, often work more on the road than they do at home. Being unable to grab a bite or a drink after hours can be maddening. 24-hour kiosks with pre-packed food and beverage, much like the kiosks seen at airports, are one innovative solution being implemented by business-savvy hotels.
Bottled water is also a concern, especially amongst growing numbers of business travelers who don’t drink from the tap. Liberal policies with bottled water, especially for people who are known to be traveling for business, can make a difference where brand loyalty and perception are concerned. (And if you have social or environmental concerns, then support suppliers like Thank You who use their profits to fund overseas water projects.)
Finally, if food delivery is an option in your area (local takeaway, UberEats, Deliveroo etc), let guests know that orders can be delivered to their room. Going down to the lobby to wait for pizza van is not a good look for a businessperson.
6. The service gap
Business travelers, even more than others, want easy solutions to their problems. If something is missing from, or wrong with, their room, they don’t want to speak to three different people, or be put on hold. Time is valuable. That’s one of the reasons why properties that can afford it — such as Hilton with its HH app — are providing guests with options to interact with staff and make requests via text messaging or digital box ticking. Chatbots are another innovative (and increasingly common) way to achieve this.
It’s just good business
When I started off on a reception desk all those years ago, I used to make it my objective for the day to turn the mood of guests around. I knew that if a guest was unhappy when they arrived, then they would probably be unhappy when they got to their room and start finding faults. If I could get a guest to smile before they left the desk, then I figured I had done my job and helped both them and my employer. When the whole hotel surprises business travelers with timely actions and useful flourishes, the guest effectively equates the hotel with good business. Happy, healthy and productive stays don’t happen by chance though - if hotels are serious about attracting and retaining more business bookings, they need to continually review the guest experience and work proactively to make it better.
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