When it comes to what we, as guests, want from a hotel, the list is long, and our expectations are, and should be, high. (Call me hard to please and I’m happy: because if I weren’t, I wouldn’t be doing a good job.) On that long list, what matters most is what comes first – long before we get into beds or bathrobes or breakfasts. It’s the welcome we get. With it, hotel hosts make their first impression – something no one ever gets a second chance to do. So it’s important that the welcome really does make us feel welcome. Saying the word is easy – but those who say it have to mean it, and that has to show.
“Welcome!” must be a genuine greeting, one that uses your name as soon as it’s known (and with a little effort that could be before – or as soon as – you arrive). It should include eye-contact, and a smile that’s sincere and sustained. And with it must come seamless service, which shows that your needs have been anticipated. Hotel staff who don’t readily deliver this whole package, every time – and any who resent being expected to – should not be on the front line in the hospitality business. Ideally, guests arriving by car or taxi will have had their first warm greeting, smile and offer of service (valet parking, and/or help with luggage) long before they even reach the reception desk – in which case, the front line begins at, or even outside, the front door.
At reception, if time allows, nothing is more agreeable than being given a key and a check-in form to fill out and return at your leisure. Better still: an invitation to fill it in at a quiet table over a welcome drink – anything from fresh lemonade, to a properly made cup of tea. Hospitality that puts your needs first – what a winner! Key service questions (wake-up call? newspaper? dinner reservation?) need to be covered, too – in a tone of invitation, not interrogation. Validate your credit card, and you’re good to go.
Personally, I am happy to be directed to my room and find my own way there – and find my luggage waiting for me – but if someone accompanies me, I really don’t need a lengthy show-and-tell session. Indeed, does anyone? How hard can it be to work out which door is the wardrobe, which the bathroom and where the hairdryer’s hidden? I can also figure out how to switch the TV on and off, or switch channels, and what’s ‘up’ and what’s ‘down’ on the heating and air-con control panel – can’t you? What I’d rather be told – and surely it’s far more important? – is the fastest route to the nearest fire exit. Frankly, I’m amazed that hotel staff don’t do this as a matter of routine, when escorting guests to their room.
So – I’m in my room, my bags are, too. The next question is: Is the room welcoming? That’s going to be the subject of my next blog. Watch this space!
PAT RICHARDSON Founder, HotelsThatWereNot.com