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Trends Shaping the Future of Guest Service in Hospitality

Cate Farmer General Manager, Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort

The hospitality industry is about just that – hospitality – so the success of a hotel or resort depends greatly upon providing personal, memorable guest service.  Knowing how vital guest experience is, hotels and resorts are constantly evolving their approach, finding fresh new ways to ensure a service-minded approach that ultimately exceeds travelers' expectations.

With an increasingly competitive atmosphere and online reviews now accessible at travelers' fingertips, the importance of providing the highest level of hospitality, service, and attention to detail is not only of the utmost importance but it is becoming a base expectation for today's travelers.  

As the general manager of a AAA Four Diamond-rated resort - one that has received both praise and accolades for the ways we've integrated guest service into our culture - I have personally seen a focus on service to transform a guest's experience from ordinary to extraordinary. I believe that in the year ahead, cultivating a positive work culture, personalizing the guest experience, and offering engaging experiential activities are three trends that will continue to dominate the discussion.  By prioritizing each of these things as part of their approach to guest service, hotels and resorts will be successful in positively shaping their overall experience. 

A recent report indicated by American Express stated that seven out of ten customers are more likely to spend a minimum of 13% more money with a company or brand that provides a top-notch customer experience. With an increasingly competitive landscape and online reviews now accessible at travelers' fingertips, the importance of providing the highest level of hospitality, service, and attention to detail is not only of the utmost importance but is becoming a base expectation for today's travelers.  So how can a management team ensure their culture aligns with, and exceeds, that expectation?

I am a firm believer that great guest service starts with the hiring of your employees.  Identifying the right team members who embody your brand's culture, language and spirit will ultimately translate to your guests.  Margaritaville is known for its authentic brand of fun and escapism. 

At Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort, we've worked incredibly hard to find ways to translate that brand to guests, starting with hiring the right team members, who can deliver that sense of escapism on a daily basis.  We've learned to put long, rigorous interview sessions in the past and incorporate new methods that can provide us a clearer understanding of an individual's personality. Through one-on-one round table sessions, we learn more about a candidate, their work experience, and in what department they would excel best.  We ask open-ended questions to encourage free-thinking and dialogue. Key factors we like to look out for are a person's ability to detail previous experiences that exhibit accomplishment, leadership, motivation, communication, problem-solving skills, and their ability to learn quickly.

We also make sure candidates have a great smile, a positive and enthusiastic approach to their work and are ready to have fun!  If our team is having fun every day, we know our guests will be too. In the case that a potential candidate is not the proper fit, you also want to ensure that they had a positive experience. As a result of the professional and honest interview process that they encountered with you, the candidate may even feel compelled enough to refer more suitable applicants to your company.

It is equally important to maintain a healthy company culture for employees after they are on board. Employee happiness is directly reflected in their work and their interactions with guests, as well as each other. Studies have proven that happiness is contagious. Nicholas A. Christakis, a medical sociologist at Harvard University, notes that happiness can depend on "choices and actions and experiences of other people, including people to whom you are not directly connected." Thus, the emotional health of your employees makes a big impression on your guests.

Although procedures at your establishment may already be in place to create a stellar company culture, consider requiring management to schedule routine in-person meetings for real-time, engaging feedback. These meetings will allow your leadership team to stay informed of their wins in guest satisfaction and the areas that may need more support. Whether it's constructive criticism or positive feedback, veteran team members and management have the opportunity to share earned wisdom and the ability to mentor new hires through routine team check-ins.

Apps like Beekeeper, a mobile-first internal communication solution that connects non-desk workforces in hospitality, help to streamline proactive communication among team members. This app has elevated internal communication and created a platform where deserving personnel can be recognized for their efforts and achievements among their peers, keeping management accountable for valuing good work, boosting team productivity, and empowering staff to continue working with excellence. As Jorge Paulo Lemann says, "The greatest asset of a company is its people."  This is something we live by every day.

Another trend relating to guest service that is dominating the industry is creating hyper-personalized experiences from start to finish. According to a recent study conducted by Mindtree, travel providers such as hotels, travel agencies, and brands are losing out on business because they are missing opportunities to better customize the guest experience. By offering a more personalized travel experience, hoteliers can establish a value-driven, long-term connection with each guest - who are then far more likely to recommend your property and share their experience with others. Ensure your staff goes above and beyond by offering tailored recommendations and insights on local destinations.

Also, if a guest will be celebrating a special occasion like a birthday or anniversary while visiting, consider personalizing their stay with added touches like a card or cupcake. At Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort, we like to place balloons or flowers in a guest's room or on the table while they dine at one of our venues, to add to their special moment.

Understandably, this takes time and effort, so to best streamline the process, consider appointing a special event concierge who will handle and oversee these fun, personalized initiatives. This position can be the point of contact to take lead on these efforts and bring an idea to fruition with no hiccups. Special event concierges are highly skilled people who can bring added value to each guest experience and take care of some essential and time-consuming tasks. They also have an extensive network to help you gain access to complex requests.

Another area of opportunity for hotels to focus on, and where they can excel in guest service, is offering a dynamic menu of activities and amenities on-site.  Travelers today expect more than just a bed to sleep in – they want to stay at a hotel or resort that gives them things to do, personalized to their desires. Hotels are now social connectors, ambassadors of all things local, curators of unique experiences as well as tangible extensions of a community. The immersive entertainment concept goes beyond the norm of offering a pool and a TV, serving up dining choices, activities and creative ways to relax.

Further, the bar and restaurant industry has exploded with immersive dining and drinking experiences that include themed venues and limited dinner concepts, like dining in the dark.  At Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort's JWB Prime Steak and Seafood, we offer an exclusive four-course wine dinner, featuring award-winning wines paired with expertly matched menu items, led by an expert Sommelier. This private dining experience is the ideal way to cap off a relaxing getaway, corporate retreat, or day of team building.

Immersive entertainment has also quickly moved into the mainstream, covering everything from live music/entertainment on-site to wellness classes to wine dinners, to even fully themed hotels. At Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort, we aim to offer interactive activities such as our Beer Yoga session that is held on the resort's 11th floor scenic rooftop or our guided morning bike rides that take riders through the north end of the Hollywood Broadwalk, making a couple of stops interspersed with fun facts. Activities you offer should be related directly back to your brand but incorporate unique experiences that will evoke a lasting impression and ignite a strong connection between the brand and the consumer, resulting in a repeat guest.

Tourism is also a key driver in our economy and as an influential establishment, ensuring that stays relevant and top of mind in our recommendations is very important. Being active with the advisory councils or convention and visitors bureau can impact the future of the hospitality industry in our market.

At the end of the day, the key is for the hospitality industry to remain nimble to changes in customer demand, ensuring a service-first mindset at every possible touchpoint with a guest.  Trends come and go, but excellent guest service will never go out of style!

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