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Creating a culture of guest delight part I: Tips to build delight

Dec 26, 2019

For the hospitality industry, guest delight is the key to creating loyal, repeat guests. But do your employees understand what it takes to delight your guests? Do you have a culture that promotes it?

Guest delight comes from an environment where service is anticipated and guests don’t have to ask for it. It’s a byproduct of proactively assessing the expressed and unexpressed needs of a guest and taking action to address them. 

Delight is emotional. It provides a warm feeling inside because you anticipated their needs and did what you could to make sure they have a positive emotional response to their experience at your hotel. 

Every time an employee speaks with a guest, they have an opportunity to enhance their emotional experience. Every moment is an opportunity to make the interaction special and unique.

But it’s difficult to create guest delight when your culture isn’t founded on it.

Do you struggle with creating a culture of “customer delight” with your guests?

Unfortunately, some organizations don’t even know what their true culture is. Even if they have a statement on culture, it may not be the true culture experience being delivered from the top down or bottom up. 

Often, what culture boils down to is leadership and engagement. A culture of guest delight is a culture of service. How effective do your leaders serve? Do they lead by example? Do they strive to delight employees?

Delighted, engaged employees are the cornerstone to delighting your guests. How high or low is your employee satisfaction? When you have unhappy, unengaged employees, it’s difficult to hide it from guests. And the last thing you want are employees who see their job as just a paycheck and are only willing to do the bare minimum. Guest happiness isn’t a priority for disengaged employees.

Engaged employees start with your onboarding and training program. When you hire a new employee, how much training and mentoring are they given before they begin interacting with guests? Do they understand guest delight and your expectations surrounding it? Do they know the specific behaviors they must enact in order to delight a guest?

There are so many factors that go into building a culture of guest delight and so many reasons why your organization may not have it or struggles to build it.

That’s why we’re sharing six tips on how to create this culture. In part I, we’ll cover tips 1-3.

Tip #1: Assess and develop your culture

The first step to developing a culture of guest delight is to assess and understand what your current culture is. Only then can you know whether you’re able to make tweaks to your current culture or if you need to, essentially, start from scratch and develop a new culture. 

If you discover your current culture isn’t what you thought it was and isn’t a good basis to encourage guest delight, it’s OK. You’re not alone. You can define the culture you do want and design a plan on how to develop that culture. You can redefine your mission, vision and values, making sure they align with and promote a culture of guest delight.

Tip #2: Create a culture of employee delight

The truth is, before you can delight guests, you have to delight employees. Hospitality is a people-driven business. You’re selling an experience that your employees deliver. Gallup studies on employee engagement reveal that 66% of employees are not engaged, leaving an overwhelming amount of potential delight untapped. 

Creating a culture of employee delight means hiring the right employees who align with and embrace this culture, training your staff on how to deliver the guest delight experience you’ve promised, developing career paths for your employees, and rewarding and recognizing those who embody guest delight.

How many of your employees have experience in hospitality? Do they truly get their role in your organization? Do they feel connected with the mission, vision and values of your organization?

Whether it’s the team member who opens the door as guests come in to the lobby, or the team member who comes into the guest’s room during their stay to clean, everyone who represents your organization has the ability to deliver on your mission and to fulfil your guest value proposition. But to do so, they need the right onboarding and training, the right career development approach and the right performance recognition. All of this creates and enhances employee engagement, building the foundation that’s absolutely necessary for them to delight guests.

Encourage employees to  get curious and  learn about guests in a respectful way so they can treat them as special, as opposed to generic. When employees remember the name, reason for stay, and small preferences, opportunities for guest delight begin revealing themselves. This not only creates opportunity for delight but also increases the likelihood of turning a first-time guest into an every-time guest that shares their stories of delight.  

Tip #3: Develop your organizational strategy

We often ask clients whether they have a strong organizational strategy driving their plans and decisions that leads to the ultimate goal of guest delight and loyalty. What are your goals? Do you have well-balanced strategic priorities and actionable steps to help you achieve those goals?

Determining your overarching vision of where you want to go and how you’re going to get there is crucial to building a culture of guest delight. And it’s important to recognize that your organization isn’t the only one who has goals — so do your guests and employees. Your organizational strategy must take those goals into account and be able to address both guest engagement and employee engagement. 

Guests are savvier than ever

Guests are savvier buyers now more than ever. They are more interested in having a true experience. And they’re researching online to make sure they also get the best value for their money. They expect top service and top results, and they look for the ultimate guest experience. It’s crucial to your success that you deliver on their expectations. 

In part II of this series, we cover tips 4-6 — from technology to competition — to help you create a culture of guest delight. Plus, we talk about the best ways to measure guest delight.  

Let’s continue! Click here to read part II. And click here to read part III.


Tina Nazier, MBA, CPC
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