The coronavirus pandemic and worldwide lockdown have led to a fall in customer confidence. In fact, before lockdown restrictions were eased on the 4th July, only two out of five members of the British public (40%) felt safe staying at holiday accommodation like hotels, according to research we carried out with YouGov.
As the lockdown gradually lifted, the nation became more comfortable with travelling and the British travel industry received a much-needed boost. As uncertainty continues to grow around overseas travel, the UK is continuing to look towards local weekends away, and the country is experiencing what many are calling a UK staycation boom.
Here are some top tips and guidance to help hotels to prepare for and manage the evolving regulations, earning customer trust during this year’s staycation boom and beyond.
Integrate safety into the customer experience
COVID-19 has transformed customer engagement. Safety has now become a differentiator to attract customers and talent in the same way as great customer service, or a well-maintained guest room does. Businesses, particularly the hotel industry, are now looking to win back customers.
However, rebuilding customer confidence is not a one-time exercise, it’s an ongoing effort. By demonstrating the safety measures that your business is putting into place, you can make customers feel much more comfortable during these uncertain times.
An essential starting point for this is thinking about the customer experience and how you can adapt your services and use this opportunity to promote your business in a thoughtful manner. You can maintain a positive, memorable experience for your customers, while gaining their trust that you are putting health and safety first. You can show that your team is taking COVID-19 safety measures seriously with modifications such as:
- Adding travel sized hand sanitiser and free face masks to your hotel welcome amenity packs. You could even produce your own company branded masks as a thoughtful touch
- Using the contact tracing check-in registers as a way to give customers a personalised service, such as addressing them by their name or letting them opt into email communication
- Limiting the amount of people in the dining room for breakfast or dinner service to give customers a more intimate experience. For outdoor areas, some restaurants have built plastic domes for customers to dine in, giving them a unique experience that makes the best out of a situation.
Leverage technology to improve customer confidence
While the hotel industry has been ahead of the game when it comes to using technology to improve the customer experience – with many hotels offering free WIFI, mobile check-in and room service via an app for a while now – hotels should start leveraging technology to achieve a new goal: customer confidence.
When it comes to completing safety checks, businesses cannot rely on the old methods of inefficient, infrequent paper-based compliance audits. The hotel environment, with multiple people in and out of one place at any given time, is now considered ‘high risk’. Safety checks need to be carried out multiple times a day and SafetyCulture’s iAuditor app makes carrying out safety checks and risk assessments easy. The simple checklists can be completed by any team member with a mobile device.
We have even digitised the UK government’s COVID-19 reopening guidelines into the app and developed tailored checklists for hotels. This can give you peace of mind that you are complying with regulations and guidelines to ensure visitors’ safety.
Transparency is key
Your customers will feel safest when they are aware of the measures you have implemented. By communicating what you are doing to ensure safety, it will help establish a stronger sense of trust between those visiting your hotel and your business. You can do this by:
- Putting up physical and digital posters and signage to highlight the safety measures that have been put in place
- Talking your customers through the safety measures and what is expected of them when they are checking in
- Publishing safety updates on your communication channels such as website, social media, automated phone messages, and sharing update emails
- Publicising your cleaning schedules and checklists.
All of your customers will have differing personal circumstances and may feel some safety measures are more important than others. Asking customers for their feedback, either in person or through a survey, will help you to continually improve, build trust, and keep your guests comfortable.
Be prepared to be flexible
COVID-19 has seen businesses make rapid changes overnight and, as we ease out of lockdown and into the “new normal”, organisations need to be flexible. These are uncertain times and, as we have seen, the situation can change swiftly.
As we start to see local lockdowns occur and tighter restrictions being introduced, you must be prepared to react to changing regulations – in addition to changing customer feedback – and adapt your procedures as necessary. Getting safety right the first time is vital for the hotel industry, as failure to do so could have a damaging effect on customer trust and a company’s reputation. Here are some ways to manage uncertainties on a daily basis:
- Monitor real-time data through a dashboard that can show you exactly what tasks have been completed and highlight any areas of risk
- In industries like hospitality where workplaces often have a higher number of staff who work shifts, there is more opportunity for risk, so it is important to encourage colleagues to stay at home if they display any symptoms
- Be stringent about capturing all visitor details for track and trace, and conduct temperature checks at the door
- Keep trafficked spaces sanitised by installing cleaning stations and digital hygiene checklists
- Advise all customers on the government guidance and expectations while indoors e.g. wearing masks in bars or restaurants unless seated and eating food or drinking.
By Dan Joyce, General Manager EMEA, SafetyCulture