We've teamed up with ReviewPro for this two-part blog series on great guest experience. Enjoy - and let us know what you think!

Great guest experience should begin on your website.

Gone are the days when a guest's hotel experience began with the doorman welcoming them into the lobby. We've all heard that the average guest now spends time on at least 38 sites prior to booking a holiday. Today's guests are almost spending longer on the holiday planning process than they do on their trip.

In today's world of increasingly blurred lines between human and digital, it's no longer enough to only focus on crafting a great experience within your hotel. You need to be catering to the hundreds, perhaps thousands of potential guests that visit your site every day - and that means taking your carefully-crafted hospitality online.

Booking a holiday: why so stressful?

According to Sojern, 89% of travellers report feeling stressed by the amount of time and effort required to plan a trip. That's a lot of travellers under a lot of stress. Vacations, for most people, should be about relaxing - but stress and frustration has become almost a universal prerequisite for that relaxation. Something's going wrong somewhere.

So what are the major causes of travel-induced stress? Well, for one, there's just the sheer volume of information out there to sift through. Though we know the vast majority of travel comparison sites are owned by everybody's favourite pair of OTAs, consumers rarely do - which leaves them sifting through a thousand sites to make sure they're finding the best price.

A hotel stay is an inherently intimate experience, yet the process of booking one is anything but. For something supposedly based on comfort, there's something decidedly discomfiting about the way hotel rooms are sold. You wouldn't bark panic-inducing statements like 'ONLY ONE LEFT!' or '103 OTHER PEOPLE LOOKING RIGHT NOW!' at someone in a clothing or grocery store - so why on earth should you do it on your website?

3 steps to guest satisfaction

So, maybe it's time to get personal. Your website is the first proper opportunity your guest has to engage with you, so it should be as welcoming as the finest doorman. There are three key things that you need to check before you can truly claim your website to be fully guest-friendly:

1. Can the guest clearly see what they need to see - and do what they need to do?

Sounds obvious. But a website doesn’t have to be about presenting visitors with everything they could possibly need to know, all at once.

Guests typically visit a website 3 times before making a booking, spending an average of 29 minutes on the site before finally making a reservation. Every time that guest visits your site, they’re on a different point of their booking journey - so don’t bombard them with the same thing every time.

Create a clearly scannable landing page with easy-to-find navigation to the relevant sections (and a kick-ass FAQ section never hurt anybody either). If your interstitial advertising has a call to action as part of it, make sure that it fulfils its promise.

2. Can guests reach you when they need to?

Despite the rise of AI, we’re still many (many) years away from hotels being run by robots on a large scale. Hotels rely on the human, but the shift of booking channels online has taken away a vital line of communication - that simple conversation between hotelier and booker.

Fuel Travel have found that 76% of bookers, when faced with a question they couldn’t find the answer to on the hotel’s website, would try contacting the property by phone. 38% would engage with live chat on the website. It’s easy to get carried away with making everything as automated as possible, but keeping a channel of human interaction open is vital to retaining those guests for whom your website isn’t enough.

Employing a ‘click-to-call’ feature on your website makes a huge difference - as does making the most of the feature in Google Hotel Ads. With 73% of economy hotel searches initially being made on mobile devices, click-to-call opens an easy booking channel that can turn that search into a booking with just one tap.

And then, of course, there’s live chat. Not all live chats are created equal. The best learn from guest behaviour and provide the reservation agent with everything they need to know to maximise chances of conversion. What you can support will depend on your budget and bandwidth, but giving bookers the option to engage with a real agent right there on your site makes a world of difference. Just by displaying a price comparison in a conversational format rather than a widget, hotels we work with have seen conversion uplift jump from 34% to 55%.

3. Are you showing guests how valuable they are?

Guests don't have to book with you. They can get your product elsewhere, most of the time for the same price. What will tip them into a booking with you (rather than with an OTA) is the experience you give them on your website.

Don't leave guests in any doubt that you care more than an OTA does. Make your benefits clear - what will you give your guests if they book direct? It doesn't have to be big or costly: thoughtful and individual is often the better way to go.

It's also simple to introduce some basic segmentation to your website, and there are huge benefits to making your site more than a one-size-fits-all service. Segmenting your messaging to target different groups of users goes some way to replicating the individualised service a guest would receive in your lobby.

Perfecting your guest experience

The hotel experience. It's no longer only defined by the quality of the bed linen or the attentiveness of the room service. It begins on the website - so make sure you're leaving an impression you can be proud of.

Coming soon: ReviewPro complete the guest experience picture with a guide to making the most of your guest on-site. Don't miss it!