Alex Cass’ passion for delivering memorable guest experiences is exemplified at the hotel that he currently manages. Located in Fort Myers Beach, Florida, the Carousel Inn on the Beach has fierce competition locally and yet manages to rank 4th on Tripadvisor for hotels in the area. A combination of delighting guests upon arrival, utilizing guest reviews, and using data to support competitive customer experiences has allowed Alex Cass and his team of seven bright personalities to thrive in a highly competitive market.
Recently, we sat down with Alex to discuss his top tips for delivering a great guest experience. Here’s what he said.
Alex, you are passionate about helping hospitality businesses of all kinds to offer five star customer service experiences. In today’s landscape, what are the top three practices hotels should focus on to achieve this level of service?
Some hotels get bogged down with maintaining a level of luxury that can overshadow the personality of the staff. In my personal experience, interacting with hotel staff that feels scripted can create an uninviting environment. Allowing your staff to ask genuine questions, bounce off the energy of their guests and be themselves can be the best luxury a hotel can offer.
Inevitably, your hotel facilities will not always match guest expectations and while it’s imperative to resolve the problem as soon as possible, what your team does after is equally important. The Guest Team will always follow up, ensuring the guest is comfortable during their stay. This conscious effort can switch a problem into a genuine emotional connection.
Anticipating guest needs
If you feel like a guest is going to ask for something, then they probably are. For example, a young family is planning to stay so ask yourself the questions; do they need a bottle warmer? Do they need an extension cable? Do they need a crib? Make a conscious effort to ensure their stay is as smooth as possible.
How can hotels navigate staff shortages and not sacrifice a high standard of service? What tips can you share?
Since COVID-19, there has been a gradual change in housekeeping expectations for hotel rooms. The majority of guests no longer want daily downturns with sheets being changed and instead are comfortable asking when they do need this. Your guest-keeping staff can utilize this behavioral shift to free up time to focus on core operational tasks and maintaining a high standard of customer service.
Another key point is transparent communication. Tell your guests upfront what services are offered and when. If anything changes, make sure you let them know in advance where possible. By managing expectations, you can ease pressure from your staff and ensure that your guest’s experience is not severely impacted.
In Fort Myers Beach, Florida, Alex manages a 27-room independent hotel that currently ranks 4th out of 49 hotels in Tripadvisor’s Guest Ranking. Guest reviews are an essential tool to raise brand awareness and give guests confidence when booking online. He shares why they are so valuable and how hotels (especially smaller ones) can utilize reviews to encourage more bookings.
What is so valuable about guest reviews?
Guest reviews are a tool to not only communicate its personality to an audience but to offer confidence and reassurance. They are highly influential in the customer journey and if a guest spots a captivating line that resonates with their needs, that may just be enough for them to book. However, what drives authenticity in these reviews is the volume and how current they are. It’s rare for people to look at reviews dated a few years back. Instead, they want to know what the hotel is offering, right now. Finally, independent hotels, often do not have that brand recognition so reviews can ultimately drive more bookings as it gives guests peace of mind when exploring lesser-known brands.
How do you respond to negative reviews?
Personalizing your response to each negative review is key. Address them by name, avoid preloaded responses and use reservation notes to remind yourself of that guest to add personal details into your response. You can still keep that ‘wow’ factor if you make them feel valued, understood and remembered.
Which review sites are most valuable?
Tripadvisor and Google Reviews are unbiased and therefore the most valuable. For example, reviews made on booking.com can only be submitted if the guest books through that OTA. This biased approach can cause implications with some reviews and it does not reflect the true hotel experience. For example, booking.com is responsible for customer service and there have been instances where images on booking.com are not representative of the actual hotel. So be careful with that. Otherwise, if I find a review on booking.com, I would personally reach out to that guest thanking them and asking if they would like to repost the review on Tripadvisor or Google as that holds more weighting.
How do you encourage more guests to leave reviews?
Requesting reviews by text message has a far greater response rate than email. It is a genuine approach and helps build strong customer connections post-stay. I always express the importance of guest reviews and always mention if they book direct with us in the future, they’ll receive cheaper rates and a complimentary upgrade. There’s not a guest in the world that doesn’t want that type of connection.
Currently, hotels sit on a mountain of data and there seems to be a disconnect between what data is collected and how it can be used to support your front desk and reservations team. How can hoteliers better utilize their data to deliver a five star in person service?
Data stored in a database can be lost. What matters is how you can take that data and turn it into something tangible that goes above and beyond. For example, our hotel is pet friendly, which is incredibly important to us and our guests. When we are collecting data on the phone, we’ll ask the pet’s name so for when they arrive, there’s a welcome sign bearing the dog’s name. Guests absolutely love it.
Of course, not all hotels are pet friendly. Nevertheless, hoteliers should be making a conscious effort in collecting data based on guests' likes and dislikes to ensure their stay is truly unique.
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