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Should Your Guest Have "Rights"?

A new Guest Bill of Rights has been introduced. Here’s what it’s all about.

Thursday, February 25, 2010
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Both guests and hoteliers have the same goal in mind: a great hotel stay.

On the surface a hotel may just be a ‘place to sleep,’ but in truth it is much more than that. It’s a place of intimacy and privacy. It’s a place where customers must have absolute confidence in their surroundings to feel as comfortable as they do in their own home.

Also, aside from feeling at peace, guests seek their expectations to be met or exceeded. Hoteliers, meanwhile, are looking to earn a fair profit while simultaneously winning that customer’s future business. However, without developing trust first, nothing else matters.

Trust propels decision-making, trust allows people to embark on new experiences, and trust is the core relationship fundamental. Without it, folks, we’ve got nothing. But fostering trust is a lot more than just slapping a brand on the front door as proxy for a real promise. It’s a series of already met assurances and pledges.

So how is a hotel supposed to build upfront trust about the level of service and guest experience that can be expected at a property? GuestRights founder Carl Schneider thinks he has the answer.

This week GuestRights unveiled its Guest Bill of Rights, a list of the top 10 customer service principles its creators feel a hotel should guarantee whenever someone stays at a hotel. The idea is simple: a straightforward list of promises that imbues guests with confidence that the hotel they booked will provide the experience they expect.

The hope is hoteliers will adopt this system as a third-party verification that a guest can rest assured their stay will be smooth, and if any problems do occur they will be resolved accordingly.

“I am a frequent traveler myself and had my share of problems with hotels. And I realized some handle problems better than others,” said Schneider. The idea came to him on a family vacation at a major resort on the Big Island in Hawaii. A predominant reason he booked that trip was because of the hotel’s four hot tubs. But upon arrival all were broken and it cast a pall over the trip.

He felt they made a promise in their sales collateral and felt snookered. “It occurred to me that something like a Guest Bill of Rights should be something hotels should honor and uphold,” he said. “We feel the guest bill of rights is going to provide guests with quality assurance and peace of mind. Hotels can set themselves apart but they can also show their guests they will make all good faith efforts to make their stay as enjoyable as possible.

“These are common sense principals, nothing someone hasn’t thought of before, but I put in a set of standards so guests can know what to expect,” he continued.

The most important of the ‘rights’ is that “Guests have the right to guaranteed reservations,” and “Guests have the right to clearly stated prices and policies.”

Prinsotel La Dorada is Enrique Buchner, Marketing & ecommerce Manager at Prinsotel La Dorada, a 4-star, 256-room hotel located in Mallorca, Spain, said he joined with the hopes it would help spur customer loyalty.

“We made the decision to become members of GuestRights because we recognize the importance of good customer service in developing loyalty and repeat business. In a competitive tourist market like Playa del Muro, Spain, it gives us a way to distinguish ourselves from the competition. We’re very excited to see how our guests respond to the Guest Bill of Rights and our renewed focus on customer service!”

One of the biggest points of discontent expressed by guests is hidden fees. Many simply don’t feel they’re adequately disclosed and it creates a negative guest experience while increasing the odds the hotel has lost that guest forever.

“Hidden fees are becoming big in the airline industry and I hope it doesn’t become common. Resorts have questionable fees, too. Many fees are like a test to see if [guests] are paying attention. Most hotels will take them off if you bring it to their attention, but you shouldn’t have to. If they are clearly stated and the guest has had a chance to agree and disagree then it is fair. It is OK to charge what you want but it needs to be clearly disclosed,” said Schneider.

Guaranteed reservations are another point of contention. Schneider feels many guests feel shafted when a specific room type they reserved is not available. “If you reserve an ocean view room you should get an ocean view room. I realize something occasionally unavoidable happens, but hopefully the hotel will do something to make it right,” he said. “Rate, reservation type, discounts and any extra amenities should be honored.”

Schneider also said each of the Rights was written to be appropriately vague to make it easy for all hotels – no matter their classified category -- to be able to agree to them. But they still set standards for what a guest should expect.

1. Guests have the right to guaranteed reservations.
Reservations will include room type and will be available at the rates quoted. All approved discounts and other offers will be honored. Rooms will be ready at the stated time of check-in.

2. Guests have the right to clearly stated prices and policies.
There will be no hidden fees or charges. Basic amenities will be offered at no extra charge. Prices for food and all additional products and services will be reasonable.

3. Guests have the right to clean hotel rooms.
Rooms will be regularly cleaned and kept to the highest standards.

4. Guests have the right to well-maintained hotel rooms.
All features, amenities and utilities will be in good working order. These include all televisions, lighting, electrical, plumbing, heating and air-conditioning (where appropriate), among others.

5. Guests have the right to clean and well-maintained facilities.
All advertised features and amenities will be in good working order and available for guest use. Restaurants, grounds, and other common areas will be well-maintained and clean.

6. Guests have the right to a satisfying dining experience.
Food will be fresh and well-prepared. Restaurant and room service will be prompt and courteous.

7. Guests have the right to be safe and secure.
Reasonable measures will be taken to provide a safe and secure environment for guests and their belongings.

8. Guests have the right to be treated with the utmost respect.
Staff members will be well-trained and will make every effort to respond to guest inquiries accurately and in a timely and courteous manner.

9. Guests have the right to have all reasonable requests honored.
If a room is unacceptable to a guest for any reason, a good faith effort
will be made to move the guest to a room that meets the guest's satisfaction.
Efforts will be made to satisfy every guest in all other areas as well.

10. Guests have the right to have all complaints properly addressed.
A good faith effort will be made to promptly resolve all complaints and customer service issues in accordance with generally accepted good hospitality practices and to the satisfaction of the guest, whenever possible.

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