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The pandemic has fundamentally changed the customer experience in hospitality, and it is likely to stay this way. In this new normal, customer service means balancing the demands of hygiene and social distancing with creative solutions to these restrictions.

As such, new skills will need to be developed to continue to deliver the highest levels of service to guests while still respecting the rules that are designed to contain the potential impact of the virus.

Let’s put your best serve forward to reimagine customer service in the new normal; although there is no one right response for everyone, there are some guidelines that can be applied universally:

  • Locals First. Commission-free e-Commerce marketplaces can help hotels attract more guests and increase room bookings.
  • Offer Deals. Create more value by offering deals, voucher sales, discounts etc. Establishments should create packages that combine as many offers as possible (e.g. dining and the hotel stay, tours and wellness offerings).
  • Informative messaging. Hospitality establishments should communicate with customers before, during, and after their stay and provide them with all the information about the hotel, including the duty of care on new cleaning protocols and guest safety.
  • Single-use is everything. Start using products that put hygiene first, like Joko’s Individually enveloped teabags.
  • Focus on direct bookings. It will help hospitality establishments reduce dependency on Online Travel Agents (OTA).
  • Marketing is key! Focus on digital and social marketing to outpace the competition in the times of eCommerce marketplaces and news feeds.

Add a Personal Touch

In these times, everyone is seeking a more personalised experience from every aspect of their lives. Make sure your establishment is doing that little bit extra by adding a personal touch.

Here is some inspiration to get your started:

  • Send a welcome card to each guest on their arrival.
  • Go old school and leave a wrapped chocolate on the pillow.
  • Make guest service more accessible using Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp.
  • Ask guests in advance what activities they would like to do during their stay and plan accordingly.
  • If nothing else, a simple handwritten thank-you note after their stay will keep you in mind for their next visit or when recommending to friends and family.

These are just a few ways to show your guests you care, so get creative in how your establishment adds its personal touch.

Make The Physical Environment As Clean And Stress-Free As Possible

As the hospitality industry readjusts to the new normal, we must do all we can to not only provide a clean space for customers but also one that alleviates their health-related worries.

All hospitality establishments will want to adopt rigorous, frequent cleaning and sanitation protocols and require the use of masks in public areas. Research by OpenTable found that 72 percent of US respondents said it’s extremely important to see strict cleaning policies in place at the establishments they visit, and 60 percent said it’s extremely important to visit places that aren’t crowded with other people.

Depending on your establishment, here are quick ideas to help with your service:

  • Grab-and-go is the hygienic way forward for both your room service menu offering and your breakfast buffets.
  • Rather than simply removing seating, for example, some restaurants are opting to use black and white tablecloths to identify seating and non-seating areas.
  • Installing plexiglass screens to protect diners from each other.
  • Establishing separate spaces for takeout and dine-in service, or designating one-way routes around dining rooms to minimise contact between staff and customers.
  • Some restaurants are creating touchless end-to-end service, including digital menus.

Move Customer Touchpoints Online And Expand The Experience

Across the hospitality sector, companies will need to take every opportunity to move touchpoints online as part of a broader effort to protect the health and safety of customers and employees alike.

Hospitality establishments have already begun to use smartphone apps to bypass the front desk with mobile check-ins and keys, though this was mostly done to reduce costs; COVID-19 has turned these cost savings into a revenue driver, and we should expect to see much more investment in similar no-contact technologies.

However, moving these touchpoints online means that restaurants, hotels, and other hospitality establishments can’t deliver the personal touch that traditionally played a key role in the overall customer experience. They will need to find ways to deliver a unique experience in order to differentiate themselves, strengthen their customer relationship, build customer loyalty, and retain their brand.

How can in-house restaurants make the delivery and take-out experience memorable? What can hotels do to ensure their guests feel special and even pampered when they no longer talk to the front desk or usher room service into their rooms? The key for all hospitality establishments and their in-house restaurants to strike the right balance between technology-enabled self-service and the human interaction in service-based offerings.

Out of this pandemic we imagine a hospitality industry that emerges from the current crisis changed forever; more agile, more positive, more empathetic, and more tenacious than ever before - and who wouldn’t want to be a part of that new normal and put their best serve forward?