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RBH looks to customer advocacy to reap returns

For businesses across the service industry, keeping customers satisfied is a top priority. In hospitality, going a step further to ‘wow’ customers could be the key to boosting revenue – something that’s never been more important than now, in a climate that has seen RevPAR decrease in regional hotels during the first quarter of the year for the first time since 2012.

The UK’s leading independent hotel management company, RBH, is putting the focus firmly on the ‘wow’ factor, with a renewed commitment to creating customer advocates – spearheaded by Chief Operating Officer, Neil Taylor (pictured).

The seasoned hotelier identifies five key areas as part of a strategy to drive operational excellence: demand creation, profit improvement, culture, innovation and use of technology, and guest experience. 2019 sees RBH focus firmly on guest experience to ensure long term growth and Taylor is championing the personal touch to delight guests.

Indeed, at a recent internal conference for senior members of the team across RBH’s 45-strong portfolio, he called on employees – particularly General Managers – to focus on the basics and personalisation in order to generate positive feedback, create customer advocates and, ultimately, deliver an increase in revenue and returns for owners.

Neil said: “Guest indifference is potentially the worst possible outcome for a hotel following a stay. Dissatisfaction normally leads to some form of feedback, which informs areas of improvement and highlights exactly what the team must do to truly achieve operational excellence. Whilst it’s not ideal, it gives food for thought – those who feel indifferent will simply leave and never return, giving no opportunity to make a better impression.

“The hotels within our portfolio already do a great job in terms of customer service and we have some shining examples of those really impressing guests – we look after both Hotel Indigo Cardiff and ibis Styles Glasgow Centre West, both of which are number one on TripAdvisor in their respective cities.

“What we really want to achieve across our portfolio is a guest experience that wows visitors and creates not just satisfied customers, but customer advocates, consistently. Advocates will make repeat visits, become regulars, and recommend your hotel to those within their own circle and beyond.”

Taylor wants General Managers across the RBH portfolio to get out into hotels and see their property through the eyes of their guests, and to lead an operation that encourages guests to positively review their experiences on key platforms, such as Booking.com – boosting review scores, and potentially the bottom line.

He continued, “We’re moving to the ReviewPRO system to monitor feedback and performance across the portfolio via the platform’s GRI [Guest Review Index] scores. They carried out a study with STR Global and Cornell University which made for interesting reading. It proved that a one point increase in GRI score could result in a 1.42 per cent rise in RevPAR.

“This seems marginal, but when you look at it across an entire portfolio, it really stacks up. If the entire RBH portfolio achieved this increase in GRI score, it would translate to a revenue uplift of £3 million.”

To achieve these improvements in operational excellence, and thus in review feedback and GRI scores, Taylor is challenging his General Managers to lead the charge with a focus on change management and implementing a real personal touch by anticipating guests’ needs.

He added, “Whilst back office administration, meetings and management are important when running a hotel, I don’t want our General Managers getting bogged down in it. At our recent conference I talked to our teams about the 10 key General Manager qualities that could result in boosting operational excellence – including points as simple as knowing your own role, knowing your customer and targeting team activity.

“Getting out into each property, putting yourself in the guest’s position and passing this ethos onto team members is vital. Taking time each week to truly evaluate the hotel’s position and come up with solutions to problems and ideas for positive change is incredibly important.

“There will always be a place for technology – some guests just do not have time to engage with reception teams, or would rather not. These guests will always opt for apps on their phone, automated check-in and keyless room entry. However, there must be an element of personalisation, whether it’s the message on the in-room TV screen – which ibis Styles Glasgow does very well – or remembering a guest’s coffee order.”

Taylor acknowledges, too, that there are a number of factors to achieving operational excellence, and stresses that these are all considered within RBH’s wider business strategy.

He said, “We always keep our eye on the whole picture, but of the five key areas of our strategy, guest experience must always remain number one – it may seem basic, but it drives the bottom line, and for our owners, that is ultimately what RBH is measured on.”