First Contact — Guest Check-in

An article about self-service kiosks in hotels for guest check-in just came across my desk. My first reaction was “It’s about time! I’m tired of waiting to check into my room.” My second reaction was “But that’s the time you set the tone and start the relationship with yor guests. B&Bs really have the edge on hotels — again.”

The article continues with a comment that these kiosks will reduce labor costs in a hotel and allow them to serve more guests with fewer staff. That seems like an oxymoron to me. They may be able to check-in more guests with fewer staff, but they sure won’t be serving them. These kiosks remind me of the reception phones, the ones where you can’t find a human to talk to when you call into a business because the computer voice takes over and you get lost in the maze of menus. To me it’s the sign of bad customer service, not good service.

The article adds that the front desk won’t be deleted from a hotel and that the front desk staff will be moved into other customer service areas of the hotel. But it seems to me if the hotel is trying to cut labor costs they have to cut the labor; moving people around the hotel doesn’t cut the cost.

I totally understand how high labor costs are. I also understand that it’s the staff and the service that brings guests back. Lodging is a service business. Everytime a hotel removes some of the service from their business they are helping B&Bs thrive even more than before.

Stand out in the crowd and add customer service efforts to your B&B. First contact is one of the most important contact times. Make the most of it and have a smiling human serve your guests.

2 thoughts on “First Contact — Guest Check-in”

  1. We recently picked up a Hollywood screenwriter and his wife as repeat guests. This couple used to go to another B&B but the inn was sold and the new owners made some changes.
    They closed the inn’s restaurant and laid off the chef. Since they didn’t know how to cook, they heated frozen quiche for breakfast and served it to their guests.
    The old inn had developed a repuation for wonderful made to order breakfasts. Guests could also order lunch and dinner in the facility’s award winning restauarant.
    All of the sudden, these services disappeared – but the new owners were still charging the same rates as the former owners.
    The Hollywood screenwriter hated quiche. When he complained, the new innkeeper smiled and suggested that he “try it” as though he were a recalcitant child who wouldn’t eat his breakfast. This condescending attitude lit a fuse in the screenwriter. He stormed back to his room, consulted his laptop, found my inn and has now been here several times.
    It has been interesting having this guest stay here. We serve breakfast from 7:30 to 10 AM on weekends. This guest always requests an 11 AM breakfast. (We have always complied rather than making a fuss).
    The guest has also written in substitutions on the breakfast order form. We don’t normally allow substitutions but have made an exception for this guest insofar as he is one of our most frequent repeat visitors.
    We used to serve dinner but discontinued this service because it was putting a crimp in my free time. I was literally working from 5 AM to 9 PM everyday of the week. It was too much. (I have since joined the volunteer fire department and have been active in the local historical committee. Go figure).
    During his last trip out here, the screenwriter requested dinner. When I explained that we no longer served dinner, he was very disappointed. He told me about how hard he had been working and about how much he had always enjoyed our wild game menu.
    So we served him dinner … crème de soupe à champignons, wild mushroom salad, grilled elk peppercorn steak for him and braised venison flank steak with chestnut sauce for her, potato pancakes, carrots vichy, and for dessert, pumpkin cheesecake with caramel sauce and an almond tuille garnish.
    The screenwriter was so thrilled that he left a $40.00 tip. Since I am an old fashioned innkeeper who does not accept gratuities insofar as I am the owner of this facility, all gratuities go to my housekeeper. The forty dollars really made her day!
    Inn at Elizabethville

  2. You’ve touched on two interesting points:
    1.) serving dinner to your guests
    2.) allowing guests to have breakfast after hours
    We also made a dinner available to our guests. We had individually portioned fresh pasta and six different sauces in the freezer. When a road-weary guest, or someone wanting to avoid the weather, arrived, they had the option of requesting a dinner. We heated the spaghetti and sauce, cooked the frozen garlic bread, made a lemon chiffon dessert, and opened an individual serving of wine. Back in the late 80’s I charged $12 for that and the guests loved it. It was easy for the evening staff, who had lots to do with 11 rooms at a busy inn.
    I had a frequent return guest who continually ignored our breakfast time. He always came in 10-30 minutes after the kitchen and dining room were cleaned and the breakfast person had left. We asked him in a variety of ways and reminded him every time he came about breakfast, to no avail. When his kids joined him once I asked them how to get through to him, and they said they’d tell him. He was horrified that we’d never told him before and was very embarrased. We all got a great laugh out of it, and he was never late again.
    I wish we’d had the luxury of serving our guests breakfast whenever they wanted it, but we didn’t. Or at least we hadn’t reached the service level of allowing for that kind of request.
    There are so many ways to take care of your guests!

Comments are closed.