🍍 Delighting guests if you run a smaller property

(Or, want to learn from them)

Terry Haney runs the Lodge at the Presidio (San Francisco’s #1-rated hotel on TripAdvisor) and the Inn at the Presidio (a 5-time Conde Nast Reader’s Choice award winner) as Managing Director at Presidio Lodging. This week I’ve shared excerpts of our conversation, and today you’ll hear how Terry thinks about delighting his guests.

How do you think about delighting your guests?

At a big hotel, when you have hundreds of check-ins a day, many of them are there for the same reason. They’re there for a convention or something like that. We don’t have any of that. We have people who are here because there’s a reason why they’re in the Presidio. It’s not that they were here for a conference and chose the hotel off a list provided by the organizer.

I’ve managed other hotels where we maintained a VIP list and planned together what can we do to really wow them. We don’t do that here. We’re trying to provide a real experience where we get to know our guests.

We know our repeat guests and they love that, but a lot of that honestly comes because we have a small property and my staff remembered them. It’s not because the computer flagged you as a repeat guest. We do see that – the night auditor goes through that and does a check for that – but a lot of times our staff just knows the guests by name or they’ll look at a reservation and go, ‘he’s here all the time.’

Our staff gets to know why the guest may be staying with us frequently. Maybe it’s because their kid just had a baby and they’re coming back every six months because they want to watch the kid grow up. They want to babysit the kid. We get to know stuff like that.

I think the reason people stop and write reviews is because they are blown away. The experience is not what they expected.

We don’t try to impress people artificially. We just genuinely care about them. In today’s world, to have someone genuinely care about you goes a long way. People don’t get that often.

When you have a memorable guest experience, you create loyal guests. They keep coming back. They become evangelists for your brand. They tell everyone about it.

I think that a lot of chains try to achieve this, but it’s harder with a large corporation than it is for a small, independent hotel.

Independent hotels are run almost as if they were a family operation. Employees don’t feel like they’re a cog in a huge corporate chain.

We really care about our team members as people. They enjoy coming to work because they enjoy being here. They enjoy making our guests happy. They get a real sense of satisfaction in knowing that they’ve created an experience for their guests and the guests are happy with their performance.

The walls and the linens and the artwork in your hotel only go so far. It’s the employees that bring the soul to your experience.

I learned early in my career from Bill Marriott who said, “Your number one job as a manager is to take care of your employees. If you take care of your employees, they take care of the guests. The happy guests will keep coming back and will tell other guests, and your business will just naturally take care of itself.”