Don’t let the headline fool you. There’s a lot to learn from Dracula about hospitality, particularly about guest experience.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Dracula’s first time around wasn’t necessarily the most positive experience, but I’m going to have to disagree with Bram Stoker on this.
Maybe he was only trying to have a cozy castle bed and breakfast, just his guests were on the menu.
But people–err vampires change.
In Sony Pictures Animation’s Hotel Transylvania, Dracula (sort of) trades in his terrifying blooodsucking ways to open a hotel as a refuge for monsters to escape the perils of living among people.
(I mean, remember what happened when Frankenstein’s monster escaped? All he wanted was to find somewhere he could belong, and he ended up creating mass chaos in the process. Not his fault really, but you get my point.)
Creating a memorable guest experience, therefore, can come naturally to some hotels. Whether it’s filling a niche market looking for a relaxing escape or appealing to newlyweds looking for an oceanview getaway, guest experience is important not only for the guests who are already staying at your hotel, but to ensure that many more guests come to stay in the future.
Below, I’ll lay out the multitude of ways in which Dracula and his staff ensure that a guest’s stay at his castle is not only positive, but memorable as well.
In Hotel Transylvania, Count Dracula establishes his hotel as a way for monsters to escape the threats and pressures of human society. Whether catering to guests like Bigfoot or Frankenstein’s monster, guaranteeing safety from photographers or a fire-wielding mob of angry townspeople is the Count’s first and foremost priority. So when wandering backpacker Jonathan comes along, it’s easy to see why Dracula is upset.
For hoteliers, 400 acres of haunted forest and an undead graveyard may be a tad excessive, but there are other ways of ensuring your guest’s safety without scaring the pants off of them.
Last year, Hyatt Hotels joined the ranks of Starwood, Hilton, Trump, and Mandarin properties with a massive data breach that affected thousands of it customers, shaking both its reputation and guest experience at 627 properties in 52 countries. Debit and credit cards were at risk, not to mention a potential cost of around $7 million to the hotels themselves, with $4 million of that alone due to reputational fallout and lost sales.
Now that’s some scary stuff.
To be fair, security breaches are becoming more common, and not just in the hotel industry.
However, hotels are becoming an easy target “because they collect vast amounts of private data from customers as a part of their day-to-day operations through credit card transactions, online reservations, and rewards programs,” says Nick Montera of Parker, Smith, and Feek. “Private data may be both personal (names, physical addresses, email addresses, social security numbers) and financial (credit card and banking).”
So what to do about this growing problem?
As a hotelier, your hotel should already be adapting to more secure technological practices, both as a way to streamline processes and meet the demands of your more tech savvy guests.
Apart from investing in network security software or computer security software, your business goals should also align with your security goals. It isn’t enough anymore to simply guarantee a great guest experience. You have to ensure a great and secure guest experience. So be sure to include your cybersecurity team in on important meetings and listen to their concerns and viewpoints on new projects. They may save you a lot of heartache in the future.
It’s also important to remember that payment processing isn’t the only time when your guests’ security can be at risk. Key cards are becoming prime targets due to the ease at which they can be manipulated, so it might be time to invest in either wearable tech as an alternative or allow a guest’s smartphone to function as a more secure key.
These may be difficult to immediately implement, especially for smaller hotels with small budgets, but you should at least promise secure Wi-Fi. Just typing “hotel Wi-Fi” into Google littered my results pages with simple how-to’s on network hacking. And before you think this affects just your customers, if you have property management software that runs online, that data can also be at risk.
Craft a Flexible Itinerary
Dracula may be a bit controlling of his daughter Mavis, who longs to see the outside world, but his attempts at creating an enthralling guest experience, full of scheduled activities that lead up to her birthday bash, are definitely admirable.
Still, the Count’s lack of flexibility when it comes to his itinerary proves to be his downfall. It’s only when Jonathan once again comes along and inserts a bit of spontaneous fun into the mix that Dracula’s itinerary finally takes off.
As a hotelier, it’s important to not only know your guests and what they like, but also be able to adapt to any situation. You know these two qualities are essential to meet varying customer demand, so it’s equally important to meet at the epicenter of these two practices as well.
For example, while Dracula knows his guests personally, his failure take into account what they would be looking for during their stay almost leads to disaster. While bingo and charades are good fun for some, it’s easy to see that many of his guests are looking for a more exciting time, but Dracula continues to stick to his schedule.
Whether you complete a buyer persona profile or encourage guest reviews, it’s important to understand both the needs of your guests and what they expect at your hotel.
If your ideal customer is a Millennial world traveler, you need to be sure that’s what your hotel’s atmosphere and activities keep in mind. In other words, make the most out of Instagram-worthy walking tours and a ensure a hopping bar scene with plenty of booze and live performances.
Remember, even if you plan out every meticulous detail of what you see as the most astounding itinerary ever made, you have to be able to let go of some of your ideas if they’re not working. Hospitality is about what you can do for others, not what you can do for yourself.
Think of it this way: Jonathan, while Dracula’s itinerary adversary for some time, ends up being his greatest ally in creating a memorable guest experience, with the Count even naming Jonathan as party planner later in the film. Not only does everyone end up having a great time, but Dracula also learns to not be as controlling.
Tackle Problems Fast
Problems will arise, no matter what you do. The trick is to to take care of them ASAP.
When Bigfoot clogs the toilet, Dracula’s armored guard steps right up, letting his boss know what’s going on right away.
While a minor issue, every issue needs to be treated with urgency and importance. No matter how small it may seem to you. Because if one of your guests is having a problem, it’s always a big problem.
Now, some problems can be preventable, but you’ll find in the world of hospitality that if anything can go wrong, it will.
So how to best combat unpreventable problems?
Tackle them. Immediately. Because when something goes wrong, it can quickly grow to an even bigger problem. So stop the negativity in its tracks and tackle it before the problem gets out of hand.
When you quickly take care of any issues your guest may be having you not only show that they’re your priority, but also that you’re listening. You’re demonstrating that their problems are your problems, and that their concerns are valid and valued.
To take your time responding to guest concerns can only add insult to injury. At least when you attempt to fix whatever issues are at hand, you’re taking a proactive approach to the problem and may even have to chance to drastically improve your hotel’s reputation by meeting challenges head on. To ignore them altogether can only sour your guests’ stay even more.
Employ a Stellar Housekeeping Staff
In the film, Dracula employees a stellar staff of housekeepers. These witches on brooms not only navigate the castle hallways with ease, but the help of their magic wands also zap messes fast.
Unfortunately, we all don’t have a magic wand or a broomstick to fly through the halls, but housekeeping is still a very important part of your guests’ stay. Aside from the front desk, your rooms are critical to your hotel’s impression because, well, that’s what a hotel is for.
Plus, a dirty room is not only disgusting, but a resounding alarm bell for those looking for refuge during a business trip or after a long day. It’s the last thing you want to be known for.
Still, some dirt inevitably falls through the cracks.
Take this horrifying compilation of hotel worker confessions from Whisper. (You’ve been warned.) It’s enough to confirm your greatest germphobia fears.
Housekeeping staff has even taken to major publications, like Huffington Post, to reveal what really happens behind closed doors.
For example, when asked if she had ever sought revenge over a rude guest, a maid said, “I personally have never done anything but a colleague was so angry about a rude comment made to them that they cleaned the bathroom floor with a towel and left it on the rack for the guest to use.”
Don’t even get me started on the problem of bed bugs.
What I’m saying is, there’s a lot to be improved in the housekeeping sector of hospitality. Not only should you take your guests’ sanitation concerns into consideration, but you should also listen to your housekeeping staff, in particular if they have concerns of their own.
Let’s take another look at the housekeeping interview from Huffington Post. One of the things the maid remarks on is how little time she has to clean a room. Whether this is due to a small staff or part of standard practice, it’s clear that something needs to change in order for the staff to truly do their job.
One way to go about this is to keep track of your housekeepers and see how many rooms they can really clean on a daily basis. Obviously there will be inconstant factors that can alter this average time (guest checkout, for example, requires a more thorough cleaning than a continued stay), and if you’re a larger hotel, this may be difficult to track manually. But if you can make the investment, certain hotel property management software includes a housekeeping component, where you can track the progress of your housekeeping staff and view how many rooms that can be cleaned in a given period. It’s a wise investment, particularly if you have to manage a large staff.
Aside from software, if you’re staff feels overwhelmed with the number of rooms needed to be cleaned, it may be time to hire another maid or two to help. While it’s another costly solution, the cost (and reputation) of having clean rooms far outweighs the cost of dirty ones.
Be More Tech-Friendly
If you want to scare Dracula, look no further than your smartphone.
After finding out that a human had somehow managed to bypass his haunted forest and undead graveyard, the Count takes Jonathan into a backroom, where he becomes confused by the backpacker’s cellphone.
“What is this?” he exclaims. “A torture device, a secret mind-controller?”
The funny thing is though, that’s how many in the hospitality field would probably respond to technology.
Now that’s truly terrifying.
Because apart from missing out on how software can help simplify time-consuming processes or manage larger hotels with more rooms and more staff, technology is also a staple in any person’s life today, and a hotel not engaged in the latest technology might deter potential customers.
Whether it’s implementing a booking engine solution or engaging in online marketing to get your name out there, tech has the potential for you to engage with your guests on a more direct level and reaffirm that you’re listening.
Twitter, for example, is a great way to showcase all that your hotel has to offer, in addition to promoting special events to draw interest. Not to mention, it’s a free tool you can use to help develop your audience and see what matters most to your customers.
So don’t be a dinosaur. Learn how to adapt, or you might find yourself extinct as well.
Learn from Experience
After suffering from heartbreak, Mavis asks her father to erase her memory, but Dracula knows that learning from experience is the only way to become a better vampire. Similarly, experiences, even if painful, can always be used to help you navigate a better future.
For example, if a guest leaves a bad review on your site, it may hurt a little, which is understandable. Hospitality is an intimate experience; you are offering your service to please others. But it’s important to remember that without these painful experiences you may not be able to create more positive ones in the future.
Now, if you really do encounter trouble, don’t get too bogged down in the negativity yourself. You can’t please everyone, no matter how hard you try. Rather, try to nip it in the bud. If you have the chance, go the extra mile to show that disappointed customer you really do care.
One way SmartGuests proposes for hotel managers is to use the tried and true “We Care” cards, which enable guests to leave rated feedback and an explanation of what could have improved their stay. With such feedback, you can easily implement improvements that you might not have otherwise considered.
Take those comments into account and try to see if you can change or eliminate those faults your guest saw.
You may not be able to change the past, but you can use it to change your future.
Can you think of any other ways to create a positive guest experience? Let me know in the comments below.
Header by Rachel Wille