Your hotel’s mission statement no doubt says something about how you as the customer are always right, as well as very special and a pleasure to serve.
There’s probably no harm in believing the assertion that every guest is a VIP. But as you might have long suspected, not all guests are treated equally, even in the most basic of hotels. And if it’s been a while since you were made to feel special during your stay, make sure you’re doing all you can to get the royal treatment.
Sign up for your hotel’s loyalty program.
Even if you’re not a frequent traveler, there’s an advantage to enrolling in the preferred guest programs of your favorite hotels. Signing up is free and you can often earn points through airlines, rental car companies, and credit cards you’re using anyway. “If you're collecting points with Hilton, Hyatt, Holiday Inn, Marriott, wherever, pick one chain and stay with it,” advises frequent traveler and AllBusiness.com blogger Ken Walker. “The first time I made platinum, the difference I noticed in level of service was incredible. Word gets around and soon the whole staff knows you're platinum. You think I'm kidding, but maids, busboys, the omelet-maker at breakfast — they all know who you are.”
If you do get into a loyalty program, keep in mind that its best perks might be the ones you specify. ”Guest preferences are at the heart of many full-service hotel brands’ loyalty programs,” says Derek Gale, senior editor at Hotels magazine. Indicate what you like when making your reservation, Gale says, noting whether there are any newspapers, wines, or other amenities that make you happy.
Specify your preferences no matter what.
Even if it’s taking you a while to get into a loyalty program, don’t underestimate the power of confidently but politely acting like you already belong. “Even for the casual traveler, mentioning something in conversation with a particular hotel staffer —- a front desk agent, concierge, or restaurant manager — might later result in a surprise for the guest,” Gale says.
Stephen, a general manager at a Caribbean resort, told me that when he’s staying at a hotel, he “tries to find out the name of the hotel manager and I contact them before I arrive with a short note stating who I am and saying that I am looking forward to enjoying a stay at their property. This connection makes me more than just a reservation number.”
Even if you’re not a hospitality professional, making this kind of connection ahead of time can only help, concurs Jennifer, a San Diego concierge, who says a key thing guests often don’t think to do before they leave home is get on the phone with their hotel’s concierge. “With some planning, Jennifer says, “we can really pull out the stops and obtain the premiere dinner seating and theatre tickets. We will also work as your champion to negotiate room upgrades and amenities. Having established a relationship pre-arrival, the guest becomes more 'tangible.’”
Help your concierge help you.
If you haven’t connected with your concierge in advance but know you’re going to need the service, introduce yourself upon check in, says Jonathan Spitz, vice president of business development at Travelscream. “Just like waiters and waitresses and cab drivers, they make money on tips,” Spitz suggests, so “tipping in advance is a great investment.” Don’t make the rookie mistake, however, of thinking your concierge is a miracle booker. “Don’t call down at 7 p.m. and be angry if your concierge can’t deliver a 7:30 p.m. reservation,” Spitz says.”
Furthermore, says Jennifer, utilizing your concierge only for her connections and not for her advice will almost certainly rub her the wrong way. “Do not .. .ever ... approach your concierge with a list of restaurants that your airplane seatmate gave you. It’s akin to taking your car to the mechanic and telling him ‘my neighbor thinks my car has an engine vacuum leak.’” Instead, Jennifer suggests, say "I heard these places might be worthwhile, what do you think?" so your concierge feels you value her professional opinions.
On the other hand, moseying up to the desk and asking “What is there to do in town?” or “Where should we eat?” isn’t all that helpful either. Be specific. For instance, Jennifer says, “For dining, do you want to dress up for a night on the town or wear flip-flops? Are you an adventurous type, or are you better suited toward the new art museum installment? Please don't make us guess! “
It’s also helpful to tell your concierge not only what you want, but also to say why, says Suzanne Rowan Kelleher, co-founder and editor-in-chief of WeJustGotBack.com. “It's human nature to want to help people when you know why it's important. So if you need an early seating at a particular restaurant because you're afraid your 4-year-old can't make it past 8 p.m. without a meltdown, explain that. Sharing some good news, like it being your spouse's birthday, or eliciting some empathy if you have a problem, can be an icebreaker.”
Be nice even if things don’t go your way.
A San Francisco-based hotelier, speaking for his staff, told me he’d urge short-tempered guests to “speak intelligently and calmly if you have a problem. Allow the staff to understand your issue and they will be much more willing to assist.” Adds resort manager Stephen, an all-too-common word from guests is “compensation.” He says that during those times when he and his staff can’t resolve a guest’s issue,”the call for compensation is too often put into play, and my willingness to concede rapidly evaporates. Compensation implies payment and damages, and usually the demands are out of step with the value of the services offered in the first place, [such as] a guest wanting to be compensated for the value of his $4,000 holiday because his air conditioner was faulty and was replaced during his stay.”
In the end, if you keep your cool and remember the “more flies with honey” rule, you can elicit royal treatment during every stage of your stay. “People are really empowered to request whatever they want, “ says Gale, “but should only expect requests within reason to be delivered on without additional charges. ‘It never hurts to ask’ is a reasonable policy—you just might be surprised the lengths some hotels are willing to go, especially in these times, to capture and keep guests.”