Does your hotel have a brand identity?

Here’s a quick quiz that independent hoteliers should complete with their teams:  First, write down ten to twenty phrases, such as “upscale, urban hotel” “guest-focused hospitality,” “great for business travelers” and “service-oriented,” that you believe accurately describes your hotel. How do guests see my property_ Next, have the rest of your staff complete the same exercise.   Ask them to provide answers independently, honestly and, if needed, anonymously.  The goal is to get accurate opinions, not identify the individuals who provided a specific set of answers.  After each person has participated, carefully analyze how your thoughts align with those of your team and work to understand how and why they came to their conclusions.

The reason for this exercise is to identify how well your team understands the vision you hold for your hotel.  The descriptions supplied by team members won’t match across the board, but the overall sentiment about your hotel should be consistent.  If your team members’ thoughts do not mirror yours, then you know there is an issue that needs to be addressed.  There are countless reasons why your entire team needs to be on the same page, but one of the most important reasons is so they can communicate the correct message to your guests.  Sending mixed or incorrect messages, whether verbally or through actions, is a mistake that can have long-lasting, negative effects on a hotel’s success.

The core of what we are discussing here is brand identity.  Your brand’s identity defines “who you are,” “what you do” and “why you do it.”  Think of popular brands, like Starbucks, Apple or ESPN, and focus on what instantly comes to mind.  As these companies have grown, they have focused on delivering a clear message that allows their customers to associate phrases like, “great tasting coffee,” “sleek, modern technology” and “24/7 sports”, respectively, whenever their brands are mentioned.  Every brand, from multi-national corporations to family-operated countryside inns, needs an identity and it’s the responsibility of operators to cultivate, manage and protect it.

Who you are
Managing your hotel’s brand identity does not need to be a complex process.  They key is to be clear, concise and consistent.  For example, if you describe your hotel as “An all-suite, full service hotel located just steps from the beach and perfect for family fun,” then you must deliver against this statement in every possible way.  Every customer touch point, including your website, OTAs, phone greeting, signage, amenities and, most importantly, your team members, must accurately convey this singular, consistent message.  Over time, this will build the foundation and solidify the reputation of your hotel in the minds of guests.

What you do
Using the same example description above, it’s clear what this hotel provides and who falls within their target demographic.  A common theme within negative hotel guest reviews is the property failing to live up to expectations – the classic “over promise, under deliver” dilemma.  Hotels can avoid this costly mistake by being clear and honest from the beginning.  By letting potential guests know what to expect before they book, operators can avoid the negative feedback that slowly chips away at a brand’s identity.

Why you do it
Understanding “why you do it” may not be very important to your guests, but it is absolutely critical for your team members.  Team members, like front desk agents, housekeepers, maintenance crew, execute the vision set by owners and operators day in, day out, but it the responsibility of the leaders to ensure its done correctly.  Leaders must also do a great job of communicating why every person’s job is important and how they contribute to the success of the property.  A hotel can have an excellent marketing platform, but if team members cannot deliver expectation-meeting experiences for their guests, the property will have an extremely difficult time achieving the success it desires.

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