There is a situation that invariably every front desk attendant has faced more than a few times in their career: It’s early in the morning, and a family of exhausted travellers loaded with luggage arrives in the lobby. All they want is to shower and to take a nap, but as much as the attendant would like to grant them this understandable request, the hotel’s check in time is hours away. With the hotel not having any clear policies and procedures in place to deal with early arrivals, the family is forced to either wait in the lobby until check in opens, or pay a fee to secure a room ahead of time. The hotel is not making a great first impression.
Rigid check in and check out times began as a way for hotels to standardize their schedule of operations. While helpful for hotel staff, they are commonly the cause of headaches for travellers whose arrival times do not coordinate perfectly with the check in time of the hotel they’ve booked to stay in. However, thanks to more and more hotels adopting new smart PMS technologies, these set-in-stone check in times—and the headaches that come with them—may soon become a thing of the past. To get on-board with this growing trend, here is our behind-the-scenes guide for handling early check ins with ease.
Before Your Guests Arrive
Hotels that take a data-driven approach to operations are more likely to know in advance when guests will arrive before the scheduled check in time, and are therefore better positioned to handle this potentially stressful situation. We recommend obtaining each guest’s anticipated arrival time in the week before their scheduled arrival date, either through a pre-arrival questionnaire, by calling or emailing the guest directly or by using a CRM like Guestfolio with Mobile Concierge. There are a number of other ways hotels can be proactive about how they handle early arrivals.
- Upsell the Opportunity. If your hotel is capable of offering early check in services, make this an amenity available during the booking process. Travellers who know they will be arriving at your hotel early may be happy to pay a reasonable fee to secure a room ahead of schedule, rather than to be stranded for hours. The hotel also benefits from this service as the housekeeping staff will know ahead of time to have a room prepared, allowing them to more efficiently manage their time. A booking engine that integrates with a PMS ensures this opportunity does not create obstacles.
- Expect the Unexpected. No matter how well prepared a hotel is, some guests will inevitably arrive early without warning. Using data from a CRM and PMS to compile rich guest profiles helps a front desk attendant to anticipate when specific guests will arrive early and enables them to prepare accordingly. This is a simple safeguard against the unexpected.
- Keep in Contact. Some guests arrive early due to a misunderstanding, so implementing a pre-arrival email or text message service can be a convenient and efficient way to remind guests of your hotel’s check in time. These methods also allow hotels to upsell guests by offering an early check in time if required, which may be a service the guest was unaware of and grateful to take advantage of. A PMS that is able to automate these alerts is ideal, as this will unburden staff of tedious extra work.
Once Your Guests Arrive
According to a study conducted by Cornell University, guest satisfaction begins to decline after waiting to check in for just five minutes. Therefore, it is in a hotel’s best interest to ensure that they make every effort to get guests checked into a room as quickly as possible.
- Look for Alternatives. If the guest’s allocated room is not available for check in, the next step is to offer a comparable room that is ready. A PMS system that provides a top-down view of operations makes it easy for front desk attendants to identify a suitable solution straight away.
- Ask for Support. If no suitably comparable rooms are available at this time, the front desk staff must be able to instantly interface with housekeeping to get an alternative room in order as quickly as possible. Ideally, the front desk is able to rely on one system to exchange information and communicate with housekeeping—and every department—easily and efficiently.
- Offer Amenities. No matter how finely-tuned a hotel is, guests will occasionally have to wait for their room to be ready. Try to alleviate as much of this inconvenience as possible by offering complimentary services, such as a drink in the lounge or access to hotel’s pool or gym. According to a Hotels.com survey, most travellers identify free Wi-Fi as the most important factor when choosing a hotel, so offering complimentary Wi-Fi is a simple way to placate irritated guests and to keep them entertained while they wait. And of course, always offer to hold the guest’s luggage while they go out and explore—this is also a great opportunity for the front desk staff to demonstrate their rich local knowledge by offering targeted tips and recommendations for the surrounding area.
Accommodating Future Guests
The hotel industry as a whole is moving towards a future where check in and check out times are wholly flexible. Hotel managers should take advantage of this industry shift, as this flexibility benefits the hotel as much as the guest. Eliminating rigid scheduling gives the guest complete freedom over their stay and allows them to customize their interaction with your hotel to suit their needs. From the hotel’s perspective, this also offers an opportunity to either monetize flexible check in times to grow revenue, or to add it as a free service to increase customer satisfaction and differentiate yourself from the competition.
The key to perfecting an early check in strategy is to ensure your hotel is making something unexpected feel ordinary. No matter how professional front desk attendants are, they need the hotel’s technology to act with speed and flexibility. A next-generation PMS allows hotels to operate as a cohesive unit and adapt to curveballs like early arrivals, therefore ensuring that a guest’s needs can always be met with a smile.
RoomKeyPMS is a suite of solutions designed to integrate operations across a hotel property. If you’re ready to improve everything starting at the front desk, enlist our expertise with a free consultation.
Photo Credits: Shutterstock / filippo giuliani