The evolution of quality in hotels


The evolution of quality in hotels

Portrait of Caroline Browning, General Manager of The Roseate Villa​ in Bath

Thank you to Caroline Browning, General Manager of The Roseate Villa in Bath, for sharing what she's learned about creating a memorable guest experience across her 30 year career.

The meaning of quality for our guests has been made so much easier for hoteliers to quantify in recent years. When I started my career over 30 years ago, we would rely on email and guests’ questionnaires for feedback on how we as a business were meeting guests’ expectations together with areas that could be improved. Currently there are so many instant mediums such as TripAdvisor, Twitter and Instagram to name a few that let us know exactly how our guests feel about their experience which is invaluable to us as we strive for excellence.

I have been working in hospitality for my whole career; I worked at The Manoir au Quat’ Saisons for ten years; The Bath Priory for a further 10 years and then more recently at Lucknam Park, before moving to central Bath to manage the beautiful Roseate Villa. I think more than ever before guests appreciate the thoughtful little touches: that you have noted and taken time to listen to them on the phone and remember why they are coming to Bath, or recall that they love a particular cake, or bedroom. Similarly, if they mention in passing they are celebrating an occasion, and the team acknowledges this at some point during their stay, it makes their stay more memorable.

With our lives getting busier and busier with all the demands that come with being in an instant world, I believe that time is one of the biggest luxuries, so arriving into a beautiful hotel and having someone who is genuinely happy to see you feels special. Giving guests the time to share your knowledge of the city and local restaurants and find out the particular interests of each guest is where the magic happens. Meanwhile in the background things happen seamlessly: cases disappear, rooms are prepared for early arrivals whilst guests relax over a cup of tea and cake enjoying the peace and tranquility that is such a rare gift these days.

The quality of the guest experience in my opinion is all about how you leave your guests feeling. To achieve this, the team culture is key. Recruiting the right-spirited individuals who are proud to be working in your establishment and share your vision are more likely to feel a strong sense of purpose. An excellent team will feel confident that they have the autonomy to share their individual personality with our guests. Although standards and consistency are crucial, it is important that the team do not feel restricted with what they can offer, that they individually go over and above standard customer service.

Perhaps one of the reception team might recommend and book her very own hairdresser for a guest or put in a call to a colleague who works in a particular restaurant to set up a surprise to delight the guests when they arrive there for a meal. At The Roseate Villa, have a returning set of two couples of guests who come every year just before Christmas. I happened to notice at breakfast one of the men pass a birthday card to the other. It was a discreet action so without any fuss, we put a card and small gift in the room and whilst I was going to the bank that afternoon, I popped into the restaurant that they were dining at and put in a word with the head waiter to ask if something small could be done to recognise the occasion.

The next morning, they told me they were so very happy with the surprise birthday dessert and could not believe I had gone to the trouble. They still mention it a year on.

At The Roseate Villa, our team is very proud to have been awarded Customer Service Award in the Bath business awards two years in a row 2016 and 2017. We are also very proud of our excellent TripAdvisor ratings.

Thoughtful touches, such as a well-stocked tea tray with fresh milk and home baked biscuits (which we make gluten-free if a guest requires), always get great feedback. In some of the world’s best hotels, guests may be paying many hundreds of pounds per night, but are still expected to pay for room service for a cup of tea. However beautiful the china it’s served on and however smart and charming the team member who serves the guests may be, rather than enhancing guest experience, it is more likely to feel like a disappointment.

One of the things I feel most proud of is the genuine care that our team members feel for the guests who stay with us. They will run out with an umbrella to welcome our guests in from the rain, offer to do laundry when guests ask where the launderette is and our new housekeeping supervisor went to the doctor's surgery with a lady who was on her own and felt very unwell to keep her company (in her own time!). These are just a few examples.

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