An article by Eric von Starck of
Panetiere Marketing Advisors, summer 2004, Hotel Executive

Personality on Your Web Site and Why

Fact: For all web sites that include stories and bios about the people who work at the web site’s business, that is the page that becomes the most visited. Web lookers want to see the people behind the business.

So: we understand from that that buyers want to know from whom they are buying, what the personnel of the business is like and how do those people reflect the values that will make the buyer feel comfortable with the product and the purchase commitment.

Now, most hotels expect that this important job of creating a real personality out of pixels and bytes will be accomplished by:

1) their brand identity

2) their marketing partner affiliations

3) their star or diamond ratings

4) their “gorgeous” photos (seldom look like the real rooms)

But, let’s pause in this process. Let’s identify with the an experience at a property - a good experience.

Is it the “look” of the lobby that Ms. Jenkins is considering when the bellman takes her into the lobby, where she is introduced by name (magical) to the front desk manager who is on “meet & greet” duty in front of the reception area and is welcomed with a smile and personal enquiry as to her stay. Then, when she gets to the front desk, the staff greet her, again, by name and check that she does indeed want her usual city view room, that she is still reading the New York Times in the morning, and ask her if her spa reservation for six thirty is still good.

Wow. Don’t we wish - not difficult to accomplish, yet only constant training could get us and keep us there. I wonder, however, is Ms. Jenkins thinking about the lobby’s ambiance or the people who are making her so welcome?

That is an easy answer.

Let’s, therefore, consider how we can translate that experience into our web site. Is such a gracious experience communicated in a photo, in a “star”, in a soft focus flash file of stock photos, in the brand of Marriott (yes, to some extent)? Isn’t this image really controlled by the smiles, the tones of voice, and the eyes of the staff who have made it all possible?

In four and five star properties, isn’t service near the top of critical deciders for a buyer?

Yes, it emphatically is. In a private survey related to luxury hotel decisions, the strongest elements in a hotel decision are Past Experience (98% Important and 79% Very Important) and followed up by Pleasant Staff (98% Important and 75% Very Important). At the same rating, we also get Atmosphere and isn’t “Atmosphere” partly conditioned by Pleasant Staff - in addition to the waterfall at the end of the hallway?

The Pleasant Staff is the hotel staff isn’t it?

So where is the staff on your web site?

Here are some really simple ideas to bring your staff into your site. What might small bios of featured staff rotating constantly on a variety of pages accomplish in terms of “Pleasant Staff”? Your web designer can program 20 or more random bios and photos to pop up in one position on any number of pages.

Think about what other messages you might be able to communicate to the web looker. If you were to have a page of the treasured and honored employees and were to change that page monthly, would that not be sending positive communications in two directions? Are you not revealing to the web looker that your hotel values its staff and to the staff that your hotel values them?

What is this message going to yield you as a response from your web lookers and your staff?

Further, what more could you communicate, if you were to write stories about who your staff are and give a window into their humanity: their family, their passions, and their thoughts about the property. What impact would these stories have on staff morale, recognition and respect? Would this not, also, positively impact guest service? Hand in glove. Your respect of your staff will translate to the web looker that your staff is to be respected.

Another idea in bringing the staff to the forefront with their smiles and welcomes up there in pixels is to use a “letter” of personal commitment from the GM with the GM’s e-mail address right there on a link, thereby showing that you have a personally involved team of integrity.

Then, how about a page for the sales staff with their photos, humanized and fun bios, e-mail addresses, and telephone numbers? What could that mean to a meeting planner?

The staff that breed life into a hotel could communicate themselves as reasons for a Web Looker to press the reservations button.

Go on, Web Looker, press it, please, press it.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Note: Mandarin Oriental Group consistently use staff members in their glossy print campaigns. On the web they are more restrained.

from Eric Starck, web designer and programmer for Panetiere Marketing Advisors

> read about how hotel website search engine optimization really works with web design - the crib sheet >

> read about how to maximize hotel revenue through a single method of changing room rates across all web channels with a single tool: EZYield >

> read about how to sell your hotel's long term stay apartments, condos, and townhouses - Panetiere's Rental Program >

> see the Hotel Sales and Marketing reference articles at HSMAI Mile High Chapter

what does the guest remember about your hotel?
the lobby?
the porte cochere?