Connections between staff, guests and management
Better relationships at MyPond Hotel
GuestRevu helps strengthen the link between staff, guests and management at MyPond Hotel.
Situated along the Kowie River in South Africa’s sunny seaside town of Port Alfred, MyPond is not your average hotel. In fact, soon after walking through the sliding glass doors, you might start to wonder why all the beaming faces of its hotel staff seem so... young.
No, sadly they haven’t stumbled upon the elixir of life, rather MyPond Hotel is the four-star, 27-bedroom training ground for the South African branch of one of the world's most prestigious hotel schools — Stenden Academy. Here, students are put through the frantic paces of the hotel industry as they train to become the best in each of their respective fields.
“As a hotel brand, we have a commitment to excellence,” says Executive Dean of Stenden South Africa, Wouter Hensens. “This is basically a very practical translation of our strategy and values within three categories: be early, be prepared, be excellent.”
“We’ve tried to create a culture that is on the one hand performance driven, and on the other hand very human in terms of connecting and engaging with guests and each other, which is what you should strive for in the hospitality industry.”
But their journey to become one of the top TripAdvisor ranked hotels in Port Alfred hasn’t come without challenges. Today, MyPond and GuestRevu work together to solve these challenges, collecting valuable insights to provide guests with incredible experiences.
Understanding where guest experiences were going wrong and keeping students motivated
Not knowing why the restaurant fell short of guest expectations
Wouter recalls a time several years ago when MyPond just couldn’t seem to get the breakfast right. “We were struggling to understand what was going wrong. Was the waiting time too long? Was it the quality of the food? I was putting constant pressure on the GM, saying that we can't continue to get it wrong. I had to come in personally around breakfast time to make sure that everything was ready and in order,” he says.
Relying on comment cards and scrolling through review sites to get feedback
General Manager of MyPond, Sisonke Mapuma, explains that even though she enjoyed the process of typing up comment cards in the past because it gave her a chance to see what guests were saying, it was still a laborious, time-consuming process.
“It would take an hour, maybe two hours a day, but of course the more people staying over, the longer it would take. At the end of the month I would put the comment cards in an envelope, send to head office, and someone there would sit and match what I had typed out to what the guest had physically written.” Of course, this process meant there was typically a big delay between the moment of feedback and the actual action to resolve it.
High stakes left no room for error
Because the two establishments are so interlinked, MyPond has essentially become Stenden's business card, as Wouter explains: “Whenever we have Stenden Academy open days, a lot of parents come down and stay at MyPond because they want to see and experience the learning environment, and of course potential new students want to see how things are run. So we cannot be bad. We just don't have that choice.” This, combined with maintaining an excellent standard of day-to-day operations, puts a lot of pressure on staff and management to perform.
A comprehensive and easy-to-use direct guest feedback and online reputation management solution to pinpoint strengths and weaknesses, integrated with Mews PMS
GuestRevu’s award-winning feedback and online reputation solutions, combined with the seamless integration to the Mews PMS, now gives MyPond:
- Customisable questionnaires to send to both restaurant and hotel guests
- Access to feedback and review data from one consolidated dashboard
- Insights into where to spend operational budget
As Sisonke explains, using GuestRevu has been a straight-forward process from the beginning. “I didn’t need any training - I simply logged in and figured out my way around the program. It's that easy.”
For Wouter, a two-way integration like the one in place between GuestRevu and Mews is extremely valuable. “It has huge benefits in terms of guest loyalty,” he says. “For example, if a guest complained about the room after their last stay, we’re able to pick that up on the Mews dashboard when they check in again, and can upgrade them to one of our premium rooms with a river view, if possible. Or if they rated another area poorly we can engage with them about that too. So that data is very helpful for us.”
In my first year as a GM, I would have to read through all the comments on TripAdvisor, Booking.com and all the other major platforms, calculate their scores and then give the average. Now everything I need to do reporting at MyPond is on GuestRevu. Just one click and I’ve saved hours of work. Everything is there on your dashboard, and it's all so easy to use.
I can't understand how we had been operating for so long without GuestRevu. It's such an easy tool to use and requires almost no effort. At a basic level, all you have to do is check your email updates, read through them, respond, and share with the team if necessary.
Has GuestRevu made us better as a hotel? Absolutely.
Better understanding guest experiences, using feedback to motivate staff, and connecting with guests
• Understanding how to improve guest experiences across the hotel
“GuestRevu has really helped us understand where we get it right and where we get it wrong,” says Wouter. “We didn't get our breakfast right two or three years ago, but through feedback and changes to our operations, we certainly get it right now. I see compliments everywhere in our feedback, and we want to make sure we keep that momentum. So it really has made the hotel better.”
MyPond also received continuous criticism over not having enough TV channels in the past, but they wouldn’t have spent over £3000 on their new channel bundle if Wouter hadn’t seen those reviews himself.
“When I travel, I don't care about how many channels a hotel has,” he says. “But if I'm confronted with guest after guest who tell us we need more channels, then I have to accept that as truth. And that's the interesting thing about guest feedback - it takes the whole idea that there is a theoretical optimum away - that a hotelier knows best, which is basically how we ran the hotel industry up until the early 2000s.
“Now you have to accept that quality is whatever the guest defines as quality. If they need a hundred TV channels, then they need a hundred TV channels. Analysing guest feedback helps us understand this and make the necessary adjustments,” explains Wouter.
• Motivating staff through increased direct feedback
Through the integration with GuestRevu and Mews, MyPond is able to automatically send customised questionnaires to guests once they check out. This automation has helped MyPond increase the direct feedback they receive, which they’re then able to share with students.
“It can be such a morale booster, because eight or nine times out of ten the feedback is positive,” explains Sisonke. “And even when we're getting negative feedback, it's more like constructive recommendations and suggestions from guests, which helps students learn and enhance the services we offer. Having exposure to feedback shows the students that an unhappy guest is nothing peculiar, it’s a given in the industry. It’s how you deal with it that counts.”
• Engaging better with guests and increasing brand loyalty
Having convenient access to more guest data has helped MyPond improve their guest engagement in a big way. “We’ve found that even after a guest has checked out, having someone call them, apologise and acknowledge that they weren't happy is enough to make that guest come back in future,” says Wouter.
“That's the big difference between GuestRevu and a platform like TripAdvisor, for example. When a guest writes a TripAdvisor review, even if you respond to that on the TripAdvisor website, there's less of a connection like you have when communicating with a guest via the GuestRevu surveys. You're both posting on a public platform. Guests know that when they fill out the survey, they're talking to the hotel directly.
“So in a way they are more honest, but they're also more considerate because they feel that they're talking to a person. Inviting that conversation with direct feedback does a lot for guest loyalty as well, even if you didn't get it one hundred percent right. You wouldn't have that if you only had a presence on platforms like TripAdvisor or Booking.com.”