What is Guest Experience (GX)?

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The hotel sector is more competitive than ever. Boutique hotels, Airbnb, new technologies, local culture obsessions and much, much more raised guest expectations. Guests are able to book anything, anywhere across every price range. This means hotels need to differentiate and delight in order to survive. Running a hotel or hotel chain is complex. By focusing on the guest experience (GX), hotels can solve current issues while innovating within their industry.

What we’ll cover:

Guest experience (GX) today

Guest experience (GX) is the holistic impression of a hotel or hotel brand through multiple interactions, including a hotel stay. Yes - certain brands, businesses and other hospitality sectors (such as food & beverage) would consider their customer a guest. Though the latter is legitimate, we’ll put aside for today and focus on hotels.

Hotels create an experience by default. This is an amalgamation of the service, atmosphere and offering within the hotel. Such an experience used to be more controlled and standardised. Hotels could choreograph service in accordance with these formalities, and expect guests to reach in a certain way. Today, these standards are blurry, which means a hotel needs to orchestrate versus dictate a guest experience.

Where GX differs from CX

CX and GX share many similarities. For one thing, people and all the complex emotions that come along. The second is the strategy structure. Guest experience also includes personas, journeys and touchpoints. To be completely honest, a CX expert with a passion for hospitality can flex into GX. If you are interested in the customer/guest strategy structure, then read ‘What is Customer Experience (CX)?’ for a foundational overview.

The largest difference between GX and CX is the purchase journey. For CX, you are able to try the product or service ahead of time, whether that’s through a formal trial moment or a purchase-return workaround. This is the key validation moment for most customers. However, with a new hotel in your repertoire, the purchase is before a validation experience. Guest validation is throughout the entire guest journey. The moment of truth is at the end, where guests ask themselves - would I come back or refer this hotel to a friend?

For this key difference, guest experience (GX) is much more dependent on service, personalisation and loyalty than CX in general. As a guest is essentially living with your brand, the guest experience leans heavily on atmosphere, staff and communication. All of these are able delight and set expectations along the guest journey, hopefully leading to a positive guest experience.

The guest journey

The guest journey is more than the stay. The four greater phases of a guest journey include discover, arrange, stay and follow-up. When mapping the guest journey, these can be the starting point. These greater phases can be broken into sub-phases for hotels with a greater offer. For example, ‘stay’ could include replenish (food & beverage) and rejuvenate (sleep & spa).

Within the guest journey phases, there are key touchpoints. The typical key touchpoints include booking, check-in and guest room. Key touchpoints impact the guest greatly as they are also key painpoints. Solving these in a brand-relevant makes the experience more memorable for the guest. The ultimate goal in the guest journey is to make it memorable (in a good way).

The importance of a GX roadmap

Getting a guest experience right is about having both the right foundation and a flexible approach. This allows hoteliers to handle changes in guest expectation and need, as well as industry shifts. When considering improvements for the guest journey, it is necessary to determine short-term wins and long-term changes. A GX roadmap is also relevant for CX, but we’ll touch on that another time.

Short-term wins should solve a guest issue with the least time or process disruption. These could be a new bathroom amenity, better images on a website, a new staff welcome statement or complementary refreshment in the lobby. Long-term wins are more future-forward, and require greater investment, as well as careful considerations. These include a different CRM system, in-room personalisation controls, new experience programming or establishing a guest loyalty rewards program.

By analysing the guest journey and prioritising changes, hoteliers can improve the guest experience without going crazy or over-investing in a less impactful adjustment.

Three qualities all guests desire

Whether it’s a better workspace, the right amenities or local insights, a guest appreciates thoughtful services that are relevant to them. The curation of these depends on the guest and the hotel’s location.
To build confidence and trust, hotels need to engage guests throughout their journey. This includes staff interaction, online, in app, What’s App - any communication method. It also includes services or features that delight.
Guests constantly engage with your hotel before, during and after their say. As there are dozens of small interactions, including ordering amenities, paying, checking-in, checking-out, etc, these need to be easy.

Let’s summarise

  • Guest experience (GX) is the holistic impression of hotel through multiple interactions
  • GX is more dependent on service, personalisation and loyalty than CX
  • The guest journey’s greater phases include discover, arrange, stay and follow-up
  • A GX roadmap enables hoteliers to prioritise changes and upgrades
  • All guests desire thoughtful, engaging and intuitive in their experience