How will hospitality service change post Covid-19?

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Post Covid-19 will inevitably change the expectations of the customer in relation to service both before and during service interactions. Graham Hardiman FIH, Managing Partner of The Mystery Partnership, considers how things may need to change in the period of transition from lockdown and when things normalise again. The following are a few of the considerations you may wish to think about for the future.

1. Cancellation policies

Whilst most businesses are offering free amendments/ changes to reservation up to May 2021, there is a myriad of different approaches. However, in the future guests will likely be considering the likelihood of pandemic and will be seeking clear indications from hospitality businesses.

2. Pre arrival registration

To minimalize the personal contacts pre arrival registration on-line will allow guests the opportunity to have as small amount of time in public areas as possible. It may also advance further and quicker the use of electronic locks that use Bluetooth and RFID technology, which companies like Starwood and Hilton have been working towards for some time.

3. Covid-19 testing and tracing

Future guests will be seeking safe environments and governments may require a system of authorisation on mobile phones for tracing either voluntarily or mandatory. Countries like Singapore are already rolling out a full system using QR app TraceTogether. Whilst there are significant privacy issues relating to what data, there may be benefits for teams working together in environments such as hotels to be quickly alerted to someone experiencing symptoms.

4. Social distance circles

It has been noticed that in geographical areas preparing to re-open after Covid-19, properties are placing distance circle marks in public areas in order to aid social distancing measures. This is especially relevant in area such as lifts and door entrance areas.

5. Public area sanitizing and disposable wipes availability

Guests will expect to see evidence of a greater public area hygiene. Automatic electric doors will be favourable to push/pull. The frequency of wiping down high use items such as door handles and lift buttons will be expected, and it is likely that guests will use provided or their own disposable wipes and will require waste bins to dispose of these items.

It is clearly the case that guests, and customers will be far more aware of cleaning and sanitizing within public areas. It will be vital that guests are provided with confidence that they are staying in as risk free property as possible.

6. Greetings and acknowledgements

The standard handshake may become less attractive to many guests and staff alike. The standard General Manager tour of a hotel shaking the teams’ hand may be seen as a quick way to transmit Covid throughout the property. Whilst there are plenty of alternatives available from the Star Trek salute to the more traditional Namaste greeting there are also more discreet greetings such as the hand on the heart sincere greeting. However, a more Japanese style nod may become the norm.

7. Restaurant areas table spacing styles of service

The spacing of tables may become a critical decision for guests looking at venues and the Restaurant Managers ability to space guests to different areas of a room to ensure space is maximised. Guests are likely to be inheritably nervous about over intrusive service. Such as too frequent visits to the table by staff for additional sauces, condiments and service checks. A one stop delivery with a step back may be appreciated.

8. Buffets and Single Use buffet utensils

Buffets especially at meals such as breakfast may be more attractive than frequent visit table service. Guests can choose to visit the buffet when they feel comfortable and may appreciate their own personal service utensils that can be used for most dishes.

An alternative view is that buffets will be discouraged in post Covid-19 and that table service will be the preferred method of service by customers. This perhaps highlights the opposing views that are being voiced.

9. Disposable menus

Reusable items such as menus are a risk for transference of the virus. Whilst disposable menus do not eliminate the risk, it clearly reduces the risk and will probably be appreciate by guests and seen as indicating to guests that there is within the property efforts being taken to minimalize the risks.

10. Name badges and team test results

In South Korea and China being some of the first countries emerging from lockdown, there is evidence that staff name badges are being printed in larger fonts to allow identification from a further social distance. There is also reported that where countries use a traffic light green and red test result system that this can be displayed on staff name badges.

11. In room sanitized frequent use items

Some hotels already provide sanitized proof of frequent use items such as toilet seats and TV remote controls which includes a tape of proof or disposable bag for the remote control. However, there may be options to include disposable sanitize wipes for guests to use on door handles in the room or in public areas.

12. Room service

As hotel guests avoid more public dining room service may become more popular and other forms of in room dining through apps such as UberEATS or Deliveroo may become more relevant. Deliveroo have been trialling a partnership with an Aparthotel group in Australia for nearly a year and this may become a more popular option post Covid-19 in City destinations. In other destinations it may beckon the demise of an in-hotel room service operation that frequently is a loss-making department in some properties.

Graham Hardiman FIH is Managing Partner of The Mystery Partnership. Using mystery customer programmes and tailored service standard analysis tools, they have been assisting clients achieve service excellence for 25 years.