Would You Buy Your Guest a New Rolex?

Why you should budget for that extra special touch for your guest.

Great guest service is like power. If you have to tell people you have it, you don’t. Truly great service radiates. You feel the potential in the swing of the door, the depth of the carpet. It washes over in an awesome wave. Nowhere exemplifies this more than the Ritz. The name is a byword for luxury and service. Their ethos and their name are ingrained in hotel culture. They don’t have to shout about their service or quality, it rushes ahead of them, carried like an advert on the luggage of departing guests


The question is – how did they create this reputation and how can you create something similar for your vacation rental business? It is all based on providing guest experiences, and that makes guests carry your brand forward.

Today we’re looking at a specific example of how they make the guest experience be the standout memory from any trip. 

Ritz staff are given the authority to approve up $2000 of incidental spending to improve a guest’s trip with no need to check or get authorisation form a manager. This is not per year, per booking, but per incident. This was made famous by staff coming together to buy a new Rolex watch for a customer that had lost theirs. This wasn’t to rectify theft or any negligence on the behalf of the hotel. It was to make sure that this one guest’s experience at the hotel was not tarnished. Bad luck is not allowed at the Ritz.

RolexThe hotel probably lost money on that booking, but the average customer will spend $250,000 with them over a lifetime. Rather than that trip where you lost your favourite watch, your trip becomes memorable for how the hotel responded.

Businesses that thrive know to treat customers as an investment that needs to be fed and nurtured. Simon Cooper, head of Ritz-Carlton stated:

”The concept is to do something to create an absolutely wonderful stay for a guest. Significantly, there is no assumption that it’s because there is a problem. It could be that someone finds out it’s a guest’s birthday, and the next thing you know there’s champagne and cake in the room. A lot of the stuff that crosses my desk is not that they overcame a problem, but that they used their $2,000 to create an outstanding experience.’’

This is the point – do something that your customer will remember

Whilst your business’s bottom line is definite, there’s a tipping point where your attention to detail and generosity can cost your business. But, this is likely much higher than you think. The vacation rental industry is guilty of thinking in the criminally short term. Don’t think about the value of the booking, but the value of the guest and the value of having a great reputation.

So, how much can you afford to budget for the guest experience?

Even if you consider the difference to your revenue between a guest finding you via a listing site and a direct booking, you can start to budget for providing an unexpected level of service. You could provide a complimentary car service as one example. Whilst you reduce the revenue from the initial booking, you reduce the stress for your guest, you exceed their expectations and provide a moment of sophistication at the very start of their trip.

Who hasn’t walked out of an airport to catch a bus or flag a taxi and hoped one of the signs and waiting driver were inexplicably for them? With a cost of between $30-$50, you have suddenly delighted your guests and exceed their expectations in the first ten minutes of their trip.

This is a key part of growing a business. You establish your standards and your reputation. As you expand, your name then precedes you. You will have customers waiting to book with you because they know they can expect a certain standard of property, price, and service. Budgeting for the guest experience will bring you:

  • Repeat bookings from guests coming back time and time again
  • Direct Bookings as guests return to your business
  • Longer Stays as your trust and reputation improves
  • More Guests as happy customers bring their friends
  • Brand Advocates that bring entirely new customers to you

If you consider each guest a chance to bring you all of these things, then investing money in the guest experience is an obvious expense.