Checking out the mystery guest

In hotels across the world, managers and their teams are hard at work, maintaining standards, improving service and adding value to their guests’ experience. But how to establish that these efforts are having a positive effect? How can you be sure that the combined efforts of the team have translated into a meaningful experience for each guest, one they’ll be keen to share with their friends? And how will you know that a guest will, one day, return?

The good news is that these are not unanswerable questions. There is a reason why mystery guests have long been one of the most dependable sources of answers to questions every hotel manager should be asking. From check-in to check-out, from breakfast to supper, a mystery guest trains a practised eye on a hotel, assesses performance across the board, and reports the findings directly to you.

In other words, the mystery guest is the perfect guest: a highly trained expert with long experience of hospitality, who can see your hotel from the other side of the lens, and give you a candid, objective, quantifiable view from there. As a root-and-branch audit of every aspect of a hotel encountered by guests, it reaches the parts other service audits can’t.

Every experience of a hotel begins long before the moment of arrival; it begins at the instant  the phone is answered with an enquiry. When a guest calls to reserve a room, a first impression is already taking shape – and since first impressions have a way of enduring, even beyond last impressions, a mystery guest’s assessment of the experience so far is invaluable.

The journey continues on arrival, where every detail matters. Porters and doormen, concierge and front-of-house staff are a little like ensemble players creating the mood music the guest hears when they arrive. Are they all playing in tune? Indeed, is everyone playing the same tune? We all have an ear for a missed beat a wrong note; if there is any dissonance between the expectation and the experience, it’s vital to be able to hear it and retune.

And so it continues throughout the guest’s journey, taking in food and beverage, housekeeping, room service, and staff interaction with guests. Nor does the mystery guest audit need to stop there; many offer a comprehensive audit of those all-important areas of a hotel guests don’t see but that have a significant impact on how it’s perceived and how effectively it is run – the effectiveness of the brand and marketing strategy, for example, compliance with standards of food and health safety, how staff are recruited and trained. There are many pressure points in a hotel, and it pays dividends to know from the outside how they are performing, and where the potential fault lines are.

Booking a mystery guest audit is a small investment with a significant impact, one that may make a genuine difference to the future of a hotel. The audit is usually completed at the end of the stay, with detailed findings and scorings on every aspect within the audit’s purview. The final report is a sound basis for planning the future of a hotel – whether a small independent boutique or a branch of a large five-star chain. Mystery guests draw on a wealth of professional expertise to make their assessments; that same experience is brought to bear on any advice and recommendations once the audit is complete