Walking guests caused by hotel overbookings can be a double-edged sword. Do it right and you may be lucky to have a lifetime customer.
Do it wrong and you have a higher chance of receiving some negative feedback and damaging reviews.
Either way the guests being ‘walked’ feel a profound sense of discontentment and possibly even rejection when they discover that their confirmed room is now unavailable and they are being bumped to another hotel.
Although overbooking is a standard practice in the hotel industry to help buffer lost revenue caused by last minute cancellations or no shows, this practice can backfire.
Consider a tarnished image, harmful public reviews on social media and travel sites, lost future bookings, and decreased customer loyalty as just a few of the drawbacks of overbooking.
Keeping customer loyalty in mind, it is beneficial to have some best practices in place to ensure that you handle each walked guest with kindness, compassion, and professionalism.
Be Prepared and Ready
You can avoid the surprise of overbookings by being prepared before the guests even start arriving at the hotel.
If you know at 2 p.m. that you have the possibility of overbooked rooms then it is much easier to manage it at this time than at midnight when the late-arriving guest is tired and worn out.
One of the best proactive strategies is to determine which guests will be walked to another accommodation.
Generally speaking, late arrivals, short stays, and lower room rate guests are fair game and have the least impact on the business.
It is best to avoid walking those guests who are bringing ongoing revenue to the hotel.
Loyalty members, longer term stays, regular business clients, and tour groups should be coddled and protected at all costs.
Working with at-risk guests in advance of their arrival is preferred.
Consider that there may be some guests who are open and agreeable to being walked to another hotel, especially since you have given them advanced notice.
Of course, arranging accommodations at the partner hotel should be made before the guest arrives to help ensure a smooth and effortless transition.
Over Deliver on Promises
The key to make lasting impressions with these walked guests is to make them feel like they are getting a better deal than staying.
In essence, treat them like kings and queens.
Start by making sure that the partner hotel is at a higher quality level and price point than the accommodations you are offering.
Going above and beyond the bare minimum standards of hotels will win you major brownie points with your disgruntled, walked guests.
Remember that you are trying to rebuild loyalty with them.
Lavish them with complimentary cab rides to the partner hotel, free accommodations for the night, and other freebies such as lunch and dinner vouchers, bottles of wine and other gifts, spa services, and free multiple-night stays at your hotel the following night.
Perhaps the most persuasive practice of all is to offer them monetary compensation.
A few extra hundred dollar bills in their pocket for their time and trouble would most likely help them see your hotel in a more favorable light.
Be Compassionate and Kind
The most generous practice you can do is to extend them sincere empathy and warmth.
Be sensitive to their needs and apologize for the inconvenience you have caused them.
Understand that they just want to share their concerns with you so make sure you are compassionate, considerate, and patient when listening to them.
Remember that kindness goes a long way in relieving some of the discomfort caused by this situation.
Offering a personalized letter of apology to each walked guest is also important in maintaining the relationship with the guest.
There is no need to go into details of why they were walked but do express genuine sympathy and regret.
Following up with walked guests is probably the most critical step of all as it allows you to help them rebuild loyalty with your hotel.
It also gives you an opportunity to check in and hear if their stay was satisfactory.
Did they enjoy their stay at the alternate hotel?
Were they able to take the opportunity to enjoy the complementary services that you offered?
Would they be interested in coming back to your hotel for the remainder of their stay?
Offer your apologies and thank them again for their patience.
Remember that winning back the loyalty of a walked guest is possible.
Remain compassionate, caring, and professional throughout the ordeal, and you may be surprised at who walks back through your door in the future.