Last month I spoke to over 1000 Motel 6 franchisees about the impact of first impressions on their ability to connect with guests and generate positive social media reviews . They have always been known for their brand promise: providing a clean, comfortable and affordable room at the lowest price of any national chain. Most of us have experienced staying at a Motel 6 sometime in our lives. Maybe it was recently like I did to prepare for this event or maybe it was way back when you were a kid on a cross country road trip. You want an inexpensive place to stay that you can count on no matter where you are stopping.
They are in the midst of a huge project to renovate all their properties. They are over half-way complete. One picture is typical of one of the renovated rooms. My reaction was, “Wow, this is a Motel 6?” Cleaner look, better lighting and fixtures and a neat polymer floor that looks just like hardwood flooring.
The other picture is the old room, with carpet and the hideous bed spreads you are afraid to touch. Quite a contrast between the two! The challenge is clear. If you have that many locations and about half have not been renovated and perhaps not very well maintained over the years, brand consistency is a big issue. I told them, “Today our expectations are higher than ever and no matter what you paid, you expect value for your money. It is essential that even if your property is not renovated…yet…you must still deliver on the brand promise every day.”
In the old days before social media, an unhappy guest had a hard time venting to more than a few friends, writing a letter to the company and the Better Business Bureau. Now the game has changed in a big way with social media. There are endless ways to post a bad review on all the 3rd party room booking sites like Travelocity, Trip Advisor, Expedia, YELP, Twitter and Facebook.
Google Reviews are actually tied into each Motel 6 property on their own booking site Motel6.com. There is a also a new wave of sites like ConsumerAffairs.com, PissedConsumer.com and Complaints.com. Those bad reviews live forever on line. Someone who had a bad experience is much more likely to leave a bad review than someone who had a great experience is to leave a good one.
There are no secrets! You cannot HIDE!
I coached them to never underestimate the power of FIRST IMPRESSIONS. The first LOOK is essential. As they drive on to the property you are evaluating the Motel 6 sign, lighting, parking lot stripes painted or not, landscaping, cleanliness of parking lot, glass front door clean or not, reception area, case of ’things to do’ flyers and what the person behind the counter is wearing, how they are groomed and what facial expression they have.
The first FACE they see sets the tone. When the guest enters the reception area it is showtime! It is time to switch on the energy and look like you are excited they arrived and CHOSEN to stay at your property! Guests respond to the energy of the face, the look in their eyes and eye contact.
The first WORDS are essential and how they are delivered with or without energy and enthusiasm. Do they say anything to engage first? Do they say ‘Checking in?” or may I help you? How about, ‘Welcome to Motel 6, we left the light on for you, I am glad you are here!’ said with a big smile on their face and an engaging tone of voice. The goal is to make an emotional connection with the guest immediately. Make them feel good first, then ask a basic question like, ‘Do you already have a reservation? Where are you coming in from?’ This also applies to using the phone for incoming calls or from guests on the property who call the office to report an issue.
One often overlooked items is the first SMELL! I read over 100 reviews, both good and bad and this came up over and over. The moment of truth in the hotel business is when you first open the door! At Motel 6 the old rooms have carpet and since they are the original pet friendly hotel and the demographic of the guests is more likely to smoke it is not a good combination! The first whiff as you enter is very telling. It is make or break in a moment. With the renovated rooms it is much easier to control.
How can you apply the impact of a first impression on your business model? I suggest you take a fresh look at your first LOOK, FACE, WORDS and SMELL. Maybe you need to hire a few people you do not know to check or a secret shopper service to give you a report. Do not settle for average. You have just a few seconds to make a great first impression and it can be very difficult to change it. You can apply this advice to most business’s and personal interactions. My oldest son just turned 16 and it is the same advice I gave him as he meets new people and enters the dating world.