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Difference Between a Guest and a Customer

Hotel guests should never be called customers.

Let's look at the definitions of our key words:

A guest is ”a recipient of hospitality, specifically someone staying by invitation at the house of another”.

A customer is someone that “buys a product or service”.

That doesn’t mean hotel guests aren’t customers, they are customers that are buying your product and services, but they are more than that.

If you've invited someone to your home, would you do what you can to make them comfortable, i.e. extend your hospitality to them? I hope so. Would you do that to someone who just wants to buy something from you? Unlikely.

The Hotel Guest Experience

A hotel guest trusts you with their safety during their stay. They rely on the hotel for support during their stay. It may be trivial things like a forgotten toothbrush or important life events like an anniversary. As a hotelier, you have the power and responsibility to help your guest in whatever way you can.

You, as a front deal clerk or breakfast server or a housekeeper, have the power to create something meaningful for your guests.

I say ”your guests” because regardless of your role in a hotel, you are their host and they are your guests. You need to be more than just someone that takes care of the payment, you are the curator of their experience, however long or short it is. I've talked about what a hotel guest journey is here.

Being a hotelier is about being able to do the transactional “customer service” while providing hospitality to your hotel guests, by making them feel welcome and safe. It is that personal connection that differentiates just a hotel from a great hotel.

Recall a favourite interaction with someone that was more than just "customer service". Why do you still remember it? What did it make you feel? Did the person do something different to make you feel this way? Share your experience.


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