How to make sure that your arrivals and departures run smoothly
Arrival and departure times are often a source of contention with guests. It is not unheard of for guests to plan to arrive at 3:00am, not tell their hosts, and then be outraged that there was nobody to greet them. I have even heard somebody ask for a discount for arriving at 1:00am because they “only used half the night”! Although, I think in this case he was trying to flirt with the receptionist. Thrifty negotiation is not generally a winning tactic.
This is a particular problem for many serviced apartments, as if the apartments are not all in one site - then a member of staff will often have to arrange to meet the guests individually (ideally not at 3:00am.)
Late checkouts can also be a nightmare- throwing off cleaning schedules, and making the next set of guests angry. Additionally, those checking out late are generally reluctant to pay for their extra snooze...
So how do you make the arrival and departure processes run smoothly?
I have taken a look at 5 common strategies that hotels and serviced apartment providers use – and hopefully you can find something that may work for you.
Concierge desk - set times but allow for all hours of arrival
This is only really an option if you have a concierge desk or office near to your accommodation andenough staff to ensure that this will be manned at all times. Essentially hotel or serviced apartment operators using this method specify during their booking process the check in/check out windows of time, and ensure that there will be someone at the desk during these windows to greet guests, and a member of staff on call at all times in case the guests are late or early.
Guests are likely to appreciate this set up as it allows them more flexibility- however you do need an office or front desk near your accommodation, and will also have to foot the bill for 24/7 staff (or give up sleeping for a while).
Verdict: Great for 5 star services, but this is tough on your staff, you need a front desk, and it is tricky to get right if you are operating serviced apartments that are spread over a larger area!
Follow up manually with guests
This option is very common in serviced apartments with multiple sites and a personal greeting service. Usually this member of staff will contact the guest upon booking confirmation to check when they are expected to arrive- and plan accordingly!
This has several pros; it is certainly a personalised service and many guests will appreciate the personal touch. Additionally, it is more or less mandatory to set a particular time if you do not have a front desk and the guests will be met individually.
However, there are a few downsides; mainly that this is extremely time consuming, especially if you get into drawn out email conversations with guests. Additionally, if guests are delayed and there is only one member of staff, this could have knock on consequences for all of the other check-ins that day. This also does not allow the guest a great amount of flexibility if they have variable travel times.
Verdict: Great for a very personal service – especially if you have multiple locations and no central front desk, but very time consuming and means that you rely on guests arrival times being relatively accurate.
Semi-automated individual follow up
This option is where the booking system is set up to send automatic emails following booking confirmation, asking guests to specify estimated arrival and departure times within the time windows specified in the booking process. This way guests can reply directly to the concierge/greeting service and because they will be given options within standard time windows this should allow convenient planning for both parties.
We set this option up for many of our serviced apartment customers, giving the benefit of both a personal service and of the reduced workload on the greeting staff.
An additional helpful feature that we often set up is an automatic follow up that is sent a few days before arrival, to confirm that the time they have specified is still accurate.
This allows this information to be tracked within the Elina property management system and allows effective planning.
Verdict: This option gives the personal service of an individual email follow up, whilst taking some of the strain off the greeting/concierge staff. Although this also relies on guests arrival times being relatively accurate, it also means that they are more likely to be mindful of this and let your staff know in advance if plans change.
Fully automated but personal greeting
This option is also a very popular choice for many of our customers. With this set up, they choose to have late/early check-ins as billable optional extras so that guests can clearly see your opening hours during the booking process, and make an informed decision about their check in times. Then they can be met by a staff member either at the apartment or the front desk (if they have one).
We often also set this up so that customers can specify their arrival times during the booking process, so that this can be almost entirely automated.
The downside of this is that there is a potential for this process to feel less personal, although for larger establishments reducing workload for the concierge/greeting team is essential. Additionally the main priority for the guests is likely to be a smooth arrival and departure, rather than a very personal service.
Verdict: This option is fantastic for ensuring smooth operation, and ensures that guests are informed- particularly useful for larger accommodation providers! As this can be less personal, this is a great option for providers wanting to offer a slick service for smooth arrivals and departures without a central front desk.
Remote self check in service
This option is where using codes or another set up, guests can let themselves in requiring no greeting service at all. This is usually accompanied by strict check in/check out time windows as guests cannot access the apartments before they are ready or after they are expected to check out.
This method is great because it gives the guests autonomy and puts less strain on your staff. However, it is very impersonal and can seem a little daunting for guests, so it is essential to ensure that help is at hand should they have a problem.
Verdict: This option is excellent, but only if it is backed up by easily accessible phone support. Additionally, this is mainly suitable if a provider does not have a front desk.
Overall: Organising arrivals and departures can involve a lot of stress if done badly, but should be relatively straightforward. When you choose the method you will use it is important to consider; whether you have a front desk, how many man hours you want to devote to arrivals and departures, how personal you want your service to be and finally whether you have the technology to support this.
Get this right, and you will save hours of time and have the peace of mind that your operations will run smoothly.
If you would like to find out how Elina PMS could support your arrivals and departures,
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