Hotel Courtesy Shuttles – A Marketing Roadblock
Most frequent travelers consider the complimentary hotel shuttle a significant benefit when traveling to a new city. Whether it’s for transportation to and from the airport or a free ride to attractions, this amenity can make a big difference when evaluating one hotel versus another.
Many hotels prominently feature their complimentary shuttle services on their websites and other marketing materials, yet poor quality control can quickly turn this benefit into a negative experience.
Poor Shuttle Service Can Destroy Everything You Do Right
As an executive, manager or staff member who works in the travel and hospitality industry, you appreciate the importance of a positive overall experience for every single one of your guests. You focus on all aspects of your property, front desk and lobby, rooms and amenities, yet may be missing one of the most important “first impressions” that guests encounter before they even set foot on your property.
The Internet is loaded with posts from dissatisfied travelers who complain about a given hotel’s shuttle service. Most vow to not only avoid a specific hotel, but may even shift their loyalty from an entire chain based on a negative experience with the airport-to-hotel shuttle service.
The Dreaded Daily Scenario at Most Major Airports
Most travelers know how exasperating it can be to arrive in a strange airport after a long day on the road. All they really want to do is get to their hotel room to rest and get ready for the next leg of their trip.
Alongside hundreds of other weary passengers from their flight, they step out of the jetway and enter a busy terminal thronged with thousands of people scurrying around the building. After locating the nearest restroom, they must orient themselves in yet another airport. Scanning the horizon for signs directing them to the baggage area and hotel shuttle services, they desperately search for someone who can direct them to the hotel shuttle area. The usual response is something like, “It used to be in front of Terminal C, but with all the construction, I think they moved it to Terminal 6 or maybe 7. You can catch the airport shuttle to one of those terminals on the lower level outside the baggage area.”
Finally, the Hotel Shuttle Area is in Sight!
After a couple of false starts, our weary travelers finally arrive at the location from which hotel shuttles arrive and depart. The next challenge is determining what their shuttle looks like. Does it have the name of the hotel on the side? What color is it? Is their hotel supported by a service that shuttles passengers to several other hotels in the area where they want to go? It is a bit like playing whack-a-mole as rental car shuttles, buses, taxis and others arrive and depart while they are waiting on hold with the front desk of their hotel.
Perhaps our weary traveler calls to talk with someone from the hotel, who tells them, “The shuttle just left and should be there in about 20 minutes or so depending on traffic.” Of course, traffic around airports during rush hour is always heavy, so the 20 minutes can easily become 45 minutes – usually MORE!
The shuttle arrives and all the travelers crowd aboard, dropping suitcases on toes and shuffling about to try and get comfortable standing alongside other sweaty, irritable travelers. By the time the shuttle arrives and suitcases are retrieved, guests are greeted with a long line at the front desk, only to be told their room will be ready in a few minutes.
Is Outsourcing the Answer?
In an effort to improve service, many hotels outsource shuttle services, which often leads to additional problems. Drivers not employed directly by the hotel they may not act in accordance with the hotel’s customer service philosophy. Many shuttle service companies combine routes so guests must stop at several other locations before arriving at their target hotel.
It’s no wonder that so many hotel guests make up their mind about a hotel before they even see their room!
Top that off with the next day when guests want to catch a shuttle to a local restaurant or historic site. The shuttle that’s supposed to leave from the hotel lobby every 20 minutes shows up 10 minutes late and is nowhere to be found for the return trip after a long day of sightseeing.
Industry insiders often talk about the importance of focusing on the guest experience and brand loyalty. Yet one of the very amenities they highlight at the top of the list – free hotel shuttle – brings some of the worst guest experiences ever and leads them to go looking for another chain. It’s counterproductive.
Transform the Negative to a Positive
According to the MIT study, customer expectations (or in our case guest expectations) have two levels – a desired and a sufficient level. Guests find a certain service like hotel courtesy or shuttles either sufficient or acceptable. Yes, both scenarios mean your guest remains happy, but is that what the hospitality is trying to provide? A “sufficient or acceptable” service to guests?
I think not.
Considering that 97 percent of global consumers report that customer/guest service is important in their choice and loyalty to a brand, and 76 percent say they view customer/guest service as the true test of how much a company values them (Source), it’s time for hoteliers to transform the guest courtesy and shuttle experience. They must rethink how they provide amenities aligned with what guests today expect – a real time understanding of when and where a courtesy or shuttle service will be delivered.
If we are committed to this transformation, we should, at the very least, be be thinking about these three things:
- Take time to go through a Guest Journey Mapping Experience and identify where there may be pain points or blinds spots for your guests in your current courtesy or shuttle experience. Some examples include:
- The baggage area of the airport where guests may not know where to go to find the shuttle waiting area
- The airport shuttle waiting area where your guests many times are anxiously waiting for the shuttle and do not know the ETA
- The lobby area where your guests wait anxiously, wondering if they have time to grab breakfast before the airport shuttle arrives
- Explore what other industries are doing and finding successful. For example, if transportation companies like Uber and Lyft can show an ETA on a map, shouldn’t your shuttle service do at least that? What are others using for maps, traffic, preferred routing, location tracking, geofencing engines, and geo visualization tools? How are others improving service and delivering more information to drivers, guests and hotel staff.
- Perform an internal audit to understand what it would take to add guest-facing experiences within your loyalty programs, website and mobile app. These should be seamless and easy for the guest to access, always providing extra value so your guest will remain loyal to your brand.
The Glympse Solution
We offer a Courtesy Shuttle Brief that outlines how you can transform the negative shuttle experience into a powerful differentiator for individual hotels and even entire chains. The Glympse Shuttle Tracker offers a mobile app that features real time updates of a shuttle’s location. Hotels can provide a live shuttle map and ETA in their lobby, the airport baggage area, and other high-traffic areas showing the status of shuttles to and from multiple locations.
The software can also provide statistical information for better staffing and overall planning. Shuttle Activity Statistics include total loops, average duration, average wait time, activity per location, route and driver and more.
Chris Ruff, CEO & president of Glympse, recently announced that a partnership with HERE Technologies puts a” modern twist on a favorite amenity” and insures it remains a guest favorite. Historically, “Guests who take advantage of this service are very often frustrated with this service because of the uncertainty they face trying to predict when their ride will arrive.” Ruff says the Glympse/HERE Technologies solution helps address this industry problem by providing a better guest experience. HERE Technologies and Glympse have combined their respective capabilities to deliver this best-in-class shuttle tracking solution.
Click here to read more details about this best in class shuttle tracking service. while reducing operational costs. The solution includes a mobile platform linked to GPS that constantly streams maps, traffic, preferred routing, ETA, location tracking, geo fencing engines, and geo visualization tools. The end result is fewer delays, improved service and better information delivered to drivers, guests and hotel staff.