Robert Zatta’s family have owned the multi-award winning Best Western Bluegum Motel in Dubbo since it’s construction thirty-five years ago. In 2014, Robert and his wife Amanda, decided to take over the management of the hotel. With Amanda’s keen eye for design and Robert’s IT and sales background they embarked on a renovation of the hotel’s infrastructure and an overhaul of systems and procedures.
I caught up with Robert for a chat at the Best Western Hotel & Resorts National Convention. During the podcast interview, Robert explains how he and Amanda managed to transform the 3 ½ star motel into to a popular 4 ½* property. In the process they soared to the top on TripAdvisor ratings, achieving number one status for service across the whole of Australia and the South Pacific. Robert shares the key to his success with listeners on this week’s episode of the ‘That Bad Review’ podcast series.
How to Soar to the Top on TripAdvisor
Robert is quite modest when speaking about the awards he and his team have won over the last few years. He is adamant that while awards are nice to have, they are not something his team seeks out. Instead, they are a by-products of the work done to improve the motel’s offerings. In addition to a highly-rated award with TripAdvisor, the Bluegum Motel also holds the number one position for hotel cleanliness across the whole Best Western brand, a global network of four thousand plus properties.
‘It’s a process’, Robert divulges to listeners. ‘Cleanliness isn’t just about having a good house keeper scrub the tiles’. Robert explains that it’s a combination of many things that contribute to the end result. From the design and planning stage to the building materials used. It’s having the right housekeepers but also giving them enough time to do their job properly. And it doesn’t stop there, Robert admits. It rolls over to the systems and procedures used to double and sometimes triple check that work satisfies the high standards set. Standards that involve a level of service and cleanliness that Robert and Amanda would expect when staying at any other hotel.
Robert shares some of these systems and procedures with podcast listeners. He explains how they have been key in achieving extremely high customer satisfaction levels and increased the hotels return visitor rates. Robert admits that while some of these valuable tips can be implemented straight away, it takes time to see the benefits of others. Either way, the success Robert and Amanda have achieved is testimony to the value of making sure the right systems, procedures and supporting infrastructure in place to offer the best customer experience possible.
The Importance of Word-of-Mouth
A key focus for Robert and Amanda is offering extra services to guests that are often overlooked by other hoteliers. Offering unique services increases repeat visitation as well as word-of-mouth referrals. Robert has noticed that this is especially prevalent among corporate guests. Making sure people are comfortable and have all of their needs met when travelling for business, encourages them to return regularly. It also encourages them to recommend the motel to their colleagues and associates. Robert explains that it’s like a tree branching out. One person stays and has a great experience and they tell others. The guest’s business associates come and stay and they too have a great experience. Then they tell their own business network.
Robert has also noticed that if a regular corporate guest resigns and is employed by a new company that requires travel to the same area, they often insist on staying at the Bluegum Motel in their new role. They also suggest colleagues within their new company do the same. It takes time to build a repeat client base in this way. However, Robert business is now reaping the benefits of having a loyal and regular, repeat customer base made up of these types of corporate guests.
The Pros & Cons of Mobile Check-In
Given Roberts IT background, I was eager to chat with him about technology and his thoughts around tech advancements. After discussing a few topics our conversation turned to key-less entry and mobile check in.
While there are pros and cons to both, mobile check in and check out really got us talking. The convenience of checking in pre-arrival and being able to go straight to their room, is very appealing to some guests. After a long trip, I feel like this myself. However, Robert provides a very interesting perspective. He points out that one of the keys to his success can be attributed to the high level of personalised service provided by his team. Every opportunity to engage with the guest that is removed, hinders the chance to develop a stronger relationship. This in turn makes it harder to offer a customised experience. Robert adds ‘If you detach yourself with technology too far, you can get too far detached from your customer’.
Also, in this week’s podcast
In this episode of the ‘That Bad Review’ podcast, Robert and I discuss:
- Methods of tracking customer details
- Exceeding customer expectations
- Building rapport with guests
- Tackling negative reviews head on
- Using CCTV to make guests feel comfortable
- The need to be more tech savvy than your guests
- Being a jack of all trades when running a small business