30 – Adopting A Reputation Mindset With Rupesh Patel

by | August 7, 2019

On this special edition of Suite Spot, we welcome hotel owner, entrepreneur, consultant, and social media influencer, Rupesh Patel to the studio. Ryan and Rupesh trade thoughts on the correlation between a hotel’s online reputation and revenue success. Rupesh shares his secrets on how to increase feedback from guests and grow the number of online reviews for your hotel. They also talk about the importance of responding to reviews and the rising expectations of guests and brands when it comes to online review response. Rupesh also explains how social media can also be leveraged for success. As a TMG client and brand advocate, Rupesh explains how using TMG solutions and prioritizing guest experience can have a positive influence on a hotel’s bottom line.

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Episode Transcript
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Ryan Embree: Welcome to Suite Spot where hoteliers check in and we check out what’s trending in hotel marketing. I’m your host, Ryan Embree.

Ryan Embree: Hello everyone and welcome to another exciting episode of the Suite Spot. I am your host, Ryan Embree, super special edition. We are very, very excited for this episode because not only is this a special edition, but we have a special guest in house with us and that is Mr Rupesh Patel. So I’d like to welcome him to the Suite Spot for the first and hopefully not the last time. He is a hotel owner, manager, entrepreneur, consultant, social media influencer, I’m sure there’s about five or six more titles that I’m missing there, Rupesh but thank you for coming on the Suite Spot with us.

Rupesh Patel: Hey, you missed pizza guy.

Ryan Embree: Pizza guy, pizza guy, absolutely. So I want to get started, obviously a lot of people are familiar with you. They might follow you on Linkedin or Instagram and kind of know your story. So instead of asking, you know, your background in the industry, it felt like I could switch it up a little bit and just ask kind of what your earliest memory of being in a hotel and how that might’ve influenced you later in life.

Rupesh Patel: Absolutely. So I grew up in the business, like a lot of people or a lot of people that I know. Fifth grade, summer of fifth grade, my dad says we’re moving to Florida. And I grew up in Houston, Texas, right? Was raised there, I was born in England, moved to Texas when I was six months old, and one day my dad says “I’m leaving for like five months and I’ll be back.” And the next thing you know, fifth grade ends and my dad’s like, we’re moving to Florida. I’m like, “Oh my God, I’m going to miss out on my neighbors that I was best friends with and everybody I knew in Texas,” right? We moved and he said, “We bought a motel in South Florida”. And I said, “okay, we know nothing about motels,” Right? And so we, made the journey. We drove, I think it was like 20 hours from Texas to South Florida and we moved into this motel. It was a 52 room motel and it was a motel, motel built in like the forties. And we lived on property and we did that for a long time. My parents just sold it a year and a half ago now. Oh yes, so they had it for a long time. And so I grew up doing everything like front desk, housekeeping, laundry, sweeping, actually sweeping. There was no blowers back in the day that we could afford sweeping the parking lot, cigarette buds, all of that stuff, right? And so it was a great experience, learned a lot and saw a lot of crazy things like most people do in the hotel business

Ryan Embree: And in Florida as well. So, but I’m sure that experience of doing everything in the hotel, doing almost every single task, I think it’s served you probably a lot in where you are today with, with having your own hotel and maybe, you know, empathizing with, with some of your other employees and that’s created a good relationship between you and your employees.

Rupesh Patel: Yeah. I can actually feel exactly how they’re feeling when somebody is yelling at you or if a guest is complaining about something or cleaning rooms, cause I clean rooms and this was out in a motel, right? So you’re sweating, you’re not in a cooled corridor, right? You’re sweating out there in the Florida, 100 degree heat, right, with the humidity. So, but yeah, you know, actually I hated it. I really hated it. I don’t, I don’t think my parents made it fun for us, right? But the way I kind of teach my kids, and maybe some kids our friends do these days, right. They just said, go do it, right? We had no choice, right? And maybe that’s the, our the Indian mentality. I’m not, I don’t know if I’m supposed to stereotype that, but that’s how my parents grew up and that’s how a lot of our friends, his parents grew up like just work or just going to do it, right? We’re hustlers. We’re going to work and that’s it. I didn’t like it. I didn’t like doing laundry when my friends are doing, having weekends free and nights free and I’d be clean rooms and stripping rooms, all of those things, right? But I learned a lot. Yeah. And I learned a lot and that’s where I bring the experience today. A lot of hands on experience,

Ryan Embree: Follow up question there. Like, how do you as a management style, you know, – obviously everything’s not a party all the time – but how do you implement maybe that other than there’s just go ahead and get that done, but how do you try to make it fun for them?

Rupesh Patel: Right, so we get everybody involved too. Like what do you think? How can we do this? What can you input in as far as a process, right? We don’t want to be giving rules out. We want you to be a part of the team, no matter who it is, front desk, anybody. If there’s something that we’re going to implement, we’re going to get everybody’s buy-in. Because if you just tell people what to do, they’re going to take it as far as like, you’re the boss. I don’t want to be the boss. I just posted this on Linkedin a couple of days ago. I don’t want to be called the boss. I hate when people call me the boss, right? I want people to note that, “Hey, I’m a leader here, I’m here to support everybody and I’m part of the team, right?” When one of my employees or a staff member says, “Hey, here’s the boss or the boss’s coming, or you should ask the boss.” I hate that. I really do hate that. And I just sometimes tell them that, right? Because I don’t want to feel like I am a boss, I’d rather be leading or be a part of the team.

Ryan Embree: Right. Right. Being a leader. And I think, I think that all inclusiveness in a hotel goes a long way. Especially when you’re talking about things that we’re going to talk about today, like reputation, right? Implementing something with your reputation. If you pretty much tell your employee to say, “Hey, you need to do this at the front desk, you need to do x, y, and z versus, hey, listen, if we do this together, you know, we can win some awards. We can make this place really great for everyone that comes in and maybe create a better environment.” So I think, you know, one of the reasons your partnership with Travel Media Group makes so much sense is because you yourself are really a true representation of a hotel reputation advocate. You believe that reputation is critical to a hotel success and has a direct correlation to revenue. And we practice and preach the same thing, but I’m sure, just like us, you’ve kind of come across those owners or maybe managers that don’t feel as strong about – all right, my online reputation has a direct correlation to my business. So I know what we say to them. But how do you, what, what do you kind of do to sell them on, on a good online reputation?

Rupesh Patel: Listen, I was in the same, I’m in the same shoes that they were, right? I was, this is like maybe eight years ago, maybe nine years ago. I said, all I care about is making money. I don’t care about anything else. I just care about how many rooms do we sell and how much money did we make. And when the economy went down and let me back up a little bit. I spent all this money renovating my property, right? I spent over a million dollars renovating it because it needed it, right? Uh, we didn’t spend money in the property in a long time. And so I was like, you know what? We have some money. Let’s put it in and let’s get, let’s reposition the property basically. New brand ,new everything, right? And then 2008, 2009 comes along and I spent all this money and I’m like, “Oh my God, how am I going to get that money back?” All our friends are losing their businesses or motels or hotels and I’m here stuck with all this money that I spent into it and not having a return. And then, you know, I started reading and listening to a lot of just leadership and they said, “Listen, in a tough time, customer service always works, right? It always gets you above everybody else. And I said, “you know what, we’re going to do something different and we’re going to stop caring about how much money we made, but really focused on customer service, really focus on the experience,” and that’s what we did. And so I said, “I see social media is coming up, I see reviews mean a lot,” and I said, “we have to change this, we have to focus on getting really good reviews.” And that’s what we did. And since then we’ve become an award winning property out of, I think there’s 1700 or 1600 Quality Inns in the United States right now. We’ve been in the – what’s it called – the top three. And it’s awesome that this 1970’s property can be an award winner when there’s all these brand new properties or newer properties or interior corridor properties. And by the way, my hotel doesn’t even have a pool, right? We don’t have anything.

Ryan Embree: Wow.

Rupesh Patel: But we have good service and we have this experience that you won’t get at another property, right? We have this connection that we make with our customers and our guests. That’s what’s making us different and that’s what we, that’s what I’m teaching everybody else these days. Like, “Hey, you can do these small things and it’s not just one big thing, it’s small little, little small things that can make a difference that can improve the value of your hotel, get you more business, get you better rankings, a lot of everything really,” right? And it starts with customer service and it starts with a caring staff. And that’s what we did. We fired everybody because they didn’t believe in it. And once you become a part of this mindset, you need to get everybody else’s buy-in and if they’re not ready for it, guess what? You need to change your team because if not, you’re going to go down that same path, right? And I did, I had, I had a change in focus.

Ryan Embree: And Congratulations to you and your team on that. That is a very scary place to be in, especially with so much capital investment in a property. I want to kind of switch because I think another Swiss Army Knife that you are is getting feedback from your guests and in order to get that feedback you really have to ask your guests for it. And you utilize several creative and unique ways to get feedback from guests using your personal solutions from smartguests.com but you also leverage Travel Media Groups’s reputation technology to get positive reviews as well. Can you talk about implementing kind of a mixture of both people and technology when it comes to impacting your hotel or reputation today?

Rupesh Patel: Yes, this is huge. So listen in, when I was going through my mindset shift. I said, listen, “We have to have good service, we have to do all these things, have it awesome room, right?” It starts with a, a clean room that meets the standards and meets a standards and expectations of your guests, but once you have all those things, you need to have a process, right? And so I came up with this roadmap basically, it’s a five touchpoint roadmap and it’s, I said, “You know the experience when you check in, when you walk into the lobby, when you park, how’s that experience, right?” And so, yeah, my lobby is beautiful because, and we refresh, we just refreshed it and we’re taking pictures here next week, but we refresh my lobby every couple of years and I don’t mind spending the money because that’s a WOW factor, right? That’s the first impression when you walk in, does it smell good? Is there music on? Are you getting welcomed, right? So that’s number one. Number two – oh, and by the way, we do some cool things – and so we back up a little bit. When I was going through a mindset shift, I started just trying out all these little things that nobody else was doing. No small hotel, no big hotel. We gave business cards to everybody. Like housekeepers, front desk, maintenance, breakfast hosts everybody, right? Because I don’t remember, I don’t know if you remember when you got your first business card, how proud were you, right? And I said, why aren’t we doing the same thing for our staff? They’ve never had – when has a housekeeper had or business card? Never right? You give them something and then they can ask for it, right? So I started creating all these tools and probably came up with a hundred ideas, right? And I tried them, some didn’t work. The few that worked, I would take them to regional meetings and they would say, “Hey, why are you number one in our market? Or why are you top ranked in your city on TripAdvisor? Or why are you getting all these good reviews? My is newer than yours. My property is a nicer property than yours, my properties interior.” I said, “Listen, I created this process, right, this roadmap with all these tools. And they said, “Well, can I buy it?” And I said, “Sure.” And so I started, like they start calling me, I got into Photoshop and I make people cards and I’ll do all these things by hand. And I said, after a while it just got overwhelming because I’d be getting dozens and dozens of calls. So I said, “You know what, I’m going to automate this.” I want everybody else to see the success and get the rewards that I’ve been getting, right? And so I created smartguests.com and it’s basically tools that we use at my property and now over 4,000 hotels use it, right? And I’m proud of that because it was just an idea and a passion project that I started with, right? So it’s the road map of getting your team on board that, that first impression, I’m asking a lot of questions like, “Mr. Smith, what brings you into town? Are you here on business or pleasure? What else can I do for you?” And by the way, “Mr. Smith, in 20 minutes, I’m going to call you to make sure everything in your room meets your expectations, right?” All of these different processes that check in mean a lot to the guest and they show that you care, right? And so we started implementing this, this roadmap. So it’s the impression, it’s during the stay, it’s during breakfast, it’s at checkout, right? How are you asking how, what’s the checkout process? Do you have a checkout process? We do, right? We ask Mr. Smith, “Mr. Smith, thank you so much for staying with us. How was your stay, right?” That’s what most hotels say, “How was your stay?” No, we take it one further than that. We say, “What’s one thing that we can do to improve,” and we put a card, we put the we care card that I made – it is a simple card, right? It’s not the 20 questions that you see in the room. Remember back in the day you, you’d see the comment card? That’s overwhelming for guests, no one’s going to do that. But if you ask one question, “How was your stay and what’s one thing we can do to improve?” They’re going to give it to you all the time. So even now we have this process of handing out the we care card, it’s old school, but it works. You catch problems before they leave, right? So the checkout process is huge. Then we did the whole thing and this is when you where you guys come in, Travel Media Group. I said, “Listen, we’re sending out emails by hand like Mr. Smith, thank you so much. Here’s a link to TripAdvisor.” And then we would send this like by hand every single day and be annoying. So then I set up some other program and that was annoying. I said, “you know what? There has to be a better way.” Yeah, we started using you guys and we started seeing the whole thing come together. So we ask, we make sure that impressions good. We, we make sure that they had a great day. Check out was good. Breakfast was good cause our breakfast hosts are engaging, right?They’re asking the right questions and then we’re catching any issues that leave. But when, now, and at checkout we hand them a business card. So “Mr. Smith, here’s my personal business card for the next time you stay with us, I’ll personally take care of your reservation,” right or your next day with us and on the back of the card, because most hotels in the back of the card is blank. On the back of our cards would say, “It’s my pleasure, please share a review about your stay and our service. And My name mentioned my name,” right? And the icon of the, of the where we want it, right? TripAdvisor, Expedia, Hotels, Booking, wherever. And so just using these tools was cool, right? And then we needed that extra fifth touchpoint, which was a digital side and that’s where you guys come in. So after we’ve engaged with them and done everything we’ve, you know, we could do on property. It’s now time, when they get home to remember, right? To post a review and by the way, here’s an email that comes in. Did you enjoy your stay, Yes or No?

Ryan Embree: And that’s where you lose a lot of guest, right? They walk out, off those property, those property doors and you know, you might’ve gotten that solemn promise at the front desk saying, “Yeah, absolutely. I’m going to go ahead and you know, leave this positive review.” And then that doesn’t seem to facilitate from one to another. So I love your idea of getting them at every customer touch point, right? And customer service at every single place that you can.

Rupesh Patel: Yeah, the interaction. If you have a lot of interactions, right, in marketing, if you see something four or five times, guess what, you are more prone to buy that. Like if you see a commercial for pizza, one time you might, you might think about it, but the fifth time you see it, you’re on the phone or you’re on your app ordering pizza, right? It’s just, it’s just part of the marketing process, it’s part of the human engagement process that if you connect with somebody more than once or twice, three times, four times, five times, there’s a better chance they’re going to do something for you, right? Especially when you’ve provided a lot of value to their, to their stay, their experience. So even we go even further than that, before they check out, we do the whole checkout process with the we care card, but we also created this air freshener. When you get, when you, when you check out, you’re usually driving. Most people are driving to the next destination, right? Be a rented car or your own car. Right?

Ryan Embree: Right. Yeah.

New Speaker: I said, “You know what, they have to remember to post even when they get home.” So if they’re leaving us, we’re giving them an air freshener. It’s a customized air freshener. It’s called a care freshener on our website, but it’s a customized air freshener that says, “Thank you so much for your stay post a review.” And it’s a little message on the back from the GM, right? And it says, “Post a review on TripAdvisor post a review on wherever you want, ” right? Our goal is Google, TripAdvisor and some of these other websites that mean a lot, that we get a lot of business from. So we focus on those, but we have to remind them, right? So this is just another touch point. So the email is a great touch point and then just going back and forth as far as responding right, is another touch point.

Ryan Embree: And we’re gonna talk about that one in a second, but I love your mindset about inviting feedback because we talk to a lot of hoteliers and it’s almost like they have like this, this battle with, with reviews, right? They think of it more as, “Oh well if I ask them, maybe they’ll give me some negative feedback” where you just want the feedback cause you’re in the mindset of this is data that can help my business. I love the mindset and I wish more hoteliers had that about their reputation. But you did mention something responding to reviews. In today’s hotel world, your job isn’t done once you get that feedback or review, your guests are now expecting responses. They’re expecting them quicker than ever and brands are jumping on that as well. They’re expecting hoteliers to respond quicker than ever. So can you speak personally to the importance of responding to reviews for you and your team and how you guys create a strategy to respond to reviews?

Rupesh Patel: Well, let me talk about the review responding process or the mindset. I was just traveling. I went to the west coast and we didn’t book some of our hotels. We booked them last minute, right? Like a day or two or three days before and I looked at reviews, but not only did I look at reviews, but I looked at is the property engaging? Like if there was a bad review because I usually read the first page or the first page and a half and I’m seeing if there is a bad review on it. Like what was the response from the hotel, right? And I think a of people do that they, they understand like we’re not perfect. Like even the Ritz Carlton makes mistakes, right? And I think that’s why a lot of hoteliers don’t want that feedback because they’re scared. They’re afraid of like negativity. And I used to be the same way, like, oh crap, I don’t want to ask them that extra question. Like what’s one thing we can do to improve? Because they’re going to open a can of worms, right? But that’s not the case. Like you’re showing that you care, right? And you’re showing that their feedback means something. And it’s huge for us, like people talk about like these guys really care over, like just little things, right? And so responding to that review is just huge because people are reading them like myself, right? We chose a hotel because of the certain rating and the reviews that they had, right? There’s a huge opportunity for hotels that are getting reviews. They should be responding right away within 24 to 72 hours because you’re losing business.

Ryan Embree: You know, you look at it now, I almost think that some customers, if they don’t see responses or it’s almost like welcoming to see a response to a negative review versus just letting it sit there. It’s like, cause I think what a lot of customers do, at least what I do is if I see a negative review, I sit there and I say, “Okay, I’m going to put my myself in the shoes of this person.” And how are they solving issues? Or how are they solving problems? So if they don’t see a response, then they don’t know how it’s gonna go at the very end of the day.

Rupesh Patel: Yeah, and you know you should be responding to good and bad reviews. I see a lot of hotels, “Oh, that review was good. I’m not going to respond,” right? I’m only going to respond to the bad ones and that’s a huge mistake, right? Respond to all of them. Look at what everybody else is doing, right? You don’t have to make up a story, right? Or you don’t have to make up a response. Look at how other people are responding and get ideas from them. Look at the biggest hotels in the world, right? They have a whole team of people just responding to reviews, use their ideas. I’m not saying plagiarize or copy, but use their ideas on seeing how people respond, right? When you can’t think because you’ve been bogged down by payroll and you’ve been bogged down by complaining guests, right? You’re not in the mindset of just thinking of how to respond, so do that, we do that a lot.

Ryan Embree: I’ll say one thing about, to your point, I mean it’s getting to the point now in this day and age that hoteliers are hiring experts to do their review response for them. It’s gotten to a point where it’s almost like, you know, someone that’s a landscaper, like obviously you could cut your own grass, but there’s people out there that are experts in this. They’ve been doing this for years, they’ve been doing this so vital that hoteliers are actually looking for help to respond to these reviews.

Rupesh Patel: Yeah, definitely. You know, hotel managers are busy. Like they have their PNL, they have a hundred things on their plate every week. Maybe somebody helping them out is a huge opportunity for them to get work done because I feel like we get, you know, we get a list, a to-do list and just keeps getting pushed down to the next week because we have all these things to do. So yeah. You know, on our team we have a few people responding, it’s not just the GM but some front desk supervisors and other people helping out. So it’s not, it’s not frustrating for the GM, right? Cause it could be, it could be a struggle.

Ryan Embree: Yeah, absolutely. We talk about all the time about all the costs. I mean, you not only have time costs, but you have, you know, emotional costs of like, you know, after a eight hour shift or sometimes even after a double sitting there and just reading, you know, – you take a lot of pride in your work – you know, so if you see somebody with this long one star review and just sit there kind of bashing everything it takes it out of you, you know, like emotionally, like, “man, I just tried so hard to make everyone on this shift feel good and taken care of, I gave them a bed to sleep in and a roof to sleep under and now I get this, and they never even mentioned to me.” That’s sometimes the most frustrating, you know, frustration that I hear.

Rupesh Patel: Yeah, you know, the worst is, “Everything was excellent, the stay was awesome, I slept like a baby, the breakfast was amazing, but the neighbors they were smoking weed or they were noisy, they were partying until four o’clock.” Like you had no control over it besides calling them up, you know, to calm, please be quiet, we have quiet hours, right? But yeah, those are frustrating for GMs too. So that’s why you have somebody else taking care of your reviews for you, right? Because oftentimes, you know, you’re bogged down or you’re just – I tell our GMs sleep on it, right – wait a day, because it’s emotion and It’s personal sometimes, right? You get personally involved into that review and if a GM really cares, they’re going to be like, “Oh my God, I, you know, I feel this as, as, as my own child.”

Ryan Embree: Right, right. Well, sometimes they’re spending, you know, more time there than, you know, like then they would, then they would at home sometimes, like during a day at least.

Rupesh Patel: Absolutely, and by the way, it hats off to all the GMs, you guys like – just the GMs that really care, like they really care and they have a hard job, right? Actually, you know, the entire staff, housekeeping, everybody, like I feel like right now is a tough time for the hotel industry. We’re just, we’re so busy, right? We’re so busy. So, you know, hats off to everybody on the team because it’s a tough job.

Ryan Embree: That’s a necessary shout out for sure. So, so without giving – my next question – without giving away any secrets, cause we don’t wanna you know, you give away the secret sauce, but what advice would you give to a hotelier who says, you know what, after they hear this, they say, “From now until the end of 2019 even going into 2020, I want to improve my online reputation, I want to get from here to here on TripAdvisor, here to here on star rating.” Like what would be like basic tips like 101 that you would give?

Rupesh Patel: Yeah, so I give – my GMs hate this – I give away my secrets every single day. They’re like, “Why are you giving our competition our secret sauce?” Listen, I can give somebody $1 million, they can either waste it or use it on something really valuable. So I’m giving these ideas are worth millions, right? If you use them right, if you use them properly. So I’m happy to give away my secrets. So the number one thing is get your team involved and make sure you have a great team. Like if you don’t have a great team, you really don’t have anything, right? Cause you can’t do this by yourself. I cannot do this and be award winning by myself. It’s a collaboration of everybody, right? So get a team together, make sure your standards are there, right? Then start using tools like – just don’t be frustrated – start using tools that make sense. Simple thing, get everybody business cards, right? Get everybody involved. Like get everybody to buy in on your program, right? Set up an incentive program. “Hey, anytime we do this, this happens, right?” We can’t give raises all the time, but we can incentivize you for doing your job, right? And we do that all the time. Front desk, housekeeping, breakfast, maintenance, everybody, the shuttle driver, everybody has an opportunity to get reviews, right? And so we incentivize them, right? That’s, that’s a big secret sauce. Number two or number three or number four, we set a goal every month we have a goal, right? Everybody has a goal. Like – we talk about revenue every single day, right? “Oh, how much money did we make?” Or at the end of the month, we’re going to make this much money and we talk about it, and we look at it, especially the GM, right? Did we meet our budgets? Are we on our budget halfway through the month, right? But why aren’t we creating a budget for your reviews?

Ryan Embree: I love that.

Rupesh Patel: Right, so that’s a huge part. Like you can say, “Alright, Amanda at the Front Desk, you know, Shelby at the front desk – how many reviews are you gonna – can you get on TripAdvisor this month?” Write it down at the beginning of the month. And if you say you’re going to get 10, guess what, I’m going to check in on the end of the week and see how many you got, right? And by the way, these 10 equal $100 show them at the beginning of the month, like they could have an opportunity to make $100 or $300 or $500 right? Depending on your incentive program.

Ryan Embree: We actually talk about even targeting those reviews towards certain sites. Like, you know, we talk about all the time, like coming up with a strategy or a game plan, you know, get at – what you’re saying – get your team involved, like they should know on specific sites where your hotel is and what rating you are and what that goal is for moving forward. So if I’m at the front desk and I say, “Hey, I saw you booked with us through Expedia, we’re actually a 3.5 on Expedia and we have a goal to be 4.0 when they ask you for that feedback, could you please give us that?” Getting your team involved and targeting that feedback to specific places, because if you Google your hotel, you could find that maybe you’re killing it on Booking.com with reviews, but maybe in one of the other places you’re lacking, you know, maybe your Google reviews aren’t where you want them to be. So figuring out what your goals are and targeting that feedback I think is a big point to kind of what you’re saying there.

Rupesh Patel: Here’s another secret sauce. We train, we train our staff. So not just once a year during the Christmas party or like one person’s birthday and then we, you know, have a pizza party – by the way we’re training. No, we’re actually doing this quarterly. So sitting down for a couple of hours and talking about a lot of important things, including reputation management, which is huge on my list. Like it’s probably my top thing that I talk about because that’s where our money’s coming from. That’s where the money comes in, right? If you have a bad reputation online, you’re not making anything. You’re going to get the bottom of the list and you’ll lose revenue. Yeah. Like as soon as we started implementing these things, our revenue shot up, right? And that’s why stick to it, that’s why we have a program, that’s why you put money against it, that’s why we spend the money, because we see the return on it, right? We see the return on investment. So training is a huge part of it and we talk about the goals and we talk about how to engage and we talk about the marketing side and the engagement side and we talk about why a hotel owners or managers say, “Hey, we need reviews, but they don’t explain why and where it, you know, where it shows up. And I do on-property trainings for a lot of other hotels besides myself. So when I’m talking to the entire staff there, I’m like, “Have you guys heard of TripAdvisor?” And by the way, “Raise your hand if you know where your ranking is right now and what your rating is,” right? And we have people guess and they don’t know, right? They might’ve just gotten hired or they’ve been here for years, but they don’t care, or they haven’t been trained, right? So training is a huge part of it. And so we talk about these things, we pull up our TripAdvisor listing just to show everybody, you know, and then we show reviews, right? We show them, like here’s a review we’ve printed out, right?

Ryan Embree: And one of the places that – and we’re going to transition here. I love those secrets, so if you’re listening to this, better be writing those down.

Rupesh Patel: Don’t tell anybody else.

Ryan Embree: But one of those places that you can share reviews is another channel where travelers are looking, constantly, and that’s social media. So I wanted to kind of transition to that – and you obviously understand the importance of social media, you influence, you know, thousands of people with your post on Linkedin and Instagram. How can a hotel leverage Social Media to grow their business?

Rupesh Patel: You know, Social Media, depending on your property and your property level and your type and all that stuff is – it could be a huge opportunity for you to just share your story. You don’t have to be a writer, you don’t have to be a photographer to be sharing stories. You can just be like, you know, “Here’s what we had for breakfast, here’s, you know…” There’s so many things that you can post about, but I think you need to be on there. And you know, some hotels just aren’t, and I think there’s an opportunity for marketing, this is free marketing. This is just free marketing. Somebody in your front desk or somebody at your property that’s already good at social media, they could be doing that. Or if you don’t have time for it, use your service at Travel Media Group. But you have to be on it. And you know, it’s a huge opportunity to just to build the brand awareness and then also maybe convert people like, hey, if you’ve built a following of, you know, thousands of people, they might tell somebody else or share a story about what’s happening in your town, like an event or like the country music festivals happening or some music festivals happening. And they might share a link and you know, if it came from your hotel they might say, “Oh, I might think about staying right across the street from this stadium or something like that.”

Ryan Embree: Yeah, and that’s the beauty of everything that we’ve been talking today. I mean customer service, social media, like this is all free. Like it’s the least expensive thing that you can do is you know, treat someone with customer service and make sure that they have a hospitable place to stay. You and your staff talk to so many guests coming in on a daily basis, right? And with the, with the amount of care that you give your guests when you’re asking them, you know, “what brings you into town for business or for pleasure.” That was one of the questions you said that your front desk asks. I mean, get those conversations, leverage the information that you’re hearing, you know, spread that on your social media. Talk about it. Maybe you can prepare for next year a little bit better with some other social media posts across all platforms. So again, I think it’s super exciting to hear from you that your mindset is customer oriented at every single touchpoint in the game.

Ryan Embree: Again, transitioning, you know, we run into you, Rupesh, all the time, hospitality industry events and you’re at the front lines of the industry owning and managing, you know, multiple hotels. Personally, are you noticing any consumer trends or new technologies that you think will be a disruptor in the industry?

Rupesh Patel: Disruptor, I mean, everything’s still going mobile. I just came back from HITEC, which was really cool to see all this. A lot of cool things. We saw the Alexa for Hospitality, which everything is controlled now by your voice, which is kind of scary and fun at the same time. But you know, it’s cool that the guest controls their privacy and the guests controls how much they want. So it’s not like the older generation coming into a high tech hotel room and they don’t know where to start because they don’t have Alexa connected or they don’t have an account. There’s a lot of opportunity for the mobile and AI to connect yourself with the room and then just have a lot of the comforts of home that you already used to, connect inside of the room. Your favorite channels, your favorite set point as far as your AC, how dark you want the room, what movies you like, and how you can connect through all your Netflix and some of the streaming sites as far as that. So man, I think longterm, there is no need for cable, you’re going to be streaming what you want to watch, when you want to watch it, instead of them telling you what to watch, right? And I think that’s the way it’s going. So a lot of personalization as far as inside the room.

Ryan Embree: And soon you might not even need that, you know, that remote, either. You just use your voice and that’ll kind of stream everything that you need to go. But I completely agree with you, I think it’s funny to look at some of the stuff, you know, that we personally visited at HITEC, you know, like the Alexa, you know, two or three years ago, you know, that would just seem so – such a foreign concept, but you saw people coming in there and without even knowing, even reading the directions on the template, they already knew what to say to get things going in the room. And I think that is just a sign of kind of where the times are heading and it’ll be interesting to see how that’s implemented throughout the hotel industry. So I don’t want to keep you too long, but I wanted to open it up for any final thoughts that you might have just, you know, about hotel industry, about life or anything like that.

Rupesh Patel: Well life is precious. No, no. Thank you so much for having me on, you know, what I could say to all the hoteliers, general managers, staff: just care, you know, a little bit more than you might and you can share your ideas too. I mean, I do that all the time. I’m sharing my secret sauce, I’m sharing ideas that you might learn in a regional meeting when you’re talking to other GMs, but, you know, share your experiences as far as an idea or what’s best practices online. Because I learned so much every day, I’m listening to a podcast or I’m listening to something or I’m reading something that’s kind of improving the way I think or it’s improving my business too. So, you know, just opening yourself up to these new ideas, you know, listening to the Suite Spot every week, you know, and just learning about all the new stuff that’s coming in because things change every single day. And if you’re not up on technology, the trends, you’re going to be missing out and you’re going to be like, “oh my God, I didn’t know that was in our industry.” These are changing every single day. So keep up on the technology, read articles, listen to podcasts, you know, once you’re done with school, it doesn’t mean you’re finished. You’re going to be learning for the rest of your life. And I teach this to my kids every single day. Like keep learning. When you finish school, that doesn’t mean you stop, you just keep learning because that’s the way you’re gonna improve your mind and improve your life in this world, you know, that’s what I believe in.

Ryan Embree: You are definitely one of the great teachers as far as the hospitality industry out there. So you can follow Rupesh – you want to go ahead and give your…

Rupesh Patel: Yeah, so I have a couple of sites up. My probably biggest following is on Linkedin, I’m probably annoying there. I post so much. I actually made – hey, this is a tip for you guys – I actually made a, I bought a $11 domain on godaddy.com and bought Rupesh (r u p e s h).co. And so now, anytime I connect with somebody or I meet somebody, I say, “Hey, are you on linkedin? Let’s connect my, my linkedin is rupesh.co.” So right now if you go to rupesh.co, it goes directly to my Linkedin profile. Click the follow, click the connect, and you’ll get daily inspiration ideas. All these secret sauces that I share, every almost every single day. And it’s videos, it’s pictures, it’s just a lot of articles on how to improve yourself and your hotel, right? It’s not just about the hotel because we need to take care of ourselves too, right? So I talk about this stuff on social, connect with me on Linkedin, connect with me on Instagram. And yeah I’m just happy to share ideas. That’s all it is, right? I’m just, I just want to be here to teach.

Ryan Embree: Well, we appreciate you teaching us today and sharing your ideas and thoughts with us. So thank you Rupesh for joining us on the Suite Spot and we’ll talk to you next time.

Ryan Embree: To join our loyalty program be sure to subscribe and give us a five star rating on iTunes. Suite Spot is produced by Travel Media Group. Our editor is Anne Sandoval with cover art by Bary Gordon and content support by Priscilla Osorio. I’m your host, Ryan Embree, and we hope you enjoyed your stay.