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“Ask the Guest” – Mandarin Oriental Milan’s Approach to Driving Continuous Improvement

An article by RES – Hospitality Business Developers

In the hospitality industry these days, finding inspiration to innovate can be difficult. To get new ideas on how to improve or upgrade, involving your guests can be very helpful since they are experiencing your hotel from a different perspective. 

Exchanging ideas is a win-win situation: for the customer, there is the opportunity to give feedback and feel valued and listened to. The hotelier can get enlightening observations to improve the guest experience.

We asked Luca Finardi, General Manager of Mandarin Oriental Milan, winner of the TrustYou Awards “best accommodation in Milan” (based on verified online reviews), how a hotel can build a quality-based culture and service while inspiring their guests.

R: Good morning, Luca! Congratulations on winning the award! What factors brought your hotel to Milan’s top accommodations?

LF: First, it was a huge surprise and very exciting for us. This award recognizes all our colleagues who give their best each day. We’re blessed to have such motivated and professional resources on our team that wants to be heard and contribute actively to a project.

Today the world of travel and luxury sees a sophisticated clientele. With a broad set of skills and knowledge, modern travelers can offer suggestions in any area. Giving the opportunity to express an idea and especially to point out what went wrong can spark a long-term relationship with a guest. From there, you can make a long-lasting connection and improve.

Mandarin Oriental Cover

Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group Doubles Its Survey Response Rate

The Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group has leveraged TrustYou’s Reputation Management Platform to optimize their unique and global guest experience since 2016. The partnership began with the Analytics Platform allowing Mandarin Oriental to understand guest feedback and take action to improve the guest experience.

R: How do you deal with direct criticism pointed at your staff?

LF: Never point the finger at the colleague who made a mistake; instead, create an atmosphere where the person who made a mistake feels free to say they could have given more. 

You have to balance negative criticism with compliments.

R: How do you gather guest feedback? 

LF: Each guest staying at our hotel can leave their email during check-in. This way, we can contact them via an automated email with a simple survey asking for feedback. At the end of the survey, the guest also has the option to publish their review on other platforms. 

R: How do you handle negative reviews?

LF: Responses to negative reviews are handled directly by our management team. The follow-up is immediate – the hotel tracks any issues the guest has had. We respond to reviews the same day without following standard templates but in a personalized way, always thanking, listening, and responding. In the world of online reviews, responding promptly and thanking for positive or negative feedback, besides being polite, makes the guest feel valued.

Your Guide to Replying to Negative Reviews

This guide provides hoteliers with an easy-to-follow structure with examples of negative reviews and responses. It also includes suggestions on how to make your response strategy more effective with the TrustYou platform.

How To Respond To Negative Reviews

R: Let’s talk about you. Can you tell us more about your background?

LF: I grew up in a hotel, and after graduation, I was uncertain about what to do. But the hotel world was calling me. I experienced a baptism by fire – working nights in a 3-star hotel.

I worked in England and then returned to Italy to join established brands in the world of hospitality.

Passion is a fundamental theme. The hotel is a school where you never stop learning, where every day, you are confronted with different people who teach you things that you would otherwise have no way of learning.

Every day is different; you are never bored. It is a constant challenge where you have to prove your skills.

R: And do you like where you are today?

LF: I feel very fortunate. Working with a leadership team that allows us to innovate and continuously improve the structure and the product is vital for me. We also have a strong brand that supports the hotel in areas such as marketing, vision, and strategy. It’s a perfect combination.

R: What are the critical issues in a city like Milan? Why is Milan’s online reputation lower compared to other famous Italian destinations?

LF: Thirty-five percent of stays in the city are business-related, a segment that is culturally less likely to leave reviews, often due to the repetitiveness of stays.

As for the city, the main issue that comes to mind is the private and public infrastructure system. For example, finding cabs is difficult, especially during big city events and weekends. At the airport, passengers often experience long wait times for baggage delivery or passport control. 

To improve the city’s infrastructure, the authorities need to take care of what already exists: preserve monuments, enhance the public-private partnership, and implement sustainability practices to reduce pollution and create more green and manicured spaces.

Mandarin Oriental Milan, source: @mo_milan

R: What has changed in the Milan tourism landscape in recent years?

LF: The perception of Milan has changed a lot. Years ago, the city was seen as a transportation hub, an industrial city to visit in a day or to stay one night while waiting for your flight. Today things have changed. Travelers come to Milan for its lifestyle, the lifestyle of the Milanese, and the energy and atmosphere.

The average stay in the city is getting longer. More and more business guests are joined by their partners or families, combining both leisure and business during their stay.

R: Any advice you would like to give colleagues in the industry?

LF: I encourage everyone to ask for feedback from their guests without fearing receiving negative comments. The reviews often include constructive insights. It is then necessary to respond to everyone, listen, and improve ourselves. This benefits the city and will create a lasting relationship with the guests beyond the stay.