Every good hotelier or individual working in guest service knows about guest expectations: you must first meet, and then exceed. This presupposes you are actually able to meet a customer’s expectations, because if you cannot, then it goes without saying that you will disappoint. However, meeting is just okay — mediocre at best. Being okay is not enough. Too many other hotels are already capable of this, so you aren’t differentiating yourself from the herd. By exceeding expectations, you will surprise and delight your guests — both positive sentiments to have for your hotel.

Lets go one step further — or one pillar further. We must anticipate guest expectations — the pinnacle of service, in my mind. Think of it as you would a relationship with a person. When you are strangers, wants and needs must be spelled out. When you are acquaintances, expectations are more readily and more accurately met. When you are friends (and not just Facebook friends), not only do you know what’s required to exceed any wants, but you are able to predict what’s actually needed.

The way I like to think about it is in terms of birthday gifts. Strangers give cash while true pals give presents that, while not necessarily the most expensive, are always the most thoughtful. Your best friends are the people who you would help out and support in a heartbeat, and they would (hopefully) do the same for you. Beyond camaraderie, though, these individuals are also your biggest advocates, spreading your praise when you’re not around. Ask yourself: do any of your guests consider your hotel brand to be a best friend, or at least an organizational equivalent?

While exceeding might surprise, anticipating will definitely leave guests in awe. Although we must always strive to meet expectations, exceeding and anticipating are much harder feats. Here are four thoughts that can keep us on track and in the proper direction:

1. Heighten internal communications. Building bridges between departments helps with guest anticipation, as it will allow managers to share ideas and anecdotal trends they have observed through their day-to-day work. Keep the team united.

2. Examine customer analytics. We should decipher patterns in past guest behavior so we can better prognosticate future visitor requests – use all online , social media, reviews to understand as much of your operation as possible.

3. Embrace bold new tech. Don’t be shy – ensure the whole team embrace new tech as it will inevitably help towards developing relationships with prospective guests.