The Importance of Setting Expectations

By Alex Gaggioli, May 11, 2016


Every person who comes in contact with your property has different expectations when it comes to service and accommodation. Some people are easygoing and relaxed while others have a lot of needs and need personal attention. In the Internet age, where anyone can hop on TripAdvisor and Yelp to leave a review, it’s important to manage your guests’ expectations in order to create a good experience for them and yourself.

The Importance of Expectations

It takes someone 1/10th of a second to make a first impression of something, according to Psychological Science. With that comes a responsibility to make sure that all your marketing channels are up-to-date, and show your property in a true, trustworthy light.

While people will quickly make an opinion about your property, they will take their time in deciding on whether or not to book with you. It is impossible to cater to every single type of traveler and that’s not a bad thing. Your property’s goal should be to find the type of guests that most enjoy what you have to offer, and that starts with setting the right expectations.

For example, if you are a family-friendly independent hotel, you want to amplify the amenities that most attract this travel segment. You can set the right expectation by showing pictures of families and children, simply stating your family-friendly nature, and showcasing your top amenities. Not only will this attract families, it will deter people who aren’t looking for this experience. You can’t be everything to everyone.

The same thing goes for other properties such as budget hostels. A very distinct type of traveler is attracted to hostels and their unique culture. Therefore, on your website and other public-facing channels, it pays off to be upfront and honest about what your property offers and who will most enjoy the experience you can provide.

In a previous blog series, we show how to use your data and third-party data to identify your property’s target market. After you choose a target market, you will automatically get a better idea of what your guest’s expectations will be. Then, you can work to create those expectations and maintain them over time. You can see How to Find Your Target Market here and How to Create a Target Market post here.

The Dangers of Not Setting Expectations


There are obvious dangers when you don’t set the right expectations with your guests. First of all, you’re opening up the opportunity for bad customer service. When guests expect one thing and receive another, it will spark unnecessary stress for you and them.

For example, if you market your property as being quiet and serene, but in reality it is next to the city’s hottest night club, you’re going to have some issues. A guest who expects to have a quiet, reserved evening, but has a sleepless night due to noise will take their frustration out at your employees as well as online. If a guest doesn’t have the right expectations and then voices their concerns while on the property, your employees at least have the opportunity to mitigate the situation.

But, if the guest goes online, you lose your ability to make the situation better when it matters most. Of course there are ways you can and should respond to negative hotel reviews, but setting the correct expectations will prevent the situation.

How to Set the Right Expectation

Setting the right expectation is actually simple. Here are some quick tips to auditing how you present yourself.

Know Who You Are

The first thing you should do is set a clear definition of who you are and what you provide to guests. After you know who you are and who you cater to, you can present yourself in the best way possible.

Don’t Lie

The best way to set clear expectations is simply not to lie. If you’re great for young travelers who are on a budget, then don’t try to convince families with young children that you’re the best property in the area.

Own Your Brand

The best expectations are set when you own whatever you are. Having a clear brand definition and playing to your benefits helps the right type of guest find you. I can think of plenty of properties who just own their brand and consistently generate business for their traveler segment.

For example, Banana Hostel located in Pacific Beach, CA is a party place located right on the San Diego boardwalk. They are perfect for bohemian type folk who may or may not have a medical marijuana card. They do a great job of owning their brand and not trying to be something they are not.

Photography is Your Best Friend

Photos are the best way to set the right expectations. Pictures tell a thousand words (or something like that) and will help your guests form a good opinion of you. Accurate photos of your property will help potential guests see what you offer.

Good photography also has the power to get you more bookings. In Airbnb’s early days, they found out quickly that they could increase bookings by sending professional photographers to people’s homes. While good photos will help you get more photos, bad photos will deter people from your property.

Keep Your Public Profiles Updated

From time-to-time make sure that every booking channel and web profile tells the same story. It’s perfectly understandable that your profiles will need to be updated over time as you add and subtract services. In the case that you make a major change at your property, be sure to update your listings as soon as possible.


Understanding your property’s identity and effectively setting your guest’s expectations is immensely important, especially in today’s Internet connected world. One of the most important things to remember is that you don’t have to be everything to everyone. Own what you’re good at and try your best to meet and exceed your guests’ expectations.

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