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Hotels Must Stop Putting Themselves Behind The Proverbial Eight Ball.
By feature writer Brett Patten
By creating false expectations with their customers about the level of quality their business possesses through the online identity of the hotel brand.
On a recent trip my wife and I went on this summer, we experienced several hospitality businesses that had overly propped up the caliber of their business through their online website presence, to the point where it was a totally different business than the one we had viewed on online. I'm not sure if the hospitality industry wants to utilize used car dealership-type business models, of a bait and switch tactical strategy approach for luring customers through their doors with a less than honest depiction of their business. I would think there's nothing worse than living a lie, unless you also were trying to run a business on one as well.
This may work well for car dealerships where they may only see their customers every five years or so, if it all, but for the hospitality industry segments that relies on customer loyalty and advocacy as the lifeblood of their business, I would think this would be a poor business practice for achieving any of those objectives.
Stop overpromising and under delivering!
You never want to put your business and the people who work for you in a position where they couldn't deliver on the brand promise and values of the company. The virtual world of one's business has to match the actual business reality because the Emperor has no clothes at the end of the day when you're in the hospitality business. Basically, there's just no place to hide when it comes to your employees and customers, and one of the worst things you can do in business is create expectations with your customers that you can't meet or exceed. You end up just putting everybody behind the proverbial eight ball in your organization. There is one rule the hospitality industry has to live by in these competitive economic conditions when it comes to setting expectations with your customers: Under promise and over deliver. One of the greatest compliments you can hear from your customers, I believe is, “That was pleasantly surprising and exceeded my expectations.” You don't want to over hype your brand position or your product and service offerings. It's important to manage customer expectations. Customers already have high enough expectations when it comes to the hospitality business segments they do business with. You are only making the eight ball appear to be a bowling ball. I don't know anybody in the hospitality business that wants to be considered a one-hit wonder with their customers.
Five insights for helping you manage customer expectations online.
So here are a couple of customer experience design suggestions for maintaining balance with your virtual world, to your actual world of your business.
First and foremost work with an experienced e-marketing group. When developing and designing your online presence for your hotel, I think it is vitally important to work with an experienced and professional e-marketing and website development group that understands your business intimately as well as the industry you're competing in. You put your business and brand at risk by utilizing a group that does not specialize in hotels. I'd like to recommend HyperDisk marketing. They are considered one of the top companies in the industry for servicing national and international hospitality e-marketing services. They specialize in hotels.
Don't try and make up ground against your competitors through your website’s presence when it comes to the level of the quality of your product and service offerings. This seems to be a regular practice in the industry for closing the competitive gap with business competitors, at least in the virtual sense. The only problem with this practice, of course, is that people are going to use these products and services in reality and are going to compare your enterprise against your competitors. This will create a trust gap and a value perception deficiency with your customers that will end up hurting the reputation of your business and push your customers right into your competitors arms. I don't think anybody wants that kind of ROI results from their online investments.
Websites are designed to help engage customers in your brand offerings not to sandbag or bamboozle your customers into staying at your hotel. As a customer experience design specialist when I'm working with my clients, I often ask them what emotion do they want to convey to their customers through their business offerings, the hotel experience or how do they want their business to inspire them or make them feel about their life in their marketing approach, other than providing them with a cheaper price deal, then the competition. (As a side note, pricing deals won't have a positive impact on creating long-term customer loyalty with the brand. In a recent JD Power report stated, only a 10% loyalty conversion rate when competing online with price. Another problem with competing on prices with your customers. Favors become rights in the eyes of your customers when setting the value of your business offering. It can be very hard to un ring that Bell and when your business try your customers are moving on.) That, most often than not, hurts the brand value positioning over the long term. Because your customers base their decisions off emotions from their past experiences, the last thing you want to do is create a value perception of being a cheap hotel stay. Create an emotional connection starting with your online presence that anticipates your customers’ needs and expectations that your competition can't match.
Create website content that is externally focused on the customer for enrolling them in your total customer experience business offering. Consider five emotional triggers that drive initial customer engagement: Certainty, variety, connection, love, and contribution. Make it about your customers not your business. You don't want to create negative emotional reaction by sandbagging them with a slick website presence that is not representative of your business’s current ability to deliver on its brand message and promise of quality and values you do possess.
Use your website presence to set the tone for the total customer experience that your business will deliver. It's all about creating alignment throughout your business model's value proposition you can deliver. And when you don't use those channels of communication properly in your business for delivering the actual value proposition authentically, it can really affect all the different components within your business from your management and employees’ feelings about the business, to how seriously the customers will take your business in the future. Customers want to know that they can trust you and that you are genuine in what you communicate to them online. Too many businesses lack integrity in the virtual world. Don't be one of them. Be exceptional, not ordinary. Your customers will reward you for it.
So, you may think you're only telling a white lie or stretching the truth a bit about your actual business offerings. You could even have a possible a blind spot or naïveté about the actual reality of your business offerings and think that you are little bit more than you really are in some overzealous way. Either way, your online presence is a portal for creating or closing gaps in your business with your customers. It's all in how you develop your business persona for creating an effective brand experience that translates into customer loyalty, not just heads in beds or butts in seats. Those mindsets will keep you behind the eight ball and could have you continuously lose the game with your customers.
About the author
For over thirty years, Brett Patten has worked in the hospitality industry. He spent those years accumulating invaluable insight, knowledge and experience through his various positions, and studies, from when he starting out has a front line employee at the age of 15, with a four-star hotel in the 1980s', to recently completing his education as an executive leadership and engagement coach. Brett's unique management style consistently transformed his work environments by focusing on his people and customers for creating a engaging hospitality experience which generated strong sales and operational performance results. In 2007, Brett launched Fire and Vine of Virginia Beach, a new world wood fire cuisine restaurant built on a hospitality business strategy process that he trademarked and now calls "five-star customer experience design." Within the first two years under Brett's strategic business approach, Fire and Vine was recognized nationally for its hospitality management, design elements, employee development, customer service excellence, culinary cuisine, and wine program.
Today, after spending the last 15 years researching, studying and developing customer experience design best practices and strategy implementation for the hospitality and tourism industries. Brett has created an innovative Hospitality Business leadership and management Program. Which aligns all the business disciplines and strategies through a customer experience design approach, for creating a customer driven brand connection, as well as elevating the engagement dynamics of the business culture for establishing positive customer loyalty and sustainable financial performance results through the generating of exceptional and memorable brand and customer experiences.
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