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Are you buying or selling?
By feature writer Brett Patten
During a recent speaking engagement, I was asked to give my insights on the current challenges, trends and possible opportunities, I see taking place in the hospitality industry for 2014. I opened with this statement for the attendees to consider: Are you generating a buying experience or a selling experience in your hospitality enterprises?
As a customer experience design strategist, this is a big part of my focus when working with my clients. One builds growth and the other generates scarcity, stagnation and a constant feeling of competing for your survival (a.k.a. stress!). This can end up distracting your business from creating an amazing customer experience offering that has the power to generate a strong bond with your customers.
Creating a buying experience through a customer focused-business strategy can help shorten the acquisition cycle in their sales process and enhance a customers' level of engagement in the business offerings,( i.e. increase spending). It also elevates their customer loyalty ( i.e. generating trust and confidence).
Here's one of my favorite examples of a hospitality enterprise that generates a buying experience: The Library Hotel Collection in Manhattan. This is a great David and Goliath story in how they dominate in one of the most competitive hotel corridors in the world, through their commitment to creating a world-class customer experience driven enterprise. It pays huge dividends in their level of loyal customers and top line performance results. There's a good chance they would've only been a mediocre hotel group, if they built their business approach around more of a selling experience. It's definitely safe to say, that they wouldn't have become one of Trip Advisor's top rated and reviewed hotels for the past five years in a row, as well as becoming one of the top boutique hotel collections in the world.
When I think about some of the challenges the industry is facing, starting with the distinct possibility of becoming a completely commoditized business segment, I base these concerns on the past economic events, going as far back as 9/11 and the most recent recession, as well as the present situation with regards to government and military cutbacks. I wrote about some of the present challenges the industry is contending with, with regards to military and government cutbacks called, We Need To Talk About Your Hotel's Group Business Numbers!
In addition, the OTA's have impacted the industry as well. The hospitality industry has to be careful who they invite over for dinner. Their guests may be stealing the silverware out the back door, which I believe has been the case for some time in this relationship. The industry's ability to break free of a transactional business approach is not being supported by the OTA's of the world. Shifting how they compete in the marketplace has to become one of the top strategic business priorities for the present and foreseeable future. The industry needs to gain back some control and leverage over top line matrixes, and transform customer loyalty percentages. I touched on this in one of my most recent article called, Do You Think Your Hotel Has The Right Business Strategy?
I also believe another challenge for the hospitality industry is its ability to create a legitimate competitive advantage that allows their business to differentiate themselves beyond product and price. I feel it's going to be very difficult for the hospitality industry to continue utilizing its present business strategy and business model approaches to maintain brand relevance and generate sustainable revenue growth without relying more and more on third party entities to drive usage and occupancy. It has to consider if it's playing for customer usage or customer loyalty.
The total experience "WOW"
I think one of the biggest trends in the hospitality and travel industry is creating a more intimate and authentic experience. That definitely seems to be the trend, from millenniums to baby boomers and everyone in between. All the different customer travel segments, whether they be vacation and business travelers or even conference and conventioneer attendees, are all desiring a more intimate and authentic connection in those businesses or travel destination experiences. These travelers are expecting to be wowed. And "WOW" has a whole new set expectation. You can't be just over the top with the physical aspects of your business. You also have to show your customers that you care about the total experience they receive from your business.
Connections on an emotional level add value
People want to connect to something on an emotional level that adds value to their life and is memorable that ignites all their senses. That's the best way to gain significance for becoming one of your customers beloved brands. The best memories are the ones we live. So, consider living by and delivering the customer experience you want your customers to remember you by and more importantly remove the elements that impede that from happening in every aspect of your business.
When I come across these types of trends, it reinforces the fact that customers want to engage in a buying experience rather than being sold something that doesn't add value to their lives. When you try and sell to your customers, you end up pushing them into a left brain analytical mindset, which makes the relationship very transactional in nature. It also makes it more difficult to achieve customer loyalty that generates consistent top line performance to your business.
About the author
Brett Patten is approaching 35 years in the hospitality industry where he has spent those years accumulating invaluable experience in a variety of leadership positions, and business enterprises, to recently completing his education as an executive leadership and engagement coach in the area of customer experience design.
Brett's unique management and business approach consistently transformed hospitality enterprises with sustainable growth results from his days with the prestigious four and five-star hotels like Stouffers hotels, Pan Pacific Hotels, and Le Meridien hotels, as well as working with prestigious five-star club resort enterprises like Longboat Key and Greenbrier to the launching of a nationally award-winning four-star hospitality brand in 2007.
From there, he built a hospitality business strategy platform that he developed and trademarked out of his commitment for achieving customer experience excellence. Brett then turned this business strategy platform into a company called "Five-Star Customer Experience Design." Today, after spending the last 15 years researching, studying and developing customer experience design strategies for the hospitality and tourism industries, he engages with some of the top hotel brands and hospitality groups both nationally and internationally in the industry.
He has created a new customer experience design coaching service out of his Hospitality Brilliance Program. It is designed to give guidance and support to the hospitality industry leadership and management in introducing and establishing customer experience business strategies and experience management systems into their enterprise in a very approachable and manageable way.
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