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The Memorable Experience Starts with the Relationship You Create
By John Hendrie
We and our guest can go through a day where the only human contact is when we pick up our hamburger order at the fast food window. We can bank, get our laundry, shop on-line and have phone sex and not see another human being. To have a person actually talk with us, care for us, treat us well, attend to our needs personally - what a marketing edge that would be.
As a play on Tip O'Neill's, former Speaker of the House, renowned phrase, "All politics are local", Hospitality relationships are initiated, molded and maintained on the local level, as well.
Hotel executives probably wonder how this can be accomplished. They have no time, inundated with the flurry and criticality of daily events and challenges. But, you have no idea how well you are performing, unless you bring your guest into that equation. Of course, they are usually beaten up by the time they arrive at your door, numbed by travel, wrapped pretty tightly from everyone wanting something from them - a passport, their patience in line, the cab fare - the smells, sights and efforts to get to that hallowed haven - your hotel.
So, we have two parties, each dependent upon the other to meet various expectations, yet hardly jumping into each others' arms, rather like Musical Chairs. Now, we know where the term disgruntled came from. But, we want our guests "gruntled", and we want to learn how to improve our operations. Right?
Many of our efforts have been simplistic and perfunctory, seldom face to face, where we can craft that relationship and rapport. We use the Comment Card, which provides typically a skewed report and is not timely. Or, we have moved into the electronic realm with robotic follow-up e-mails, requesting our Report Card score. Maybe, we even have this on the TV screen in our guestrooms for immediate feedback. What is missing is the human touch - our best mechanism for a Performance Response. We and our guest can go through a day where the only human contact is when we pick up our hamburger order at the fast food window. We can bank, get our laundry, shop on-line and have phone sex and not see another human being. To have a person actually talk with us, care for us, treat us well, attend to our needs personally - what a marketing edge that would be. And, quite memorable, too!
You may wish to consider a means to WOW your guests, where the General Manager and the Executive Committee, individually, actually "Room" guests on selected evenings. Meet the guest at the front desk, escort them to their room, extol the many amenities, activities and outlets in the hotel and community, demonstrate the intricacies of the room, thank them for their business and write a note to them after their stay. The objective is obviously relationship building (as well as data mining), and in today's climate and hospitality landscape this gesture would be indelible. Plus, this does not take a great deal of time, especially when shared with your other executives. Do the math. Your team of let's say five, each "touches" five guests in a week, that is 100 in a month, 1,200 in a year.
The concept can be expanded, at little expense and time consumed. This can even include your employees and vendors (they all help make the Experience work). You do not need a fancy-pants marketing professional to set this up, but essentially you can host focus groups, quite informally through small cocktail gatherings, breakfasts and coffees. The atmosphere is casual and informal, however, you do have a script of sorts.
The purpose is to elicit "feedback", personally. The small events are RSVP, so you control the size and the mix. You want to hear about their stay, what went well, what needs improvement, who were the extraordinary employees, were expectations exceeded? Just like the "rooming" concept, this simply is not being done. Most of your guests will appreciate the effort and your interest. You have created a new "bond". Their experience will have been enhanced.
We sometimes do this with employees, but the framework is seen as artificial, perhaps cursory. Many are curious yet cynical - "What do they want now?" Employees are a tough audience, unless you are sincere, follow-up and through, and demonstrate what is in it for them. I bet you have never met with vendors in this type of environment. They are partners in your success, too.
These types of concepts work. It is creating a face with the business; a warm, firm handshake with the promise; a smile, laugh and concern to cap a memorable experience. Be on top of your game, just like Ed Koch, former Mayor of New York, who always questioned, "How am I doing?" Time is a problem, you say? You have all the time there is!
Source: A Guy Walks In...
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In LRA's 25-year history, we have grown from a provider of customized quality assurance evaluation programs for the hospitality industry, to a leading CEM consulting company offering a variety of client solutions. The evolution has been driven by our clients asking us one question - "How do we get better?" In response, we have built a range of performance measurement, research, training and consulting solutions to help them do so. Today, we are a growing company operating in more than 120 countries throughout the world, helping clients deliver exceptional customer experiences. Every touch. Every time. For more information, visit us at www.LRAworldwide.com.
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