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Is Your Hotel As Good As You Think It Is? Part 1
By Feature Writer Brett Patten
When it comes to creating a memorable guest experience what has the ability to achieve a high level of customer loyalty conversion?
I'm writing this four-part article series to every hotel GM and industry professional that wants to gain a deeper understanding of how to better create an emotional connection with their customers from their hotel's total guest experience that has the potential to translate into stronger financial performance.
My wife and I decided to take a last minute trip to celebrate our 25th anniversary over this past summer at a beautiful four-star oceanfront resort that we had visited in the past. We both felt there were a lot of missed opportunities by the hotel to make us feel more welcome, as well as deliver a more personable experience during our stay.
I was somewhat reluctant in wanting to write this article at first because I didn't want to bring any negativity to such a special time in my personal life with my wife, but after some reflection, I decided that the hotel industry would really gain significant insights from my sharing of this hotel experience to help assist you in better designing and managing the hotels' customer experience before, during, and after your customer's stay.
From the reservation to check- in
I'd like to begin part one with the booking of the reservation. When I was making our reservation, I had mentioned to the reservationist that my wife and I were celebrating our 25th anniversary, and that we had previously stayed with the resort and would prefer to stay in a particular part of the resort that we had stayed in before. The reservationist told me that there was availability in that particular part of the resort, but the hotel was reluctant in honoring this request because of the promotional offer I was booking under (i.e. check in on a Sunday and stay at least two nights, and get one free), which just so happened to be the time that our anniversary fell within. The promotion on the website did not state any restrictions other than the Sunday check-in and the two-day stay requirement.
Hotels need to be careful with their promotional offers because this can come across as a brand promise, and create a value perception conundrum. In a sense, favors granted to customers become rights in their hearts and minds. The last thing you want to do in an acquisition cycle process with a customer, especially one who's returning to your business, is make it difficult for people to do business with you.
This is where hotels also have to be aware when it comes to their revenue management practices, and how they might affect the promotional initiatives. You have to consider that the marketing and revenue management are going in different directions. This could end up putting your front line operational folks in a difficult situation, as well as creating a gap between the brand promise and the brand values of the enterprise. You can't lose sight of being in the hospitality business first and foremost, especially when you have a target demographic customer wanting to come to your hotel.
Hotels have to be careful when establishing value perception of their offering
I actually decided not to book my reservation at that point because the hotel made me feel like a room rate instead of a welcomed returning guest. They wouldn't honor the request and wanted me to pay a significantly higher rate, almost 33% more for the same level of accommodations just one building over. I understand the importance of a hotel position when it comes to supply and demand and controlling the ADR of their inventory, but I felt this was a little bit oddly aligned.
So Instead, I decided to go in a different direction and was literally getting ready to finalize the booking arrangements of our trip to Niagara Falls, when I got a call back from the oceanfront resort reservationist that I had spoken with the previous day. She stated that they would gladly honor my request, if I was still interested in returning to the resort. I had decided to make my reservations with them, and not go to Niagara Falls. I knew how much my wife liked this area, and it made for easier traveling to the vacation destination, i.e. it was drivable. (As a side note; I think I know why they called me back. During our stay we were told that the resort was only at about 50% occupancy by one of the staff members, after I had made a comment with one of the staff members by the pool, that the resort seemed very quiet for this time of year.)
Some possible business strategy approaches to consider
Touching on the hotel offerings and the reservation process, if you're managing your customer experience process and you want to create a certain emotional connection that generates customer engagement , that converts potential customers into becoming loyal customers to the hotel as well as having the ability to raise your ADR and overall Rev-PAR, you need to create a value proposition around the hotel total guest experience offerings that are not primarily focused on the transactional element of the business. If they had framed this around a couples getaway romantic package option and enrolled me in an experience rather than selling me on a deal, I think it's safe to say that they could have increased their ADR quite easily in which I wouldn't have minded paying for an experience rather than a commodity position based on pricing of a free night stay or room location issues. This also would have possibly detracted from getting into a procedures and policies "sticky wicket" with me and the reservationist. This can be considered a very internally focused business approach, and not one that is focused on contributing to customer experience and delivering a level of hospitality service excellence. All businesses have control over their value proposition and how they want it to be delivered and perceived.
Basically, do you want a business model built around commodity driven value proposition or the total customer experience? All buying decisions are based on emotions. If you move your value proposition of your business enterprise from commodity and product driven/logical position (i.e. go from the customer's head to their heart) and design your business around the ability to invoke a certain level of emotion you want in the total guest experience offering, then you can easily create more company value as well as customer value that translates into stronger customer loyalty and sustainable financial performance.
Thanks for taking the time to read this article. Please keep an eye out for part two of the article series...The check-in.
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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