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Is Your Hotel As Good As You Think It Is? Part: Four
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?
As my wife and I departed the resort on our last day, I found it very interesting that the only communication we received from the resort was the hotel bill slid under our door. I know, of course, this is an ordinary everyday business practice of the hotel industry, but for me it seems like a missed opportunity to go from ordinary to extraordinary in making your business memorable in the hearts of your guests. As I talked about earlier in the article series of moving your customers from head to heart, if there was ever a time in the guest stay experience for this to be achieved, it should definitely come when you present your guest the bill, like the way a Chinese restaurant presents the bill. When you really think about it, it's quite interesting. You get a cookie and a little fortune of wisdom for your life. So often the little messages on the paper make the customer smile in some positive way.
Maybe the hotel business should consider a fortune cookie strategy that's more focused on inviting their guests back to the property before they even leave, than just handing them the bill. You could possibly create a special exclusive offer that's good for one year that promotes an off-season special event that goes beyond what the general public is being offered. This makes your guests feel important and significant, as well as valued and acknowledged for supporting your business. It becomes something very personable and meaningful that makes an indelible impression on your guest. You want this gift to come from the whole staff or the management team that's focused around inviting the guest back -- maybe something along the lines of giving them the key to the city/hotel, and then have each area of the hotel offer a special gift experience for their return.
When did bellhops become an endangered species in the hotel business?
Also, whatever happened to the days of bellhop services? The hotels could leave a message on the guest's room phone asking how their stay has been and will the guest be requiring assistance with their luggage or would they like a luggage cart delivered to their room at a certain time for assisting with their check out? That would've been a nice touch for us. And I'll tell you why, because it was a 90+° day and very humid on the day we checked out. A hotel that is not proactively focused on their guest experience nor empathetic to the fact that there guests have to lug their suitcases across the resort and into their vehicle before they leave is perhaps not the best way to have your guests spending their last moments on your property. I don't think that promotes a positive lasting impression of their stay with your hotel, especially when the resort charged a general gratuity of $28 a day for operational staff service. I actually forgot all about this aspect of our stay, until just now. I should have mentioned this fact earlier in the article series. When you think about the guest expectations and you're paying $28 a day gratuity for a staff that is very disengaged and provided a very low level of service is a most discouraging predicament.
You could create a fond farewell departure service offering that focuses on creating a smooth transition of your guest's departure. Maybe offer a complementary snack box with something memorable and impactful to help them get through their day. It could be something made in-house from the hotel, i.e. cookies brownies, bars or house made granola, and hotel branded water etc. Something simple and manageable would make a good impression and add to the guest experience even during the departure. Maybe offer them a fond farewell gift shop discount. There's a way to strategically balance the customer value, while still achieving company value. You just can't put all your eggs in one logical and analytical business basket that doesn't allow or may hinder the level of hospitality or service excellence you're extending to your guest as well as negatively affect your overall guest loyalty conversion rates. I think properly connecting with your hotel guest is the best way to protect your investment in the hotel business.
Left brain/right brain
When creating a guest experience strategy that achieves a true win-win outcome for both the hotel property and the guest, focus on the downtimes or off-season of your hotel property and create enrolling an exclusive promotional offering that invites your guest back as a preferred resident of the hotel. Look at what you do best as a hotel and create strategic partnerships with outside business venues that synergize with your property brand level and customer expectations.
For this type of customer experience design strategy to be made available, it's going to require a leadership and cultural perspective of easing up on the logical and analytical side of the business perspective, and pushing down more on the creative and innovative side of the business for generating a more intuitive perspective on how to better create an emotional connection with your guest. If you're overly logical and analytical in the way you design and run your hospitality business, then your customer is going to be left brain focused as well in a matter of speaking, and stay in a transactional logical mindset. The goal is to move the customer from transactional and usage only perspective about the brand, to a loyalty customer advocate of the hotel property.
The hotel industry spends so much of their time, resources and money on the physical aspects of their business for gaining guest loyalty, relevance, and advocacy in the hope that this will drive revenue growth and financial performance. I think this may be a case of the 80/20 rule in which 80% of the focus is on 20% of the impact for achieving those outcomes. Hospitality businesses are primarily based on guest experience outcomes that generate an emotional connectedness with your customers leading to positive and memorable experiences. So maybe 80% of the business focus should be more focused on the guest experience and the emotions you want to instill or generate in those experiences, since they make up 80% of how the industry can achieve their goals with their customers. What you can basically derive out of what I've just presented in these four articles is, that a minimum of 50% of your entire hotel enterprise is left unmanaged.
The way things began is the way they ended.
What I mean by this is that I'm not surprised by the fact that the resort didn't have an invite back or guest loyalty strategy in place for their current guests staying on property. As I've talked about in the three previous articles, the hotel company seemed to be internally focused on themselves and lacked a certain level of business maturity when it came to understanding their culture, customers, service excellence and the overall guest experience design. I was thinking that they were going to send us a nice email the following week thanking us for staying with their resort, but that didn't happen either. We finally got a generic email promotional offer from them towards the end of September for off-season specials. It wasn't even personalized with our names on it, nor were we thanked for staying with them in the past.
The point I want to make here is that hotels should create a culture where they look at all their customers from the perspective of being more outwardly focused in a more empathetic way for delivering an emotionally engaging guest experience. These are the same attributes that Steve Jobs readily employed when creating the business culture for Apple and the experiences for his customers through the Apple experience. When empathy meets creativity and innovation, the individual and organizational self interests dissipate, and there is more outward focus on the customer and the overall health of the business as well as the organizational team operating on the same page as the guest.
Instill a perspective with the organization that is focused around how you want to make your customers feel about themselves from their experience with the hotel. Don't use the traditional left brain leadership approach about how they may feel about your hotel in trying to build brand equity through that perspective. As with Steve Jobs, he wanted to make customers feel good about themselves through their experience of the total brand.
If this leadership and organizational perspective was more focused on creating experiential value through the total guest experience, then I don't think there would have been so much deficiency in executing the brand promise or achieving some level of service excellence on a four-star and five diamond level, which was in line with the position and ranking of this hotel. Maybe the resort ownership and management company should be repeating the mission and vision statements of the business, as well as the brand promise and values they want to deliver to their guest of the elements they are most proud of in their business, instead of having their staff continuously promote their very internally focused new ownership and management position. It would have added more value to their company culture and the guest experience initiatives in a much more outwardly focused hospitality manner.
As I reflect on this article series, I have decided to create a bonus wrap-up article utilizing my signature program, Hospitality Brilliance, seven-core competencies for creating guest experience excellence, in which I will decode the entire article series/hotel stay, and align it with the seven core competencies for creating guest experience excellence. I feel this will be an excellent resource for corporate leadership and hotel management for creating a guest experience that better connects with their guest and creates a stronger possibility for loyalty conversion, revenue growth, and an overall stronger financial performance in your hotel business.
I know this article series was a very big read, and I want to take a moment and thank everyone for their time and very generous comments. I'm overwhelmed by the response of all the hospitality leaders in the industry. It excites me to hear that you're utilizing these articles as leadership and management developmental tools for enhancing your guest experience
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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