The Power of Ambiance Design

By Roberta Nedry President and Founder, Hospitality Excellence, Inc. | June 06, 2010

Remember lyrics like "I'm in the mood for love". When guests are "in the mood" they are relating to a feeling that seems to be surrounding them in all that they see and do. That mood makes them happy and agreeable. When guest moods are up so are the dollars that they spend. When guest moods are down, they are likely to notice more problems, complain more and they certainly are not in the mood to spend.

How do hotels create the mood? What mood is most appropriate and what mood should employees be in to deliver..."the mood"? Mood actually translates to ambiance.....the setting of an environment and the feelings that an environment generates. Ambiance is actually a powerful aspect of service delivery. Groups of personnel providing service collectively create a "Service Ambiance."

When guests visit any hospitality venue, all their senses are potentially in play and can be turned on...or turned off. Each employee contributes to the comprehensive experience and mood of any guest, whether they are on the frontlines or behind the scenes. Guests will feel the impact of any inconsistencies along the way. Those organizations that create a consistent feeling of the desired service ambiance at every point of contact will be rewarded by guests who want more.

Recently, on a trip to Tennessee, we visited a themed hotel that was designed to appeal to all the senses related to this theme. We were delighted with the sights and sounds and especially the wonderful spirit of employees who took great pride in representing the hotel's "theme" personality. The ambiance was stupendous and so much fun. We had planned to dine out but stayed on property a lot (and spent more dollars on site!), just to take advantage of the wonderful mood we were in while there. Until, that is, the last night of our stay. The hotel seemed to be taken over by teenagers who were allowed to run amuck at 11pm when the rest of the guests were sleeping. The ambiance was shattered and our mood became quite grumpy. The hotel did not appear to manage the ambiance after hours and left ambiance control up to us, the guests. Try telling 50 excited teenagers to go to sleep! Service ambiance and physical ambiance need to be aligned at all times!

The applicable rule for ambiance should be that what is created is what is controlled. Maintaining the physical facility is not more important than maintaining the service ambiance created every minute by personnel. Management has the responsibility of defining the desired ambiance for the hotel's overall experience, physically and interpersonally, and then sensitizing all employees in their own roles in the delivery of the complete sensory experience.

Walt Disney was a master in ambiance design. Just by taking a walk down Main Street USA at Disneyland, guests experience the clang of the trolley, the smells of vanilla from the candy store, the bustle of store fronts and an overall feeling of home town America. Employees are dressed in costumes that reflect that era and are trained to generate that home town feeling of hospitality. Each point of contact for a guest's experience was analyzed and mood influencers were designed. The result: guests who begin their experience in a great mood with all their senses alerted. The attitude of each employee attempts to be consistent with the expectation set by the environment.

Coming up in January 2018...

Mobile Technology: Relentless Innovation

Technology has become a crucial component in attracting and retaining hotel guests, and the need to enhance a guest’s technology experience is driving a relentless pace of innovation. To meet and exceed guest expectations, 54% of hotels will spend more on technology in 2018, and mobile solutions in particular will top the list of capital investments. Many hotels are integrating mobile booking, mobile keys, mobile payments and mobile check-in into their operations. Other hotels are emphasizing the in-room experience, boosting bandwidth and upgrading flat screen TVs to more easily interface with guest mobile devices. And though not yet mainstream, there are many exciting technology developments on the near horizon. The Internet of Things (loT) is taking form in some places, and can be found in guest room control systems, voice activation systems, and in wearable sensors that can be used for access and payment options. Virtual reality headsets are available at some hotels so guests can enjoy virtual trips to exotic locations or if off-property, preview conference facilities and guest rooms. How long will it be before a hotel employs a fleet of robots for room service, or utilizes a hologram as a concierge, or installs gesture-controlled walls that feature interactive digital displays? Some hotels are already using augmented reality for translation services, or interactive wall maps, or even virtual décor. This pace of innovation is challenging property owners and brands to stay on top of the latest technology trends while still addressing current projects. The January Hotel Business Review will explore what some hotels are doing to maximize their opportunities in the mobile technology space.