Globalization to Personalization: Your Hotel's ABCs
By Bonnie Knutson Professor, The School of Hospitality Business/MSU | January 10, 2016
There are probably three traumatic moments just about every women has experienced in life. The first would be trying to find a bathing suit that looks on her like it looks on the model in the magazine. Not! The second may be trying to find a pair of jeans that fit, period. No one is ever sure how clothing manufactures decide on their measurements, but everyone I know is certain that it isn't with her in mind. And finally, the third traumatic moment is buying a new dress for a special event then walking in only to see someone else wearing the same outfit. Ugh!
As funny as these examples may sound, they are a fundamental driver of one of the fastest growing trends in marketing today – personalization. While we may enjoy being part of a group when it comes to national pride, cheering on our favorite team, or even being an addicted fan of a book, movie, or TV series (think Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Downton Abby), when push comes to shove, we all want to be seen as individuals, as someone unique, and yes, even as someone special. Particularly when we are a customer.
To really appreciate our guests' requisite for personalization or customization, we have to go back to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs that we learned in our basic psychology or consumer behavior class. Maslow taught us that people are motivated to achieve certain needs; when one is fulfilled, they move on to the next one, in a rather ordered and hierarchical manner. By definition, a hotel satisfies the first two levels of physiological and safety needs. It provides shelter, water, in many cases food, and of course a safe place for guests to stay. His third level includes guests having a sense of belonging and acceptance, of being part of something special. Here's where your hotel's concierge floor, manager's reception, and loyalty program comes in. There is something cool about getting off of the elevator on that restricted floor, enjoying a complimentary breakfast and hors d'oeuvres in a quiet private lounge, or walking up to the special "rewards" lane to register, pulling out a platinum card that signifies you are part of a distinctive group.
But it is Maslow's fourth level where this personalization trend really kicks in. He called it Esteem and loosely defined it as our desire to be valued by others and to be recognized as an individual person. It is the antithesis of George Orwell's 1984. In this technological age, people have become digitized. We are known by our numbers – social security, credit cards, phone, fax, mobile, reward programs, ad infinitum. Help! Stop the world I want to get off! I am not a number; I am a person. I am me and I want to be treated as an individual. Social forecaster, John Naisbitt, pointed out that the more high tech invades our lives, the more we want and need high touch. Or as Frank Sinatra would have crooned, I'll have it my way. But having it my way goes far beyond making sure employees greet each guest warmly and by name. Personalization simply means altering something in order to make it fit somebody's requirements better. It means customizing. It means adding little touches that say "you are special."
That may sound simpler that it is. It may sound daunting. But if we break it down into your hotel's ABCs, it is not only manageable, it is doable. So here we go:
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