Design Alone Cannot Sustain a Brand

By Paula J. Azevedo Principal, dash design | April 10, 2016

Think of a hotel brand, and itís a sure bet that far more than its logo will come to mind. From the initial booking of a room, to interactions with the valet, bellhop and reception desk staff, to the overnight roomís comfort plus amenities, and right through to the check-out process, hotel brands are banking on providing an enhanced guest experience, overall.

Certainly, the design of a hotel matters to its brand, but no matter how pleasing it may be, design alone cannot sustain a brand. It can, however, elevate the experience from start to finish Ė and thatís powerful.

Business? Pleasure? Both?

As designers, our job is to be forward thinkers and lead individual brands and personalities, as well as keep relevant and respond to the marketís needs. These days, that means addressing changing attitudes in business and leisure travelers, the heart of many hospitality brandsí focus. What was, in the past, a divided category of business and leisure travelers, today has become a hybrid class or whatís widely becoming known as the ďbleisure customer.Ē Driven largely by societyís high use of mobile connectivity, along with a desire for social networking, discovery and intrigue, this customer isnít looking to separate business travel from leisure like those before him did. Instead, he is weaving the two together, eliminating the divide and nuances between the types of travelers, entirely.

In catering to this guest, itís important that a brandís design aesthetic aligns and integrates with its operational needs, culture and services. To do so, all facets of the design need to be up-to-date, innovative and technologically advanced. The execution is important and it is the mission of designers to reimagine the possibilities and understand the unique selling points of each brand, since design can contribute to a hotelís success or failure to resonate with guests.

Together, on Their Terms

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Coming up in April 2018...

Guest Service: Empowering People

Excellent customer service is vitally important in all businesses but it is especially important for hotels where customer service is the lifeblood of the business. Outstanding customer service is essential in creating new customers, retaining existing customers, and cultivating referrals for future customers. Employees who meet and exceed guest expectations are critical to a hotel's success, and it begins with the hiring process. It is imperative for HR personnel to screen for and hire people who inherently possess customer-friendly traits - empathy, warmth and conscientiousness - which allow them to serve guests naturally and authentically. Trait-based hiring means considering more than just a candidate's technical skills and background; it means looking for and selecting employees who naturally desire to take care of people, who derive satisfaction and pleasure from fulfilling guests' needs, and who don't consider customer service to be a chore. Without the presence of these specific traits and attributes, it is difficult for an employee to provide genuine hospitality. Once that kind of employee has been hired, it is necessary to empower them. Some forward-thinking hotels empower their employees to proactively fix customer problems without having to wait for management approval. This employee empowerment—the permission to be creative, and even having the authority to spend money on a customer's behalf - is a resourceful way to resolve guest problems quickly and efficiently. When management places their faith in an employee's good judgment, it inspires a sense of trust and provides a sense of higher purpose beyond a simple paycheck. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.