The Power of a Secret, a Story, and a Surprise
By Bonnie Knutson Professor, The School of Hospitality Business/MSU | May 19, 2010
It is hogwash! It is baloney! It is a lot of hooey!
Somewhere along the line, we have been sold a bill of goods that all it takes to generate great word-of-mouth (that is WOM, you know) advertising for your hotel is top service quality. We have all seen the figures: A happy guest will tell six - or seven - or even eight others about your hotel. While that may have been true back in the '80s and '90s, good service is not enough to produce WOM today because good service is just expected (though not always received). It is poor service that produces word-of-mouth advertising in this era of savvy guests and strong competition, but that is another story. And it is certainly not the kind of WOM that any hotel needs or wants.
To cause the kind of positive word-of-mouth advertising that will expand your market share and drive hotel revenues, it takes more than top facilities and good service. It takes a Secret, a Story or a Surprise.
First the Secret. Remember when you were a kid and someone told you a secret? How important you felt. How special. It is the same way with your guests. Everyone loves to know something that other people don't know because it makes them feel important, more in-the -know, more connected with what's happening. And when they can pass the information along to others, it strokes their egos. And stroking the ego by letting guests in on a secret that they can share is a special no-cost gift you can give.
A very smart restaurateur I know uses apple pie as a vehicle for telling a secret. As he sees a guest eating the dessert, he will walk over to the table and ask how she is enjoying the special end to her meal. Then, with some ceremony, he will lean over and, in a rather hushed voice, whisper, "It's the touch of Madagascar cinnamon that makes it taste so unique. Not many people know this. We buy it only for our apple pie."
What secret can you let your guests in on? It can be as simple as "leaking" the word that there will be a new amenity package in all rooms before it is announced. It can be telling them that you just located the last remaining case of that 1985 Merlot in the country and you are setting it aside for those few who value its unique taste. Or it can be showing them the hottest trend in spa apparel before it appears in the boutique shop. Sharing a secret is a great way to tie guests more closely to your hotel and to give them something about which to talk.