How Effortless is it to Do Business with Your Hotel?

Kill the WOW and be Effortless Instead…

By Janet Gerhard Founder, Hospitality Gal, LLC | January 25, 2015

What is the most important question hoteliers should be asking themselves as they weigh how to differentiate in a sea of sameness? Most would think it's about customer satisfaction. Many would drill down into issues related to their NPS (net promoter score). But new research from CEB has shown that the key question to ask is: How effortless is it to do business with your hotel? The predictive power of customer effort has proven to be strong. CEB found that of the customers who reported low effort, 94% expressed an intention to repurchase, and 88% said they would increase their spending. Only 1% said they would speak negatively about the company. Conversely, 81% of the customers who had a hard time solving their problems reported an intention to spread negative word of mouth. Today, effortless trumps "wow."

I have been writing for HBR a few years on the subject of customer experience and there is an increasing focus on guest service as a key business differentiator. Those of us who have been in the industry for a while have seen our share of customer experience initiatives and improvement efforts. This topic isn't new, but what makes it so hard?

Our Sameness

Our sameness is how Westin's Heavenly® Bed or some version of it permeates nearly every brand in every category of our industry. Our sameness is how the Service Promise is as ubiquitous as the nightstand bible. They may have different covers on the outside, but once you open them up does the average layman know the difference? I can feel the marketers cringing. I can hear the gasps of the brand teams who've worked so hard relating your brands to your desired perceptions. I have to wonder if this nuance is observable to the average traveler.

Yes, we've created category distinctions. If we were being honest though, those are mostly driven by amenities versus guest service. For example, in shopping for Spring Break with little kids you don't spend an extra $1,000 on your Disney resort for the service. You do it for the direct access to the parks and not wanting to be herded on and off the shuttle buses for three days. Okay, perhaps that specific example is unfair since there aren't truly a lot of options to choose from eight weeks out.

A more realistic example is the business traveler shopping the full service category. We know from many years of research cleanliness, location and price are big factors in likelihood to return and recommend. Some are a bigger trump card than others. Assuming all those are relatively equal - and we know they undoubtedly are given our propensity to follow the leader - what does differentiate us?

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Coming up in October 2018...

Revenue Management: Getting it Right

Revenue Management has evolved into an indispensable area of hotel operations, chiefly responsible for setting forecasting and pricing strategies. Because the profession is relatively new to the hotel and hospitality industries, a clear-cut definition of what exactly Hotel Revenue Management is has only recently emerged - Selling the Right Room to the Right Client at the Right Moment at the Right Price on the Right Distribution Channel with the best commission efficiency. Though the profession can be summed up in a single sentence, that doesn't mean it's easy. In fact, it's an incredibly complicated and complex endeavor, relying on mountains of data from a wide range of sources that must be analyzed and interpreted in order to formulate concrete pricing strategies. To accomplish this, Revenue Managers rely on an array of sophisticated technology systems and software tools that generate a multitude of reports that are central to effective decision-making. As valuable as these current technology systems are, much of the information that's collected is based on past historical trends and performance. What's new is the coming of big, data-driven, predictive software and analytics, which is likely to be a game-changer for Revenue Managers. The software has the capacity to analyze all the relevant data and predict occupancy levels and room rates, maximizing hotel profitability in the process. Another new trend that some larger hotel chains are embracing is an emphasis on Booking Direct. For Revenue Managers, this is another new channel with its own sales and costs that have to be figured into the mix. The October issue of the Hotel Business Review will address these developments and document how some leading hotels are executing their revenue management strategies.