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 April 2019...

Guest Service: A Culture of YES

In a recent global consumers report, 97% of the participants said that customer service is a major factor in their loyalty to a brand, and 76% said they view customer service as the true test of how much a company values them. And since there is no industry more reliant on customer satisfaction than the hotel industry, managers must be unrelenting in their determination to hire, train and empower the very best people, and to create a culture of exceptional customer service within their organization. Of course, this begins with hiring the right people. There are people who are naturally service-oriented; people who are warm, empathetic, enthusiastic, pleasant, thoughtful and optimistic; people who take pride in their ability to solve problems for the hotel guests they are serving. Then, those same employees must be empowered to solve problems using their own judgment, without having to track down a manager to do it. This is how seamless problem solving and conflict resolution are achieved in guest service. This willingness to empower employees is part of creating a Culture of Yes within an organization.  The goal is to create an environment in which everyone is striving to say “Yes”, rather than figuring out ways to say, “No”. It is essential that this attitude be instilled in all frontline, customer-facing, employees. Finally, in order to ensure that the hotel can generate a consistent level of performance across a wide variety of situations, management must also put in place well-defined systems and standards, and then educate their employees about them. Every employee must be aware of and responsible for every standard that applies in their department. 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.