How Effortless is it to Do Business with Your Hotel?

Kill the WOW and be Effortless Instead…

By Janet Gerhard Partner & CXO, Inquizo | 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 June 2019...

Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.