Who is the Round Peg For Your Hotel's Square Hole?

By Bonnie Knutson Professor, The School of Hospitality Business/MSU | April 19, 2015

Having just finished presenting a seminar on delighting the customer, I was standing at the front of a large room, taking off the lavaliere microphone, putting my laptop and other materials in my briefcase. Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted one of the attendees walking, very purposely, up to me. I could tell by the look in his eye that he either had a question or disagreed with a point I had made. Either way, I figured we would be having an interesting conversation. After the usual obligatory introductions, he cocked his head slightly to the left, pointed his finger towards me, and said, "I don't believe in all this delighting stuff; I just give the customer what he expects. No more, no less."

"Oh," I asked, "Why is that?"

"Because if you start trying to delight customers, you just have to do more. You end up adding to your costs, which takes away from your profits. And the more you do, the more they expect. I stick to the basics."

In a way, I couldn't argue with him. There are two things that the attendee missed, however. The first is to understand exactly what delight is. While our friend, the dictionary, has several definitions for delight, basically, it means making someone really happy. In business, delight has taken on a narrower meaning that is closely aligned with the term, lagniappe. If you go back in history, lagniappe entered our lexicon from Louisiana French and Spanish phrases that meant giving a free item, usually very inexpensive. Throughout the years, it has come to mean "a small gift given to a customer by a merchant at the time of a purchase…an unexpected...benefit." The operative words here, are inexpensive and unexpected.

The second thing that the attendee missed is the cost aspect. If you have never seen The Simple Truth of Service video clip, I've placed it below so you can check it out...

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Social Media: Getting Personal

There Social media platforms have revolutionized the hotel industry. Popular sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and Tumblr now account for 2.3 billion active users, and this phenomenon has forever transformed how businesses interact with consumers. Given that social media allows for two-way communication between businesses and consumers, the emphasis of any marketing strategy must be to positively and personally engage the customer, and there are innumerable ways to accomplish that goal. One popular strategy is to encourage hotel guests to create their own personal content - typically videos and photos -which can be shared via their personal social media networks, reaching a sizeable audience. In addition, geo-locational tags and brand hashtags can be embedded in such posts which allow them to be found via metadata searches, substantially enlarging their scope. Influencer marketing is another prevalent social media strategy. Some hotels are paying popular social media stars and bloggers to endorse their brand on social media platforms. These kinds of endorsements generally elicit a strong response because the influencers are perceived as being trustworthy by their followers, and because an influencer's followers are likely to share similar psychographic and demographic traits. Travel review sites have also become vitally important in reputation management. Travelers consistently use social media to express pleasure or frustration about their guest experiences, so it is essential that every review be attended to personally. Assuming the responsibility to address and correct customer service concerns quickly is a way to mitigate complaints and to build brand loyalty. Plus, whether reviews are favorable or unfavorable, they are a vital source of information to managers about a hotel's operational performance.  The February Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to effectively incorporate social media strategies into their businesses.