Want a Better Guest Experience? Make Clean Visible.
By Mark Sisson Co-Founder, NanoTouch Materials | July 24, 2016
In 2012, my business partner and I invented a line of self-cleaning surfaces for healthcare facilities which we named NanoSeptic because they were based on nanotechnology. We knew hospitals were having a challenge with hospital acquired infections (HAI), some of which were being spread through contact with high traffic touch points. So our mission was to deliver an actual health benefit, creating healthier hospital environments by creating self-cleaning surfaces for places that had the greatest chance of cross contamination. We never dreamed that these surfaces would be adopted by other industries, and more surprisingly, why they would be adopted. We found that the visible nature of the products fundamentally change how people viewed the concept of "clean." What we came to understand was just how scared people are about the cleanliness of public facilities and how much their perception of a facility changed when a visible indication of cleaning efforts was present.
As part of a $2 million grant, our company, NanoTouch Materials, has conducted extensive market research* of both businesses and consumers to identify applications for selfcleaning surfaces. What has been fascinating about the results of these studies is how much they reveal about human psychology as it relates to cleanliness. Next to healthcare, travel and hospitality is the industry where consumers have the highest level of concern about cleanliness, germs and interacting with other people. This presents a tremendous opportunity for the hospitality industry to address traveler concerns in a visible way, dramatically improving the perception of their travel experience and influencing their buying decisions.
What's more, our research indicates that millennial travelers value the concept of clean even more than previous generations. That's good news for forward thinking hotels and other travel businesses since millennials are a hot growth segment. According to a recent survey published by Expedia, professionals between the ages of 18 and 30 average five business trips a year, compared to just two for those aged 35 years and up. The emphasis on facetoface meetings is surprising given how much millennials rely on technology for a great deal of their social interaction. Although this generation is deeply embedded in online relationship management, they crave in-person business meetings more than previous generations. In fact, a study by the GBTA Foundation found that 57 percent of millennial travelers believe technology can never replace facetoface meetings to get business done.
Since travelers are more socially connected than ever before, perception of their travel experience is shared with a wide audience, good and bad. This presents opportunities to gain market share by positively affecting traveler experience and is similar to what's happening in the healthcare industry. Patient experience managers are focusing on the perception that a patient has of their healthcare experience rather than the actual healthcare outcome. One type of business that manages cleanliness for facilities in just about every other industry is commercial cleaners. A study conducted by Contracting Profits found that commercial cleaners reported the most important thing to their customers was that the facility looked clean (35%). Actual cleanliness and health came in second. Call it style over substance if you want, but the bottom line is people buy based on perception and feelings.
So let's talk about what this means to hotels and let the data dispel some of the incorrect assumptions hotel operators have about cleanliness. Two products we've developed specifically for the travel and hospitality industry are a selfcleaning portable travel mat and a selfcleaning TV channel guide. We conducted market research to gauge consumer attitude towards these products from the standpoint of cleanliness, and some of the data contradicts existing hotel executive thinking. Every once in awhile we will have a hotel executive say "if I put a selfcleaning surface in my facility the guests will assume our hotel is dirty." We follow up by asking the executive a question. If you are staying at the Ritz Carlton, are you going to place your toothbrush directly on the bathroom vanity? The answer is always "of course not."
The bottom line is that consumers are suspicious of a hotel's cleanliness no matter what hotel they choose, and they appreciate noticeable clues that the hotel is taking action. Our research supports that hypothesis. 70% responded that a selfcleaning mat on the bathroom vanity would positively impact their perception of the property, with 50% of respondents saying that a travel mat would directly affect their choice of hotel. That rate was over 60% for millennials and 85% for selfdescribed germaphobes. In fact, asked a different way, 70% of respondents assumed the rest of the room and the facility was cleaner if they saw selfcleaning surfaces in use. The conclusion was that if a hotel was deploying this new technology that the traveler could see, they were probably doing a lot of other good things to improve cleanliness that couldn't be seen.