So, Just Who Leads Your Guest's Experience?

By Bonnie Knutson Professor, The School of Hospitality Business/MSU | November 27, 2016

Today's guests are more sophisticated, more experienced, and certainly more demanding than ever before. They expect the best overall experience, which is why the American Marketing Association revised its definition to: "Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large." While your promotional strategies make the brand promise, it is how you keep the promise – i.e. how you deliver – that matters most. With the proliferation of all things social media, how you deliver the experience is more important than ever before. No longer is it word-of-mouth, but it is now world-of-mouth. In this article, you will find out who should be the guest experience's chief cheerleader in your hotel, and four critical metrics that you need to measure, monitor, and manage your hotel's guest experience.

There is an old saying that everything happens in threes. Well, this past weekend, my three came in the form of unacceptable guest experiences.

The first was at one of the iconic luxury hotels located in mid-town Manhattan. We arrived about 4 in the afternoon after a smooth Uber ride with a great driver. While we did expect it would be a busy check in time, none of us expected only a third of the 12 reception posts would be open. And not one of us expected to see supervisors just standing in the background not helping. And not one of us expected it to take over 30 minutes before we even reached the desk to check in. To compound matters, later that evening I had to stop at the reception desk again and waited, waited, waited for service because only two posts were being manned.

The second happened the next day at a fast casual restaurant – a national chain. You know the kind where you give one person your order, then move down the counter to wait until it is ready and put on a tray for you to take to a table. Well, I dutifully ordered my bowl of soup and stepped to down the line to wait, and wait, and wait some more until the young man, who was supposed to ladle the soup into the bowl finished showing his colleague a bunch of pictures on his smart phone. Did I mention this was mid-afternoon and I was the only one in the store at the time?

Then to top off the weekend, I get through airport security heading home, when I asked one of the security officers if she could please point me in the direction of a particular airline club. Without looking up from her "important" texting, she shrugged her shoulders and told me to go find it myself.

I have no doubt that the managers of the hotel, restaurant, and airport would cringe if they knew how one of their guests were treated. So this begs the question of just who is in charge of your guest's experience. Who is its champion? Who leads it?
It is no secret that today's guests are more sophisticated, more experienced, and certainly more demanding than ever before. They expect the best overall experience, which is why the American Marketing Association revised its definition to: "Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large." While your promotional strategies make the brand promise, it is how you keep the promise – i.e. how you deliver – that matters most. With the proliferation of all things social media, how you deliver the experience is more important than ever before. No longer is it word-of-mouth, but it is now world-of-mouth.

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The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.