What if Your Guest Had $86,400 Every Day to Spend at Your Hotel?

By Bonnie Knutson Professor, The School of Hospitality Business/MSU | January 29, 2017

Okay. I admit it. Patience is definitely not my strong suit. If the car in front of me at the stoplight doesn't move precisely when the light turns green, I'm on my horn. If, after making a reservation at a restaurant, I'm asked to wait when I arrive, I'm pacing the floor. And, if I have to make more than three clicks on your website to get the information I want, I'm closing you out. I'm not proud of my level of impatience, but I apparently am a victim of the old cliche that Time is Money. And I'm probably just like every guest that walks through your door.

When you stop and think about it, time is probably the most valuable thing we have. And we never seem to have enough of it. In today's complex, over-communicated world, it seems as if everyone is time-strapped, time-poor, time-starved. No matter what you call it, they all mean the same thing. Or, as a friend of mine often quips, I don't even have enough time to do the things I want to do, let alone what I have to do.

Unlike money, time isn't fungible; no matter how long or hard we try, we can't make any more of it. So while we might be able to reallocate our time, we can never increase our supply. That is why time is becoming such a luxury; why we value it so much. In fact, it may be the ultimate luxury. But while it may be a luxury for every one of your guests, different generations view it differently. It is a major differentiator. Research conducted by Unity Marketing, found that the three major consuming generations – Baby Boomers, GenXers, Millennials – view time in their own way.

The 76 million Boomers are still the largest consuming generation. They are the "old guard" and think in terms of an 80 year lifespan. Passing their half way mark, and having "been there, done that," they are trying to figure out what they want to do with the 20-30 years they have left. Because they have fewer day-to-day obligations, they have more spare time and are looking for new experiences and challenges. So here are a couple of ways that your hotel can think about time for this group. First, rethink ordinary experiences and make them extraordinary.

For example, in your restaurant, birthday desserts could be served on Waechtersbach's You are Special Today cherry red plate or served on a rimmed dinner plate with the celebrant's name written in chocolate script around the rim. When it comes to leisure, the weekend getaway and extended family vacations are continuing to gain steam. After all, this generation is becoming grandparents and everyone know that the most important thing for any grandparent is building memories with their grandchildren. But when targeting this group, always remember two things. First, with age often comes health challenges making it harder to turn a door knob (think levers instead), read text (nothing smaller than 14 point font), or walking on uneven surfaces (think floor coverings, walkways, landscaping). And second, of course, 60 is the new 40; "old," "senior," and "mature," are bad words.

GenXers live in a pressure cooker, 24/7. They are in the heights of their careers and wondering if they will accomplish what they thought they would. Often they are the sandwich generation, with both commitments to and responsibilities for children and aging parents. They would love to have an 8 day week with 36 hour days to get everything done they want and need to do. The key for these guests is to make everything as easy as possible. When these folks travel, they want a little peace, some relaxation time, and the ability to reconnect – which are all captured in the word expedient. Or, as my dad always told me, make it easy for the customer to spend money. Wi-Fi that is available throughout your hotel (with no "dead zones"), easy to connect to, fast, and provided at no extra charge is a must.

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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.