Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

By Bonnie Knutson Professor, The School of Hospitality Business/MSU | April 08, 2018

To begin my workshops or seminars on consumer lifestyle trends, I often give the attendees a thousand dollars (in Monopoly money, of course) and ask everyone what they would do with it.  Would they go out for dinner? Spend it on a weekend getaway?  Get the iPhone X?  Donate it to charity?  Save it?  Or give it to their kids?

What is always interesting to me and to everyone else is that no two people would use the money in exactly the same way.  And there are little, if any, similarities in spending patterns based on age, gender, income, education, travel patterns or any of the other standard demographic criterion that we commonly use to segment our travel markets. 

But aren't demographics how we tend to segment our guests? The older folks want this.  The Baby Boomers, want that.  And the Millennials want – well, some folks think they want everything.  Even gender differences, rooted in the old axioms that men are hunters and women are gatherers, or that men are from Mars and women are from Venus, are blurring when it comes to what drives consumer behavior.  In other words, demographics don't seem to help us effectively understand how to engage (i.e. market to) the traveling public anymore.  They did 20 or 30 years ago, but not anymore.  Those days are over. 

So if demographics aren't the key, what is?

The answer is emotions.

This truism was recently brought front and center in an online report from Brand Keys.   The article points out what marketers instinctively have known for a long time now:  People buy with their heart and justify with their head.  Perhaps noted neurologist Donald Caine said it best:  The essential difference between emotion and reason is that emotion leads to action while reason leads to conclusions."  In other words, it is increasingly being acknowledged that people respond more to emotional marketing than to rational information when deciding what to buy or where to buy it.  Think about memorable Super bowl commercials that moved people throughout the years.  Coca Cola's Mean Joe Green.  Budweiser's Clydesdale Horses.  Or the 2018 Dorito's Blaze commercial with Morgan Freeman.

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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.