Jellystone Park or Yankee Stadium?

By Bonnie Knutson Professor, The School of Hospitality Business/MSU | July 22, 2018

About a month ago, I was talking with one of our former students who had graduated last year and was now working as an assistant manager in Chicago.  We had spent about 30 minutes pontificating about emerging hotel trends, about the challenges of attracting and engaging the Millennial market, and about of the rising tide of competition (think Priceline, Trivago, Orbitz, and Airbnb). All of a sudden, he stopped, cocked his head to the side, and with that quizzical look that only the young can give, said, "Well, you've been around and hospitality for a long time, where do you think the hotel industry will be in five years?"

I quietly smiled, because his question brought to mind a long ago TV segment where a reporter asked a well-known economist a similar question about where the U.S. economy would be five years down the road.  The economist stopped for a moment and almost chuckled when he replied: "We can't even get tomorrow's weather right!  What makes you think we have any clue about what the economy will be five years out?"  That about says it all.  If anyone tells you that he can prophesize what the lodging industry will be like a year from the day you read this, let alone five years into the future, I wouldn't bet the same numbers on a lottery ticket that he does.  The only person I know that had it right was not Yogi Bear, but famed Yankees manager, Yogi Berri, when he said: "The future ain't what it used to be." 

And if I can add a caveat to Yogi's wisdom, it is that the "future" is changing faster than any of us have ever experienced.  Consider these facts:

  • The 88+ million people born this year will be born into a data and algorithm world.
  • There will be more than 208 Billion devices connected by 2020.
  • Information generated and available to us doubles about every two years.
  • Half of what students learn in their freshman year in college will be obsolete by the time they are juniors.
  • For the first time in history, there are four generations in the workforce and they communicate differently.  (More on this in a future article, but for now think: write me, call me, email me, text me.)
  • We are currently training people for jobs that don't even exist yet, using technologies that haven't been invented yet, to solve problems we don't even know we have yet.

And you want me to tell you what the hotel industry will be like in five years?  While there is no way I can prophesize that, I can give you three keys to help unlock your hotel's future for you.   

1. Continually keep your radar up

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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.