Why an Agile Mindset is at the Root of an Excellent Guest Experience

By Margaret Rogers Vice President, Pariveda Solutions | September 23, 2018

According to the previously cited report from Podium, while 93 percent of people say online reviews affect their consumer behavior, 63 percent would pay as much as 15 percent more for the same product or service if a better experience could be guaranteed. This insight into consumer behavior has given hotels around the world a fresh motivation to enhance guest experiences.

At the same time, consumer demands are becoming increasingly uninhibited. A lot of this has to do with personalization, which has begun to permeate nearly every corner of the B2C economy. Customers no longer want to be bucketed into generic packages - they want personalized experiences. From the consumer's perspective, technology is creating seemingly endless possibilities, which, to brands, presents a challenge: All those avenues of potential increase the risk of missing expectations.

That behavior in retail easily translates to behavior in hospitality, as both involve customer service and experience. Yet hospitality is particularly vulnerable because interactions with guests are longer in duration, creating greater exposure in failing to meet expectations (or more time to soar above expectations, depending on how you look at it). Although hospitality knows the impact of experience, most hotel chains are not prepared to meet the marketing and operational demands required as the personalized experience creates customer hyper-segmentation. Adding to these challenges, most chains also have blends of franchises and corporate-operated properties, making consistency of experience harder to guarantee.

Successfully creating positive guest experiences requires a higher ability than ever to pivot at record speeds and quickly adapt and implement changes to meet customer demands. Many companies would agree this makes staying agile important, but what they often overlook is the wide variety of ways that agility can be applied. It's often pigeonholed into technology, but it can be applied in projects of all kinds.

Being agile allows for short-duration planning and execution, but its true strength is in regular reassessments and feedback loops that allow for transparency and the ability to pivot before too much time and money is spent. Leaders and decision makers are constantly rethinking, re-evaluating, and changing things up based on what they've discovered. This means the original goal of a project may change, and the resulting uncertainty can be uncomfortable for leaders and doers.

But despite potential discomfort, hotels need to have better integration of agility throughout their operations in order to boost customer experience. This starts with company resources and employees and results in customer loyalty. An agile culture allows customers to benefit from faster product launches and see additional benefits faster than organizations using legacy methodologies. The needs of customers change rapidly, as do the available methods with which to support them. To quickly adapt, hotels need processes that are designed to continuously improve through all levels of the company. When agile is integrated with user-centered design, corporate teams and service workers can discover new opportunities and ideas that will help customers even more.

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Coming up in January 2019...

Mobile Technology: The Future is Now

Mobile Technology continues to advance at a relentless pace and the hotel industry continues to adapt. Hotel guests have shown a strong preference for mobile self-service - from checking-in/out at a hotel kiosk, to ordering room service, making dinner reservations, booking spa treatments, and managing laundry/dry cleaning services. And they also enjoy the convenience of paying for these services with smart phone mobile payments. In addition, some hotels have adopted a “concierge in your pocket” concept. Through a proprietary hotel app, guests can access useful information such as local entertainment venues, tourist attractions, event calendars, and medical facilities and services. In-room entertainment continues to be a key factor, as guests insist on the capacity to plug in their own mobile devices to customize their entertainment choices. Mobile technology also allows for greater marketing opportunities. For example, many hotels have adopted the use of “push notifications” - sending promotions, discounts and special event messages to guests based on their property location, purchase history, profiles, etc. Near field communication (NFC) technology is also being utilized to support applications such as opening room doors, earning loyalty points, renting a bike, accessing a rental car, and more. Finally, some hotels have adopted more futuristic technology. Robots are in use that have the ability to move between floors to deliver room service requests for all kinds of items - food, beverages, towels, toothbrushes, chargers and snacks. And infrared scanners are being used by housekeeping staff that can detect body heat within a room, alerting staff that the room is occupied and they should come back at a later time. The January Hotel Business Review will report on what some hotels are doing to maximize their opportunities in this exciting mobile technology space.