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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Eco-Friendly Practices: Corporate Social Responsibility

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.