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 March 2019...

Human Resources: An Era of Transition

Traditionally, the human resource department administers five key areas within a hotel operation - compliance, compensation and benefits, organizational dynamics, selection and retention, and training and development. However, HR professionals are also presently involved in culture-building activities, as well as implementing new employee on-boarding practices and engagement initiatives. As a result, HR professionals have been elevated to senior leadership status, creating value and profit within their organization. Still, they continue to face some intractable issues, including a shrinking talent pool and the need to recruit top-notch employees who are empowered to provide outstanding customer service. In order to attract top-tier talent, one option is to take advantage of recruitment opportunities offered through colleges and universities, especially if they have a hospitality major. This pool of prospective employees is likely to be better educated and more enthusiastic than walk-in hires. Also, once hired, there could be additional training and development opportunities that stem from an association with a college or university. Continuing education courses, business conferences, seminars and online instruction - all can be a valuable source of employee development opportunities. In addition to meeting recruitment demands in the present, HR professionals must also be forward-thinking, anticipating the skills that will be needed in the future to meet guest expectations. One such skill that is becoming increasingly valued is “resilience”, the ability to “go with the flow” and not become overwhelmed by the disruptive influences  of change and reinvention. In an era of transition—new technologies, expanding markets, consolidation of brands and businesses, and modifications in people's values and lifestyles - the capacity to remain flexible, nimble and resilient is a valuable skill to possess. The March Hotel Business Review will examine some of the strategies that HR professionals are employing to ensure that their hotel operations continue to thrive.