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 June 2019...

Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.