Listen Carefully: You Will Make Your Guests Want to Linger Longer
By Derrick Garrett Founder & Chief Executive Officer, Roundhouse Multimedia | February 24, 2019
Setting the mood with music. What comes to mind when I say that? If you went to Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On," that's not the right direction (for this article, anyway). Truth be told, there is no one right answer to define this. Does your mood stay the same every day? Is it the same when you are working out as when you are getting a massage? When you're plugging away on your laptop versus at the bar having drinks with friends?
Moods change for a variety of reasons and are influenced by a number of factors, including time of day, activities you are doing and the environment you are in. Settings help to dictate moods; the way you feel at a sun-drenched pool or a dimly lit club are likely very different. Cue the music, literally. The music within the space you are in is an amazing way to transform both moods and experiences. Having an "autopilot" playlist that is the same day by day, or worse yet, the same for every space in your hotel, is a recipe for mood kill. And losing guests.
The right music absolutely makes your guests want to linger longer. Hotel guests will be inclined to order one more drink at your bar, relax longer at the pool, or settle into your lobby for lunch instead of going to that restaurant down the street. You can elevate the customer experience one song at a time, building deeper connections to your hotel.
Imagine this: You walk into the lobby of Hotel Whatever. High ceilings, staff with perfectly straight name tags, guests sipping cocktails at the bar in outfits straight out of Vogue (yes, the issue that has yet to hit newsstands). There's also a subtle scent; it's nice, just enough to notice without being overpowering. You settle into a tufted leather loveseat; so smooth and you sink into just the right depth. Then you order a small plate and a cocktail that sends your taste buds into culinary nirvana. You know this hotel; you might have stayed there, or had the pleasure of working there. Or maybe it's in your comp set and you aspire to replicate what they have achieved. All of your senses are truly delighted, well, almost.
Then you notice it; the giant arrangement in the center of the lobby riddled with dead flowers; they might be related to weeds. How could this happen? This in a setting that is otherwise perfect? This is a metaphor for poor music choices in the lobby, or anywhere throughout a hotel. Musical selections that are not given careful consideration are the equivalent to the ears as the dead flowers are to the eyes. Sound is the most underappreciated and underutilized of the senses in the hotel industry.
I was recently chatting with veteran hotelier and host of Travel Channel's Hotel Impossible and Five Star Secrets, Anthony Melchiorri. He was recalling when Westin launched the Heavenly Bed® and everyone had an "ah-ha" moment. The fact that there should be an emphasis on the bed, where guests likely spend a good deal of their time seemed so obvious, yet overlooked for so long. "It's all about the bed, stupid," is what Anthony said laughingly thinking back to what should have been a natural focal point in a hotel room for years. "And now it's all about the music, stupid." He went on to say if hoteliers are not serious about their musical selections, they aren't serious about their brand. A bad bed and bad music in a hotel both do the same thing, make guests uncomfortable.
The right music can increase brand loyalty, lead to deeper consumer engagement and increase both staff morale and productivity. It elevates the entire brand experience. Not focusing on music throughout your hotel is like not putting any thought into the artwork, furnishings, wallcoverings or website. How you approach and engage each of the senses needs to be thoughtful and deliberate.
Getting your arms around the concept of music and how it plays into your guest experience (pun intended), can seem overwhelming. Below I will touch upon a few overarching tips and themes that will serve as checklist for you to see if you are making any musical faux pas.
Silence is Golden
Given my musical background (a record producer previously), people often ask me what my favorite playlist is during my six-mile runs. The answer? Nothing. They are surprised to hear that I don't listen to any music during this time; this is my time to think. There are times and places where music is not needed and silence is, in fact, golden. Especially in today's day and age where we are often over connected and at the receiving end of information overload. One of the first things to identify for a property is where music should be played; don't just assume that every space and place throughout your hotel needs to have music. Quiet areas, for conversation, work, reading and reflecting, should be part of your musical plan.
Make It Sounds as Good as It Tastes
Chances are you have one (or more) culinary outlets at your hotel. Restaurants, and rightly so, put tremendous thought and preparation into what the food tastes like. And the presentation, of course. You eat with your eyes before you taste with your mouth. A meal is experienced best when all of the senses are properly engaged. You should make it sound as good as it tastes.
A Mexican restaurant playing Frank Sinatra. A French bistro blaring Ricky Martin. A burger place serenading guests with opera music. These likely jump out as poor musical choices when paired with these cuisines. The reality is that many restaurants don't program the playlist the way they do the menu; the music is often an afterthought. Remember at the start we talked about how the right music can make guests want to linger longer? This is absolutely the case when it comes to your food and beverage outlets. Doing it right presents an opportunity to capture additional revenue.
I was recently at a restaurant with my wife and another couple. The mood was blah at best and we were about ready to leave. Since we had been here before, I thought I would see if the owner would be open to some on-the-spot advice about the playlist. Luckily, he was. A few minutes later the mood changed from let's get the check, to let's get another round. The uptick in the energy level and mood was amazing and palpable.
If your hotel restaurant serves three meals a day, as many do, there are changes that happen for each meal period. The menu, often the table setting, adding/changing table cloths, dimming the lights, putting candles on the table and even the servers' uniforms. Just as the music should vary by cuisine, it should change for each meal period. La Bomba at breakfast probably isn't your best choice.
I Can't Hear You
Bigger is not always better. In the case of music, louder is not the answer. Raising up the volume doesn't equate to raising the mood. Sound levels are just as important as what is being played. Can you hear me?
Just Because You Own Scissors Doesn't Make You a Barber
Chances are you own a pair of scissors, but it's highly unlikely you cut your own hair. The same holds true for music; just because you have a personal playlist, that doesn't mean you can stream it at your hotel. No, not even at that little coffee shop that just opened and isn't connected to the rest of your sound system yet. While cutting your own hair is legal (albeit not likely a great idea), streaming your own music at a place of business is not. A recent report stated that over 21 million businesses are playing music through their personal accounts, which adds up to billions of dollars in losses for the music industry. It's in the best interest of everyone's ears and conscience to make sure that you're playing not only the right music, but correctly licensed songs as well.
Bottom Line: Listen Carefully, They Linger Longer
You have a watchful eye on what your hotel looks like and you listen to what guests have to say about you on social media and trusted review sites. It's also critical that you listen to your hotel. What does it sound like? A hotel that is in tune – with all of the senses – is one that understands what 360-degree branding is all about. When you listen, carefully, thoughtfully and strategically to what your hotel sounds like, and fine tune its sound, you'll see that guests want to linger longer. Longer visits to your bar, repeat guests to your hotel; that doesn't just sound good, it also looks good to the bottom line.
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