Contextualizing Guest Engagement with Real Insights
By Derrick Garrett Founder & Chief Executive Officer, Roundhouse Multimedia | November 03, 2019
Consider the choice between receiving a complaint or not receiving a compliment. It may seem obvious but be forewarned: equating a lack of complaints with a compliment creates a false narrative. In no way are those factors correlated.
But how do you know what your guests are feeling when they're not using their words? How do you genuinely measure satisfaction? The answers will never be revealed on a static survey form.
Next gen technology is providing a path forward in this pursuit to contextualize the actions of your customers, leading to a more accurate representation of their emotions. Quantifying these emotions in a predictable and repeatable fashion paves the way not only to consistent business, but to continuous upselling as well.
Technology has long ceased to be maligned as an unnecessary expense. Not only is advanced technology required now, but it's transforming from an uncomfortable cost to a shrewd investment with quantifiable returns.
Measuring the Wow
I started down this train of thought after an eye-opening conversation with a senior hotel executive. We were talking in general about how we need to create the 'wow factor' when a guest walks in. In regard to the music, he commented that he thought it was good, and he never had any complaints. Then he added, "But also, I haven't heard anyone say, 'Wow, the music is great!'"
In general, music tends to be one of those things that people talk about most when they're unhappy with it. However, his comment really stuck with me. It had my wheels turning, and I was determined to take a deeper dive.
Sometime after, I was learning about the potential that data and analytics have to provide new insights to a business. My team was talking about this a lot in reference to the retail side of our work when the comments from this senior hotel executive resurfaced for me. I thought, this could be how we achieve more of those positive comments about the music. The prospect of integrating data and analytics as a natural, evolutionary progression supporting music architecture is exciting.
Of course, hotels and resorts are vastly different from retail in the application of music content. There are so many different areas to curate music for, from restaurant to spa to lobby to children's activity zones. The typical hotel stay is six nights, so there's a lot more time to impact guests.
The idea that data and analytics can be used in this capacity is certainly not some pull the technology out of the box, and here you go! There's no plug and play. It requires a lot of creative thinking, strong partnerships and testing. Most importantly, it must be done in a way that's not intrusive to guests. In short, there's plenty of creative exploration to conduct before putting this idea into action.
Survey Says…Almost Nothing
In the quest for measuring guest satisfaction, we have to recognize that the traditional means hotels use to gauge satisfaction is ineffective. That is, the static survey that guests most commonly receive upon checkout. When you consider a family on vacation, where they're checking out and rushing to the airport with kids, the last thing they're thinking about is leaving some feedback.
Even when surveys are emailed a few days after checkout, people are back to the grind at work. Yes, I've enjoyed my vacation – it was awesome – but do I really want to take the time to fill out a survey now? Apart from the small percent of people who enjoy posting reviews to Trip Advisor or Yelp, email surveys tend to get deleted. Otherwise, it's out of sight, out of mind. Unless there's something that really went wrong. That's when people are more drawn to fill out surveys.
When you think about these people that fill out hotel surveys, they often don't know what would have made their experience better. It's really up to the hotel to think outside of the box to create those special experiences that will set them apart. You can't expect your guests to know. A big part of providing an unforgettable experience is that it's unexpected.
While static surveys don't do enough for hotels in their search for guest feedback, what other tools are available? We're just beginning to tap into the potential there is for technology to guide us with actionable insights.
A lot of this tech is so new it hasn't been tested, or it is just in the process of being rolled out into real-world applications. That makes now a perfect time to be brainstorming about potential uses. You want to know if people are truly enjoying an experience? Think about how facial recognition can pinpoint common expressions, smiles, laughter, frowns, grimaces.
Facial recognition is just one example that provides data, but we have to dig into other ideas too, even those beyond guest engagement. To me, that's just one measurement. Driving incremental revenue is just as important for hotel executives in the long-term strategy. One thing that keeps me up at night is how music can help.
When it comes to efforts to drive incremental revenue, there's still a lot of reliance on stationary signage and word of mouth promotions. Take for example, an all-inclusive resort pushing to upsell a lobster dinner special. There are a few classic means employed in this kind of upsell effort. There's the paper teepee sign on the table, which most people don't take much notice of. There's the waiter verbally telling you about the special, the success of which depends mostly on the waiter's skill and time management. You can bet it's the first thing to get nixed once that dinner rush hits and waitstaff is in the weeds. Otherwise, guests might see the special in their room or on some other closed-circuit TV, but it's still just a static ad. Consumers have gotten used to being entertained by multi-sensory advertising.
Here's another example where creative music uses can be leveraged for incremental revenue. A resort has a trendy nightclub that guests pay a cover charge to get into. If the music is done properly, anyone who is interested, or even slightly interested, in going out that night can be driven to the club.
It helps to picture the scene. The areas around the club help lure people in. The club is framed by architectural flourishes, and other strategic visual and logistical cues leading people there. There's advertising and signage of course too. There's a bar and lounge–most likely a few–so people can satisfy their thirst leading up to and maybe even following their club experience. Prior to a popular DJ set, we want people hanging out in the lounge near the club, and we can be deliberate with the music they hear there. We can allow the music to build up in a way that by the time the DJ is playing, people are going to hear it, and be drawn in as the next elevation of their experience. It's all about presenting the right mood in all the right places.
Beyond the Experience
There are a lot of studies out there pointing to the necessity of music for brands. At this point, brands are widely accepting of it; however, there's a limitation in thinking that music is only serving the customer experience. We want to push the conversation further and do music differently. We're exploring how to bring data into the strategy, so music can be more than experiential. In our vision, music can help achieve strategic goals, whether it's affecting the bottom line in terms of point of sale or keeping guests in a location longer.
The idea that excites me most about adopting analytics is that data points to facts. Music is an incredibly subjective medium. Sometimes it feels like we're always making educated guesses. If we can perform tests that deliver data telling us about the behavior of guests, we can now start to really zoom in and remove the guessing game. Making music decisions based on facts is huge, and it's becoming much more achievable.
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