The Subtle Ambassadors: How an Effective Front-of-House Service Builds Your Reputation
By Todd Cline Vice President, Hotel Development, Towne Park | July 22, 2012
In 2003, Procter & Gamble coined the phrase "the first moment of truth" to describe the crucial first few moments when a consumer's first impression about a product or service is formed. A decade later, and we are in the age of what Google calls the "Zero Moment of Truth."(i) You no longer have a few seconds to make an impression, because consumers are making choices based on online reputations without a first impression at all.
Nowhere is this truer than the hotel industry. Today, 70 percent of Americans look at reviews online before purchasing a product. However, when it comes to booking travel, that number is 85 percent.(ii) In fact, the average traveler will visit 22 travel-related sites during 9.5 research sessions before booking their travel plans. A hotel's reputation has never been more important.
Everyone in the hotel business knows that just one disappointing interaction with hotel staff is enough to prompt negative word of mouth. It used to be a truism that one unhappy customer would tell between 9 and 15 different people about their experience. But in the age of Facebook, Twitter and a constant stream of imitators, you would be happy to contain negative word of mouth to 15 people. The average Facebook user has 130 friends, and negative comments often jump from social circle to social circle. A single news story featuring a letter complaining about the food on a Virgin Airlines flight from India was shared more than 70,000 times.(iii) A tweet really is worth a thousand words.
Yet today's hoteliers, challenged as they are to do more with less, are often tempted into cutting corners in the one area where reputations are born. The front-of-house service. And the irony is this same area offers an often overlooked source of revenue.
A brilliant front-of-house experience can disarm a frazzled traveler, provide security and trust, and offer an instant emotional connection born from safety, hospitality and welcome. An act as simple as opening a door for the customer can trigger feelings of welcome and elevate their status from one of jockeying traveler to wanted guest. Customers who feel valued and appreciated are willing to spend more.
It's true what they say about first impressions and it should never be left to chance. It's increasingly important that hoteliers maximize service level – and more importantly – perceived service level. You often only get one chance to make a good impression. When guests experience customized interpersonal service, they find extreme value in feeling respected, wanted and special. And the flipside of the viral potential of negative word of mouth is the positives offered by a positive experience. Increasingly guests review their stays on the very online booking websites that others check before booking. When a first-time guest records positive feedback online, 40 percent of them will book there again.