Art + Operations: Experiential Design at its Finest

By Anna Kreyling Interior Designer, Baskervill Hospitality Studio | November 04, 2018

It's a booming and beautiful and challenging time to be in the hospitality industry; new hotels and brands are hitting the scene at a frenetic pace to woo a growing segment of experience-seeking travelers. Deloitte's 2018 Travel and Hospitality Industry Outlook report reveals a significant shift in how people are spending their money. Rather than splurging on cars, clothing, or other common durable goods-consumers are going all-in on recreation, eating out, and travel.

So if this is the moment, how do hoteliers actually seize it? And how can strategic design help properties rise above the sea of competitors vying for guest loyalty (and dollars)?

As an interior designer born and raised in hospitality, I wholeheartedly believe that it's never been more important for hotels to tap into their identity in a holistic way-amping up authenticity and evaluating not only how a property looks but how it delivers a truly one-of-a-kind experience. This takes reframing how you approach the design process, and most importantly, the hotelier's role in it.

Just ask Vice President of SMI Hotel Group Robert Reed. I worked closely with him and the hotel's ownership and management team to reimagine the guest experience of The Commonwealth, a historic boutique property located in Richmond, Virginia. Since the transformative renovation, the property has seen a 15% uptick in occupancy. That's a clear step ahead of the downtown Richmond market's 3.5% increase within the same time period. I'll throw out another impressive stat: combined revenue from The Commonwealth's restaurant and catering is up a whopping 282%.

Those numbers aren't dumb luck; they're a result of a strategic shift in thinking on the part of the SMI Hotel Group team. From the beginning, they understood that the transformation was going to renovate more than a gorgeous property steeped in history. It would also renovate operational programs-sparking new strategies for staff-to-guest connection.

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Coming up in April 2019...

Guest Service: A Culture of YES

In a recent global consumers report, 97% of the participants said that customer service is a major factor in their loyalty to a brand, and 76% said they view customer service as the true test of how much a company values them. And since there is no industry more reliant on customer satisfaction than the hotel industry, managers must be unrelenting in their determination to hire, train and empower the very best people, and to create a culture of exceptional customer service within their organization. Of course, this begins with hiring the right people. There are people who are naturally service-oriented; people who are warm, empathetic, enthusiastic, pleasant, thoughtful and optimistic; people who take pride in their ability to solve problems for the hotel guests they are serving. Then, those same employees must be empowered to solve problems using their own judgment, without having to track down a manager to do it. This is how seamless problem solving and conflict resolution are achieved in guest service. This willingness to empower employees is part of creating a Culture of Yes within an organization.  The goal is to create an environment in which everyone is striving to say “Yes”, rather than figuring out ways to say, “No”. It is essential that this attitude be instilled in all frontline, customer-facing, employees. Finally, in order to ensure that the hotel can generate a consistent level of performance across a wide variety of situations, management must also put in place well-defined systems and standards, and then educate their employees about them. Every employee must be aware of and responsible for every standard that applies in their department. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.