Today's Hotelier - April 2016 - (Page 62)

GUEST EXPERIENCE 8-MINUTE READING TIME Have an innovative but low-cost way to wow guests every time? Write to our editor at PERSONAL TOUCHES Easy ways to get guests talking Unique customer experience touches add up to long-term loyalty. by TEMA FRANK E ALL WANT loyal customers. They save us money on advertising costs and agency fees because they are likely to come back to us directly to rebook. They are more likely to tell others about us and send us referral business. They make our staff feel good, because there can be a relationship that develops and regular customers are more likely to leave larger tips. So how do you get that kind of loyalty? The key is delivering consistently excellent, and sometimes surprising, customer experiences. Let's break that down. CONSISTENCY For a few years there was an experience that happened to me over and over. I'd be walking down the street on a warm summer day when a car would pull up beside me. A desperate parent would pop his or her head out the window and ask, "Where's the nearest McDonalds? My kids are hungry." I'd explain that the nearest one was far away, but that there was a much better local hamburger joint nearby. "Nope," they'd insist. "It's got to be McDonalds. They won't eat anywhere else." McDonald's food wasn't great, even then, but part of what drew families to it 62  | APRIL 2016 | TODAYSHOTELIER.COM so powerfully was the consistency. They knew exactly what they'd be getting. The kids knew to expect a Happy Meal with a cheap plastic toy. The parents knew they could count on getting food their kids would eat without complaint. And, in those days, everyone knew it would be fast, clean and have friendly staff. Part of the reason McDonald's has suffered in recent years is that the consistency is gone. You can't count on that cheerful smile and cleanliness any more. The same holds true for hotel experiences. People book at chain hotels partially because they know what to expect. Say the words "Four Seasons," and a certain level of comfort and luxury comes to mind. Say "Super 8" and a different value proposition comes to mind. Either way, you know what to expect. Humans are creatures of habit, and consistency gives us comfort. EXCELLENCE Excellent customer experiences are defined by the customer, not by you. What customers consider excellent at a fancy hotel is not the same as how they would define excellence in something less expensive. But either way, you need to know what it is that your customers want. There are certain core elements that virtually all customers look for: cleanliness, comfortable beds, working fixtures and bathrooms, and polite staff. But beyond that, it is best to get to know your customers, your target market and what is most important to them. SURPRISE This sounds like a contradiction of my first point about consistency, and in a way it is. The key is that the surprise has to be layered on top of the consistent experience they have come to know and love, and it has to be a positive surprise. Surprises can be little things, but have an outsized impact. Not only do surprises delight guests, but surprises are what people share with others. They help grow word of mouth and increase public ratings and reviews. Many surprising ideas get copied once others hear of them. I remember my delight the first time I stayed in a resort where the towels were folded into animal shapes. Now it has become commonplace at resorts, so it becomes part of the baseline expectation. Still nice, but it no longer provides the same level of delight. I don't rush to share the photos with my friends on Facebook or Pinterest any more. If your best ideas get copied, how do you keep surprising customers? Brainstorming with your staff (at all levels, especially frontline staff) will help. Chatting with customers about other great hotel experiences they've had can also give you ideas - so can borrowing ideas you've seen in other industries. http://www.TODAYSHOTELIER.COM

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Today's Hotelier - April 2016

Message From AAHOA
Letter From The Chairmen
Lobby Bytes
AAHOA Spotlight
Member Talk
Perspectives From The Chief suites
Government Affairs
Food & Beverage
Compliance & Legal
5 Unexpected Things Hoteliers Can Learn From Kevin O’Leary
Guest Experience
Sales & Marketing
4 Steps To Creating A Powerful Guest Experience
Doing Business
3 Ways To Breathe Life And Revenue Into Your Space
AAHOA Events
Founding Members
Finance & Revenue
Advertiser Index

Today's Hotelier - April 2016