Building Loyalty in the new world of Hospitality —
A reaction to disruption
The hospitality industry has seen tremendous disruptions over the last decade while it has been adapting to new environments and an evolving traveler — and while the transition is fairly slow (changes in the industry has a tendency to be both costly and time-consuming), the industry is still changing more rapidly than ever before. However, while the urgency of a human-centric transformation is there and the willingness to change equally so, the trouble lies with the feasibility and uncertainty of achieving the necessary impact. Determining which opportunities create a better experience for the guests — and thus creates loyalty/higher NPS, higher customer satisfaction, higher acquisition, and retention isn’t done in a twinkle. Not to mention finding the right synergies with already existent IT and legacy systems. Add to that there are still many chained-brand hotels that work in silos with no common understanding of the guest experience.
Integrated data & autonomy
Guests leave clues about their preferences everywhere; from the check-in counter, room service or when signing up for a Wi-Fi — in this data environment, personalization opportunities get missed. The goal should be to extend the hospitality into the digital realm with data-driven and profit-generating intervention programs in order to build loyalty and increase the perceived convenience for the guest.
Basically, the more connections hotels can make, across their own physical brands, properties, digital touchpoints and even with creative partnerships, the more they enable their guests to act autonomously in larger brand experience eco-systems. Autonomy represents a hotel’s ability to give travelers the freedom and flexibility to personalize their own guest experience (mobile check-ins, room selection, in-room smart tech, chat concierge services, etc). This, in turn, creates an opportunity for guest decision making — and as all decisions can be captured — the hoteliers get valuable insights into guest preferences. Data integration involves combining data residing in different sources and providing users with a unified view of them — in a way customized to their unique online behavior. By leveraging guest microdata in real time and in ways targeted throughout the customer journey the hoteliers can take concrete Action to increase the number of moments of convenience which naturally leads to better customer relationship management and contextual marketing initiatives which in turn builds loyalty and customer satisfaction.
Setting up environments for a data-driven brand experience eco-system with the ability to capture and leverage guest micro-data is however a big undertaking. While ecosystem integration should be a priority for every hotelier looking to scale up the capability around personalization we would strongly suggest acquiring a common understanding of the customer journey that guests experience before investing in a heavy transformation. All transformations should be human-centric in its nature with a clear goal of optimizing the current guest/employee experience, building value across all touchpoints rather than inventing new features. while setting up a foundation for further improvements and other ways to connect with guests in the future.
New variables such as the experience economy and technological advancements mean that the Hoteliers are no longer in complete control of the experience. This is even more evident as Online Travel Agencies such as Hotels.com have competently altered the distribution channels and consequently taken a big chunk of value from the hoteliers that no longer own the entire customer journey like they used to do. With this in mind, and in order to prioritize focus areas of the transformation and prepare for autonomy through integrated data, the hoteliers need to be truly obsessed with the guests in order to fully understand their preferences across the board.
It’s time to look at other industries and verticals for inspiration. Jeff Bezos and Amazon for example once said;
“Start with the customer and work backward…Obsessing over customer experience is the only long-term defensible competitive advantage”
after which he put in practice that each meeting should include a reserved empty seat representing the customer. — Now, we have to ask ourselves: Where is the empty chair in the hotel industry? and Why do hoteliers keep hiring advisors without the capabilities to actually implement the proposed transformation strategies and who do not engage the most important people of them all — the employees? There's been a lot of waste in human potential which has increased the incentives to being stuck in silos with the mindset that they’re ‘good enough’ not to change.
It’s time to rethink that strategy and create the future both guest and employees thrive in.
Customer Experiences Mapping
Hoteliers would be wise to partner up with a company that could map the customer experiences of interacting with the brand eco-system in order to identify points, steps or stages for improvements and innovation — and that could then use these to prioritize actions for the transformation and better brand experience. This should be a speedy process that gives a holistic view of the experiences across the entire brand eco-system, from the very first point of contact to the last. In order to succeed with the transformation Hoteliers would do well in partnering up with a company that always works in the intermediary between humans needs (desirability), business (viability) and technology (feasibility) such as BBH Stockholm or a similar company.
We believe it is of the highest importance that strategies and concepts meet with true human needs and desires and engage the people who work there from start to finish. We’re convinced that commercial success is a direct result of a brand’s ability to decode clear behavioral signals in society together — use these contextually — and design tailored brand experiences and extraordinary customer journeys that serve the individual in the moment of now.