How small things can still make a big difference: Why guests should take center stage in a rapidly changing and highly competitive business environment
This is an analysis originally published on Tnooz by Anna de Visser-Amundson (senior lecturer and research fellow at Hotelschool The Hague) and Thomas Landen (head of marketing in EMEA at Revinate).
Many hotels are challenged to meet short-term targets whilst having to formulate strategic priorities in a highly competitive business environment. What is the best way to deal with this dilemma?
By starting from a customer perspective, you can understand what truly matters to your guests. For example, adding 55-inch smart TVs in the guest rooms is nice but what difference does it make to the overall guest experience? And how relevant is such an investment in a market where travelers bring their own devices and content?
A customer centric hotel would first get the basics correct. For example, can your guests easily charge their devices in the room? When you consider this, how valuable is that 55-inch smart TV when you have to crawl on the floor to find an electric outlet? It happens more often than we would like to think.
A hotel’s ability to become truly customer centric will make the difference in today’s market. Freely available segmentation reports and rigorous customer data collection can provide for deeper customer insights. Knowledge beyond the easily accessible guest booking data and knowing if your guests are part of a conference, or are traveling for leisure or business, is vital to uncover latent needs and to fully understand your guests’ experiences throughout the phases of the customer journey.
Their journey begins with the ‘Search and Booking Phase’. Considering that more than 65% of all travelers do not know where they are going when they start searching, this phase presents a huge opportunity for hotels. Knowing also that 77%
of travelers use their smartphone to seek travel inspiration makes a mobile friendly site a top priority. Hotels can try to lure travelers by looking outside the hotel industry. For example, the Swedish tourism board launched an app that allows anyone from abroad to call a free telephone number and get a local Swedish person on the phone.
Here’s another example: Icelandair offers travelers the opportunity to book one of their air stewards as a local guide to show travelers the local hidden gems around Iceland. In times when local and authentic experiences are key elements for many travelers, these are just a few suggestions for hotels to consider. They may even off-set threats from peer-to-peer rentals like AirBnb, which are often perceived to be more social and local than hotels.
The next stay or consumption phase is the moment a first time guest turns into a loyal guest and a loyal guest into an ambassador. Customers who have had good past experiences, spend 140% more compared to those who’ve had poor experiences. As per our earlier example, hotels can help localize the guest experience by providing them with suggestions for experiences through local peer-to-peer ‘sharing’ companies by proposing that your guests use something like Eatwith to reserve a seat for dinner at someone’s house. Can it get more local and social than that?
Small touches in the hotel can also make a big impact. Offering a guest the opportunity to eat breakfast at 23:00 or borrow the hotel’s goldfish to keep you company in the room are other small, quirky and yet powerful ways to put a smile
on a guest’s face.
Moving towards the end of the customer journey, the post-stay phase, travelers are in fact at their lowest point emotionally. According to the ‘peak-and-end’ rule by Daniel Kahneman and recent research at Hotelschool The Hague, peaks, and in particular the end of the guests’ experience with the hotel, have a significant influence on their overall evaluation of their stay. To this point for one hotel, the interaction with hotel staff was not the normal “would you like your bill in an envelope?” but a farewell with a goody-bag filled with homemade cookies and a bottle of water for the road. What a great way to leave a strong, lasting impression on your guests!
In short, it is by gathering information and putting guests at the center of your service strategy that you can see that small changes can make a big difference. For the full research article, please click here.