Millennials and the Experience Economy: Three Strategies for Hotels to Stand Out
By Lindsay Sykes, Director of Marketing, Intouch Insight
With millennials now being the largest generation of consumers, businesses are shifting their focus to accommodate one of the key attributes of the millennial buyer: the valuing of experiences over things.
According to a study by McKinsey and Company, in recent years, spending on experience-related services, such as attending spectator events, visiting amusement parks, eating at restaurants, and traveling, has grown more than 1.5 times faster than overall personal-consumption spending. This is four times faster than expenditures on goods.
How Guest Experience Has Evolved
As more and more consumers funnel their dollars towards the experience economy, businesses need to find news ways to differentiate themselves through experiences to stay relevant and competitive.
For the hotel industry, guest experience has always been a very important factor, but consumers in the experience economy now want more. This means that hotels need to provide an outstanding experience that exceeds guest expectations.
For this level of experience to happen, hotels will need to embrace innovative new programs and technology that help to create memorable experiences for guests. Alongside innovation, hotels will need to ensure that they focus on systems that enable them to ensure experiences are consistent and issues are addressed as they arise.
Here are three action-oriented ways to create a memorable guest experience:
#1. Proactively Address Customer Feedback and Reviews
If you're going to create an outstanding guest experience, feedback and reviews need to not just be managed but addressed promptly.
Hotels need to anticipate customer needs and issues before an experience results in a negative review. Leveraging technology to help identify issues when they happen — and having a set process in place to deal with them quickly — provides a way to take action and avoid issues from spreading.
Part of anticipating guest needs is being observant and delighting your customers with an experience they may have not expected, but can appreciate. For example, some hotels leave makeup remover in the bathroom for women as they noticed towels were consistently being left with makeup residue. Not only can this make a guest experience more pleasant, it also helps reduce cost of replacing makeup stained towels.
The fact is, sometimes things don't go according to plan, but the way issues are handled makes all the difference with a guest. Reviews can have incredible power when someone is deciding if they should book, and a story about how a hotel made it right will have an even bigger impact on potential guests.
This is only possible when the tools are in place to both capture — and then act on — all guest feedback. The key is being able to close the loop with guests so they know they were heard.
For example, acting on customer feedback can be as simple as calling the individual to address their concern and letting them know what steps have been taken to ensure it won't happen again. However, that may not happen if there's no action plan, and it's unclear who's responsible for making that call.
From a process standpoint, tools being utilized to capture and identify pain points should also include a step for verification and resolution. If customers are taking the time to provide input, there needs to be a way to not only address the individual concerns but also make corrections for the future.
#2: Identifying Specific Breakdowns in the Guest Experience
Breakdowns are bound to happen, but they are often missed opportunities because they're viewed in isolation. Instead of looking at isolated incidents, there needs to be a focus on the entire guest journey from the point of researching accommodations to when they're back home and leaving a review.
Hotels need a process in place to identify patterns or recurring issues with the guest experience — right down to a specific property. There needs to be the ability to differentiate a one-time error from a repeat issue. This helps to ensure the right actions are taken and time and effort is assigned to correcting any ongoing breakdowns in guest experience.
Let's say there are repeat complaints from guests about their check-in experience. First, the common themes should be identified. Is there a staffing issue that causes long wait times? Is the layout of the check-in area confusing and causing frustration?
Once improvements are made to guest experience, then success should be measured by tying improvements back to KPIs, such as guest satisfaction.
#3. Design Better Guest Experiences
The days of a hotel being just about a place to sleep are long gone; now, it's the experience of staying in the hotel that matters. Whether it's in-room smart technology, guest access to a concierge service, or providing individualized experience packages geared towards specific groups (like millennials), a hotel needs to be able to provide guests with more than just a bath and a bed.
The truth is, when people are investing in experiences, satisfaction isn't enough. They need to be delighted every single step of the way.
One way this can be done is through personalization. Guests want to feel like they're special, and customizing their experience leaves them with not only a good experience, but a feeling that the business actually knows and cares about their wants and needs.
By having the right tools in place, hotels can gather real-time data on their guests to understand their preferences and then use that information to personalize the experience.
Personalization can be used as a key differentiator. By enhancing the customer's experience before, during, and after their visit, the hotel can then create a lasting impression.
Personalization should start before someone even arrives at the hotel. This could be with something such as a welcome message with details about their room, transportation, or local attractions.
Then, while the guest is staying at the property, take the time to ask them about their preferences, and record that data for future use. Offer them coupons or discounts based on their areas of interest. And most of all, ask for feedback while they're still staying at the property. That way, the data is collected to course correct or address any issues before they've walked away with a negative impression.
After someone's stay, ask them at checkout if their stay was satisfactory. Once they've left, then the hotel can follow up with a simple note recognizing a birthday or anniversary or send a specialized offer to invite them to book again in the future based on their preferences gathered during their stay.
If you want to stand out in the experience economy, the goal isn't to just focus on negative experiences and how to fix them but to amplify good ones by using them to continue to design better guest experiences.
Lindsay Sykes is the Director of Marketing at Intouch Insight. To get more actionable strategies on how to stand out in the experience economy, sign up now to get your free copy of the Customer Experience Playbook: Designing a Winning Approach whitepaper.
Lindsay Sykes is the Director of Marketing at Intouch Insight. To get more actionable strategies on how to improve your guest experience with employee feedback and other CX strategies, sign up now to get your free copy of the Customer Experience Playbook: Designing a Winning Approach Whitepaper.More from Lindsay Sykes