What does a memorable customer experience mean to you?
This question inspires some of the most critical aspects of any business' customer-facing strategy, as brands constantly seek out new and improved ways to connect with modern consumers and create a lasting impression. When looking to sell a product or service, businesses should strive to not only inspire consumers to make the purchase but to ensure that the process of making that purchase caters to a larger (and ultimately memorable) customer experience that instills long-term loyalty.
This proves especially true when we look at the hospitality realm. Travel is, in itself, an experience — one which begins long before a prospective traveler even clicks 'book now'. From the planning phase to post-trip, travelers are consumed with the potential (or the memory) of a certain experience. As travelers scroll through sprawling social feeds showcasing luxurious travel destinations, modern hotels and local experiences, hotels, and travel brands are implored to curate a trip that goes beyond perceived expectations. In fact, modern customers seem far less inclined to base their loyalty off a price or product — and instead, demonstrate loyalty to companies based on the end-to-end experience they receive. Not entirely convinced? Consider the following:
- 86% of buyers will pay more for a better brand experience, but only 1% feel that vendors consistently meet expectations
- By the year 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator
- A moderate increase in Customer Experience generates an average revenue increase of $823 million over three years for a company with $1 billion in annual revenues.
With this in mind, the question — or rather, the critical differentiator becomes - how can hotels create the most enjoyable and memorable stay, each and every time?
1. Attentive, Responsive Service
When it comes to exceeding guest expectations, it's not always as complicated as one might think. Most of the time, the creation of a positive, memorable experience can be as simple as adhering to a highly attentive and responsive service model. Modern guests, especially, crave a more intimate relationship with the properties they frequent — by that, we simply mean that they want to feel genuinely appreciated and valued by the hotels they choose.
Having the technology and observant staff in place to emphasize guest touch-points with added touches such as recognition of guests' name and preferences, a birthday or a special occasion, immediate response to a guest request or complaint, tailored upgrades or offers can go a long way. Ideally, each guest should feel recognized and appreciated within every interaction, so the relationship between your property and each guest can evolve and become more personalized. Simple? Yes. Highly effective? Absolutely.2. Personalization is the Name of the Game
Personalization has been touted as one of the most integral hospitality trends moving into 2019 (and beyond). In fact, studies show that 75% of consumers are more likely to buy from brands that recognize them by name, recommend services based on past purchases, and know their purchase history. Further, more than three-quarters of consumers have recommended or paid more for a brand that provides personalized services. Modern guests consume travel differently than previous generations (from how and when they book, to the properties they prefer) and as such, hotels must listen to their unique preferences and deliver the experiences they expect (or something even better).
With this in mind, hoteliers are investing in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technology to not only offer a more tech-savvy service model founded in instant gratification but also to better understand their guests. From chat-bots to AI-powered concierge, new-age amenities and in-room service options, smart-rooms, and personalized in-app communications, hotels are finding countless ways to remove friction and enhance the guest experience with data-informed, personalized touches.
Let's put it this way — which hotel is more likely to earn your business? The one with staff who greets you as "Sir" or "Ma'am", asks you the same questions upon arrival each time and doesn't offer any exceptional amenities or services? Or the hotel that always addresses you by name remembers your preferences (thanks to data on file) and offers frictionless 24/7 service with the help of modern technology?
3. Show Your Guests Some Love
A little appreciation goes a long way, especially in a day and age when consumer loyalty is decidedly more difficult to earn. Ask yourself — what does your hotel do to show your guests that you appreciate them? Do you go above and beyond for your guests, or do you just meet their minimal expectations?
It's this realization that is rapidly changing the way hotelier's approach loyalty programs, moving away from the legacy models to embrace more modern, frequent displays of appreciation (even if seemingly small). For example, hotels can monitor past purchase behavior to curate a special offer for a specific service, upgrade or experience that guests have previously purchased. Alternatively, in the case of a 'VIP' guest, hoteliers could reward their loyalty or help to celebrate special occasions with complimentary upgrades or luxury amenities, such as an in-room glass of wine. Something as simple (and traditional) as a hand-written, personalized note can represent a memorable moment to guests. While these 'extra' services may seem small, they let guests know that you view them as a valued customer and genuinely appreciate their presence on your property.
4. Give Them Something Different
While traditional hospitality may be centered around the provision of a 'home away from home' experience, it's important to remember that modern guests are often craving something more novel. Sure, guests want to enjoy the same comforts they would have at home, but they also want to experience something unique and otherwise 'share-worthy.'
With this in mind, hoteliers should seek out opportunities to differentiate their property with exciting offerings — from local experiences that aren't typical tourist attractions, world-class cuisine and dining experiences, new-age technology and amenities, modern furnishings and so much more. What 'wow' factors can your hotel create for each guest, that will not only create a lasting memory but have them sharing their experience with others?
When it comes to hospitality, every detail matters — especially the small ones. As we've said before, don't neglect the bottom line and invest in those smaller moments of each guests' stay in equal measure to the big ones. Attentiveness, personalization, and appreciation goes a long way in creating a memorable stay for each of your guests and will help to ensure they view your property as a beloved destination.
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