Overcoming the fear of IMPLEMENTATION
By Jeremiah Magone, Marketing Director at Hospitality Copywriting
People are funny.
Just think about how most hoteliers make decisions when it comes to technology upgrades, for example.
They start by looking around, talking with technology providers, and going to demos to figure out the best way forward.
So far so good…
But as soon as it comes to making a commitment, things often come to a screeching halt.
Which is strange when you step back and look at it.
Because, in the vast majority of cases, hotels are spending 10X as much on Kleenex and hand towels and a thousand other little things, every month…
And the ROI on hospitality technology is almost always substantial.
These technologies pay for themselves over and over again… so it's hard to even call them 'costs', really.
And yet, many hoteliers are still so reluctant to commit.
I wanted to figure out why that is… on the human/emotional level…
… and how we can address that problem in a meaningful way, so that - whatever is holding some people back - it's not stopping you from making the right investments so you can improve your hotel's operational efficiencies and revenues.
The first step on my 'quest' was to get in touch with one of my good friends who has a lot of experience with onboarding hotels to his company's platform.
Now, my friend will have to go un-named, for confidentiality's sake, because I really wanted him to 'spill the beans' in this article. I wanted his unvarnished opinion on what is really holding hoteliers back these days.And thankfully, that's exactly what I got:
"The fear of implementation is just crippling to most hoteliers," he said.
"They're so busy. They're wearing too many hats. And they don't have the geek advantage. So when you bring up ANYTHING that seems complex or time consuming, it's really, really tough for them to make any kind of commitment."
Adding, "Of course, they want to innovate. But the fear starts setting in… as responsibilities loom large… and they just choke."
Which is completely understandable. We all have a hard time with complex decisions. And backing away is an all-too common response to overwhelm.
But you can't put your head in the sand…
Because, in business, one can never get away from taking some risks.
"So what can you do," I asked, "to help hoteliers feel a little more comfortable with taking on short-term risks and a little responsibility in exchange for long-term rewards?"
"… And also, what are you doing - right now - to minimize those risks, so that even the most risk-averse individuals can step forward with confidence?"
Well, he couldn't help but laugh at that one. Because it seems they've been through quite a few trials and tribulations trying to answer that exact question.
"In the early days," he said, with a grin, "we thought we could make it easy for hotels to move forward by setting up our platform as a kind of self-service system. That way, we figured, hoteliers could make all the decisions themselves, upload their pictures… press a few buttons… give it a week, and out popped a finished product."
"So how did that go?"
"The problem with that was there were sooooo… many incomplete orders. And since the design step came after contracting, after billing had already started, that created a ton of stress and strain for everyone involved."
"So what did you do?"
"Well, then we decided to take the opposite approach and reposition ourselves as a boutique design agency. We figured, that way, hoteliers would be in direct contact with our design team… and that would help move things along, much more quickly… with the added benefit of giving our clients a finished product that was truly custom."
"Did that help hoteliers feel more re-assured with moving forward?" I wondered.
Well, yes and no.
"There was one French hotelier," he told me, "who insisted in putting her stamp of approval on everything we did; every design decision, in one round of revisions after another… and there were even times where she wanted to change something this way… then that way - then change it back again. So the project went on a lot longer than it should have, and everyone was starting to get frustrated."
"Ultimately," he concluded, "the designers just gave in and started doing whatever she wanted, without any concern for basic design principals. And, as a result, the end product wasn't even as good as the one she started with - so nobody was happy. And we had to take a long, hard look at our process, after that project, to make sure we never found ourselves in that same situation, ever again."
It seems like there are some universal principals we all need to be aware of, here:
- That one change inevitably leads to another. And,
- Too much creative input can easily create a monster
So it's no wonder that companies always have a hard time striking that perfect balance, between leading and being led by a client's preferences, whenever creative and strategic decisions are required.
And so I had to ask,"If the 'do-it-yourself' approach didn't work. And the 'your-wish-is-my-command' approach didn't work… where did you go from there?"
"That's when we came up with our 7-step form," he told me, "because, at least this way, each one of our projects begins from a simple starting point and then evolves into something with a custom look and feel."
Has that helped smooth things out?
"It's helped a lot," he told me. "We always need to remember that hoteliers are so reluctant… I might even say traumatized about the idea of moving forward… simply because of bad experiences they've had in the past. So this form is a way for us to show them how this is different; how this onboarding process isn't as unstructured as some of their previous experiences have been. And that way, they know exactly what to expect ahead of time - and they don't feel like they're opening Pandora's Box when they sign on the dotted line, which helps them move forward."
"And how do you use your form, once you start working with a hotel? Can you walk me through that process?"
"Sure. The main thing, here, is this form makes it easy for hoteliers to focus in and make a few key decisions quickly, in about 30 minutes… which is great for busy hoteliers. And those decisions help our team come up with a creative theme everyone can get behind. So that helps us gain some momentum."
Any other way this helps?
"I think this form really helps the sales team, too. Because it stops the project from moving forward if all 7 decisions haven't been made. It's kind of like a safety mechanism, so that anytime we're showing a hotelier their project - it's the finished product; and our accounting is never billing if the project hasn't been approved. So this form basically helps organize the entire project in our client's best interests… and that helps us maintain a good working relationship; which is always a win-win."
So it seems that having a clear, step-by-step onboarding process isn't just a better way to get the project done… or reduce internal pressures… it also helps avoid a lot of frustrations which can negatively affect the end result.
So what are the tell-tail-signs hoteliers should look for?
And what should hoteliers ask about… whenever they're talking with technology service providers... so they know there is a well-thought-out onboarding process in place?
"1. Look for a process that starts from high quality examples," my friend told me. "And once you have those examples, the hotelier and the service provider should get on the phone and draw some conclusion about why the client respects each one of these examples.
2. It should be clear from the start that there are a very limited number of choices to be made in the process. Some people might feel that these boundaries gives hoteliers less creative control. But we always need to remember: designers do a much better job with 2 colors, rather than 20. And the same idea applies to any technology, really. Because anyone can make something complicated, it takes real skill to make something simple.
3. And look for quality standards throughout the process. These should be like gates. If the hotelier hasn't supplied high-quality pictures, for example, the project can't move forward; and the billing can't begin. This is an essential safety precaution for clients."
"The key in all this," he said, "is to give hoteliers a crystal-clear picture of everything involved - right from the very beginning - while taking the necessary steps to eliminate complexity and reduce the number of choices to a minimum. As I said, most hoteliers are incredibly busy, so we need to realize - they're not afraid of making a few decisions, they're just afraid of getting sucked into something with an undefined beginning, middle and end. Does that make sense?"
All the sense in the world...
It's just like building a staircase up a slippery slope
And that's what got me thinking of a visual I could use to make the main point of this article.
Imagine if you were trying to help someone climb a slippery slope, the best thing you could do for them would be to build a sturdy set of stairs, right?
But you couldn't just nail a few 2X4s together and expect someone to 'just risk it'.
People need to have confidence - before they'll take action.That's why you need to:
Make sure there's adequate lighting, so it's easy for people to find their footing.
There needs to be handrails on each side, so they can get a firm grip… and nobody goes toppling off the sides.
And there needs to be landings, so even if you someone does trip, it's not going kill 'em.
Do you see how this is the same?
Do you see how this is what it takes to build confidence in your company's implementation process, as well?
… And why, if you don't have this in place, it's so much harder for hoteliers to take action?
3 critical elements of success
So hoteliers need to make sure to look for these 3 implementation elements at every demo.
- A well-laid out process shows how a company has worked to overcome these all-too common problems in the past… for everyone's benefit. Which shows what your working relationship will be like. And,
- That flow is critical for turning risk into reward!
Because when you know the path ahead, it's so much easier to stop making funny decisions…
... based upon whatever those crazy little voices in your head keep trying to tell you… to sideline you…
… and START moving ahead!
So you can actually IMPLIMENT the strategies and technologies that will give you the effeciencies and the revenue generation you need to be more successful.
Which, like I said earlier, is what's best for everyone involved.
Is your company looking for ideas on how to automate your messaging, so you can show hoteliers you've laid out your implementation process with sturdy handrails and non-skid treads? If so, check out my personality quiz & training on the subject right here.
Jeremiah Magone is a direct response copywriter specializing in the hospitality industry. His interest in the industry stems from living all over the States, parts of Europe and his most recent 8-year stint in Japan. He is the author of the 300% More Direct Bookings in 30 Days social media marketing system and Hospitality Marketing Synergy, which shows hotels how to improve their group sales results by creating win-win partnerships.More from Jeremiah Magone