As with everything in life… it’s all about the experience…
As an industry, all of us in hospitality like to complain about OTA’s; high commission levels and of course the impact that new aggregators such as AirBnB are having on our bottom line.
But rather than sitting back, accepting our fate and watching our valued customers ‘bleed’ into other suppliers, shouldn’t we ask ourselves why this is happening?
AirBnB understand that 3 out of every 4 of their customers would rather pay for an experience than an ‘item’ and understanding this fundamental shift in buying behaviour is what has AirBnB leading and us following right now. So what do we need to do to protect our fair share of the market? Well in my opinion it is to put two words at the forefront of every business decision we make – ‘experience‘ and ‘personalisation‘.
Let’s start with ‘experience’. Our customers now work harder and longer and they want to spend their hard earned cash and valuable time off with an absolute desire to travel and to experience. This is not a ‘tick-of-the-bucket-list’ kind of travel but a need to be fully immersed in the experience of the location and the culture of where they are.
Years ago, the kind of ‘look at me, I have made it in life’ was often equated with ‘stuff’. We all were drawn to have pictures of glamorous people with designer shopping bags on our websites and promotional material. Thankfully our customers reliance on ‘stuff’ has shifted and their validation on how wonderful their life is, is now down to the amount of experiences they are having – all through the power of travel. Shouldn’t we be taking that into consideration?
Defining what experience a customer will have when they get to your property should of course extend to the type of immersive experience they will have when they come to your location. So shouldn’t we capitalise on that? Make sure that the language you use on your website, the pictures and video all elude to something special, something unique – both inside and outside your hotel. Your website should always be the start of the journey but to understand the experience customers are actually having, then look no further than your reviews. Use whatever guest reviews you have to start to plan the change. Listen to what your guests tell you they want and then consider a ‘shift’.
And please don’t assume that this level of ‘customer experiential need’ touches only your transient or package guests. Those of us who are wedding venues know only too well that brides now want and demand something ‘quirky’ (I hate that word more than I hate the phrases ‘smart/casual’ or ‘team-building’!!!), but what are we doing to keep up with this trend? What are we providing for brides that make them feel that they are special, and that your venue offers them something unique?
If your business centres around corporates, what are you doing to ensure their expectations are met? Gone are the days when you provided a Business Centre and ticked the corporate box. Corporates need great wifi; easy check-in and check-out procedures; breakfast to go; loyalty rates & rewards to name but a few. How many of those boxes are you ticking?
What about personalisation. We have by now all probably read that over 30% of customers would pay more if they felt their experience was personalised for them. But what exactly does that mean? Many of the market leading booking engines and web designers are now personalising a customers touch-point with your online brand, based on social profiling or whether your customer is a first time or a returning visitor. This in real terms means (even at a very basic level) that a website will know if your customer is visiting your site from America or China and tailor-make the language and flow of their online visit. If they are a returning customer, leading booking engines understand and are offering pre-selected dates (based on previous searches) or recognition by name. They will also understand your guests individual journey to find you – whether that be through possibly a golf website or spa enquiry – so that their experience can be tailored around their individual needs.
So what is your role? Well, my thoughts are that you need to look very closely at what you offer… not only in the way of product, but also every single touch point your guest receives and ask yourself:
a) does it align with your brand?
b) does your brand experience actually need to change?
c) what are you doing to exceed your customers expectations?
d) what are you providing to make that ‘memory moment’
My humble opinion is that while your financial people are worrying about budgets for 2019, we need to be concerned about our guest experience, and not getting left behind…
(and for all things revenue, please just firstname.lastname@example.org)