Ms. Wenzl

Revenue Management

Why Customer-Centric Companies Win

By Megan Wenzl, Associate Editor, ReviewTrackers

It is hard to argue that a company's primary focus be anything else but the customer, but just how essential is it for companies to be customer-focused? The answer is - very essential. A major part of being customer-focused is understanding and then ensuring you are giving customers what they want. Specifically, if customers are looking for experiences, then create experiences that are unique and personalized. Details matter.

In the 21st century, customers have access to a wide variety of valuable third-party information about businesses to help them decide on a hotel at which to stay on their next vacation. While customers are using third-party data like online reviews for research, companies should be using the information for research, too - to understand, improve and continuously update the customer experience.

The only way, however, to create meaningful experiences is by starting at the very core of a company - by building a customer-centric foundation in which the culture thrives on delighting the customer. For example, the way the food is made at your hotel's restaurant should be focused on what the customer wants. Is feedback from your customer data saying that the food should be local? Then make it local. All leaders and departments within your company should be focused on work that matters to the customer. This again reverts back to creating a culture that values the customer at its core - this involves engagement from all of your employees and excitement to create memorable guest experiences. For many employees, this means learning new customer service skills and thinking of customer interactions differently. This is good because companies will obtain and retain valuable customers.

Your customers are people with emotions. They have worries and fears, hopes and dreams, and they want to spend their money on a product or service provided by a company with which they feel a connection. It is in those days or weeks that they are choosing to stay at your hotel, to share a moment of their lives with your staff, that provides a ripe opportunity for hotel executives to create personalized experiences their guests will never forget.

An Entire Town Creates a Program for Customer Service

Consider this: An entire town in Colorado pushed for better customer service with a new customer service training program. Why? Because the town cares about the its guest experience and found that its Net Promoter Score - a rating that comes from the question, "How likely is it that you would recommend us to a friend or colleague?" - was only a score of 70 (out of 100) in 2013.

Maren McCutchan, public relations manager for Steamboat Chamber Resort Association, said that in 2016, from the months of May through October, the city's Net Promoter Score was at 89. This increase of the town's NPS score is because of the service excellence training program, in which local businesses "have the opportunity to enhance the customer experience," according to Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association.

McCutchan said that the program has helped educate members of the community on the value of exceptional customer service.

"Steamboat is already known for our genuine western hospitality but we absolutely believe that the program has made an impact and emphasized the importance of these values in the community," she said.

Technology in Hospitality

A primary reason for why companies must focus on the customer to be successful is because of the Internet and mobile devices. The advances in technology have changed the way consumers interact with brands. Customers are more engaged than before and expect to have a consistent experience across all customer touch points - this includes social media, online reviews, organic search and discovery, and payments. This constant interaction with technology is also a reason why guests want a personalized experience with a brand. They want real, human connections with businesses that provide them what they value - like a comfortable bed to sleep on and locally sourced food from the hotel's restaurant.

This type of experience is both online and offline - or in a blurred world where online and offline do not exist in the guest's mind. When a guest leaves a negative review about your hotel, you should respond to the review and then take the conversation offline to deal with the issue. It should be the same no matter where the guest leaves the review - whether TripAdvisor or Google.

When all leaders of a hospitality business are focused on the customer, they can begin to understand what kind of experience their customers want.

Let's take a look at Hilton. The brand has designed a new room with workout equipment. And Hilton didn't just throw a workout machine into the room. They put in performance flooring and a digital Fitness Kiosk, said Ryan Crabbe, senior director of global wellness for Hilton, in an interview with Skift. Hilton created this room based on customer research, according to Skift. They found that 28 percent of its guests were interested in in-room fitness.

Geraldine Calpin, chief marketing officer at Hilton Worldwide, has worked to redefine the guest experience at Hilton by using technology. In an interview with Profitable Channels, Calpin said that the guest experience is all about innovation. She says that technology gives marketers the tools necessary to keep innovating and deliver personalized experiences.

She goes on to say that marketing is not monolog - it's dialogue. It is a real relationship with customers. One of the ways Hilton is empowering the guest is by giving guests the option to use their phone to request services and control the air conditioning.

Online Reviews and Search Engine Optimization

Online reviews are an important research tool for customers when searching for a local business. According to research by ReviewTrackers, 69.9 percent of consumers read reviews during the beginning and end of the research phase - from when they start to gather information (discovery) to when they make a list of options (comparison).

When I search for a "hotels in Seattle," for example, I see three hotels that appear in Google's local pack. I click on the first hotel in the pack - Fairmont Olympic Hotel, Seattle. There are 738 Google reviews about this hotel, and the hotel has a rating of 4.5.

The general manager has been responding to both positive and negative reviews on this hotel. The responses are personalized and thank the reviewer for taking the time to leave a review.

As a traveler and someone who just visited Seattle with some friends, I would have considered staying at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel if I chose where my friends and I stayed (my friend chose a lovely, historic hotel we stayed at called Hotel Sorrento). But the Fairmont would have at least been in my option list even if I did not choose to stay there. This is in part because of the way in which the manager interacts with guests online and how many reviews there are about the hotel - and also, what the reviewers write. Phrases like "excellent service by the wait staff" and "staff was super friendly," would have helped me in the search for the right hotel. The more you engage with customers in online reviews (and the more reviews you have), the more likely you will appear in the top three search results on Google. According to Moz, 13 percent of local pack signals are from online reviews.

Use Feedback to Improve the Guest Experience

To focus on the customer, companies must collect customer feedback, analyze that data and improve the customer experience.

The creation of a great guest experience doesn't happen just one time. It is constant. And as more, new customer data becomes available, the customer experience will always change to meet the needs of guests.

Online Brand Trust

When companies focus on their customers, potential customers' trust in the brand increases. One of the factors that contribute to the success of your hospitality company is online reputation. This means you should implement a customer feedback strategy and you should do so for the following reasons: Customers want brands to listen to what they have to say. This means responding to customers' social media posts and online review sites in a reasonable amount of time, especially to a negative review. Customers expect a response to a negative review in seven days or less. With that said, potential guests also want to see that businesses respond to their guests' reviews online. This shows that the company cares about what their guests are saying.

Customers also want to see that a business has plenty of reviews when researching online. So let's say, eh, more than twenty reviews. Back to the Seattle trip I referenced earlier: As my friends and I passed a bakery in the Queen Anne neighborhood that looked like a place we had to try, instead of going directly into the bakery we searched for this bakery on Google specifically to check out the rating. The bakery had a 4.4 rating with at least 80 reviews. Because of the review quantity and high rating, we knew it would be as good of a bakery as it looked, so we ordered the chocolate croissant and loved every bite.

Megan Wenzl is the Associate Editor for ReviewTrackers. Ms. Wenzl is constantly seeking out news on the latest industry trends and market movements. Ms. Wenzl has a strong passion for creating and circulating stories that raise questions and move others to seek answers to think outside the box. With her Associate Editor role at ReviewTrackers, Ms. Wenzl is responsible for honing the voice of the brand through insightful writing based on data and creative logic. Ms. Wenzl has an extensive writing background. Shes written on a range of different topics including customer experience, customer service, online reviews, productivity, leadership, and root beer floats. Ms. Wenzl can be contacted at 866-854-7670 or megan@reviewtrackers.com Please visit http://www.reviewtrackers.com for more information. Extended Bio...

HotelExecutive.com retains the copyright to the articles published in the Hotel Business Review. Articles cannot be republished without prior written consent by HotelExecutive.com.

Receive our daily newsletter with the latest breaking news and hotel management best practices.
Hotel Business Review on Facebook
RESOURCE CENTER - SEARCH ARCHIVES
General Search:
Coming Up In The November Online Hotel Business Review




{300x250.media}
Feature Focus
Architecture & Design: Authentic, Interactive and Immersive
If there is one dominant trend in the field of hotel architecture and design, its that travelers are demanding authentic, immersive and interactive experiences. This is especially true for Millennials but Baby Boomers are seeking out meaningful experiences as well. As a result, the development of immersive travel experiences - winery resorts, culinary resorts, resorts geared toward specific sports enthusiasts - will continue to expand. Another kind of immersive experience is an urban resort one that provides all the elements you'd expect in a luxury resort, but urbanized. The urban resort hotel is designed as a staging area where the city itself provides all the amenities, and the hotel functions as a kind of sophisticated concierge service. Another trend is a re-thinking of the hotel lobby, which has evolved into an active social hub with flexible spaces for work and play, featuring cafe?s, bars, libraries, computer stations, game rooms, and more. The goal is to make this area as interactive as possible and to bring people together, making the space less of a traditional hotel lobby and more of a contemporary gathering place. This emphasis on the lobby has also had an associated effect on the size of hotel rooms they are getting smaller. Since most activities are designed to take place in the lobby, there is less time spent in rooms which justifies their smaller design. Finally, the wellness and ecology movements are also having a major impact on design. The industry is actively adopting standards so that new structures are not only environmentally sustainable, but also promote optimum health and well- being for the travelers who will inhabit them. These are a few of the current trends in the fields of hotel architecture and design that will be examined in the November issue of the Hotel Business Review.