Learning from Our Own Industry: Oh What a Feeling!

© Holly Stiel; Republished with permission from HotelExecutive.com.

Marketing departments painstakingly spark emotions that attract potential guests to their properties. It’s up to every department in the hotel to take this to heart—showcasing the kind of warm hospitality that inspires other industries to emulate what our industry is known for.

Elevating any business from good to great requires raising the bar beyond measures of sheer customer “satisfaction.” It means developing innovative ways to transcend the perfunctory “satisfactory” encounters, creating customer experiences that are infused with excitement and delight. Creating such off-the-chart feeling states is what the hospitality industry is known for. It’s no surprise that Cadillac sought out Ritz-Carlton to teach them how to deliver the kind of luxury experiences that create lifelong memories—and loyal customers. In fact, many businesses, including retail and other high-end automotive brands, benchmark against hotels to aid them in bolstering customer loyalty.

I am grateful and proud to have cut my teeth in our industry, which has a long running and proven track record when it comes to creating magic and making our guests’ wishes come true. Let’s consider the term “track record” for a minute. Its literal meaning is “the fastest time ever recorded for a specific distance at a particular racetrack.” Track records are not set in stone, but are ever changing, as contenders strive for better and better times. A track record is recorded so that someone can come along and beat it. The purpose of this article is to make the case for bettering our own track record—for benchmarking the mystique, enchantment and delight our industry is known for and finding ways to create positive experiences for our guests with even more passion, expertise and innovation than ever before. When it comes to hospitality, the opportunities to do this are countless; but at the core, it all comes down to generating positive feelings.

Sales and marketing executives are well aware that emotional factors drive economic decisions. In the 1980s, Toyota launched its ad campaign with the jingle, “Oh what a feeling! Toyota!” One of their commercials ended with a man pulling his Toyota truck into the driveway, getting out of the driver’s seat, and literally jumping for joy. Viewers were not left considering how much horsepower the engine had or remembering the sticker price, but how the driver felt about his experience with the truck.

If feelings are the key ingredients for attracting customers, it follows that feelings also play a significant role in retaining them. The key to customer loyalty is really no big secret. Whenever a positive connection is made, it feels good, and if it feels good you’ll want to experience it again. Process- and transaction-oriented operations that view customer service as merely a department or a set of prescribed procedures are missing the boat. It’s really about the emotions that permeate the customer experience in its entirety. Service, at its best, is the positive way people feel at each and every point of contact—or more aptly put, with each and every connection.

We make emotional connections with our guests all the time, and it happens in countless ways. For instance, I am very sensitive to signage. It may seem like an insignificant detail, but I don’t think people realize just how much a sign says about a business. The message between the lines can reflect a feeling that is harsh and insulting or positive and caring. For instance, a sign that screams NO SMOKING is an admonishment. “Please keep our hotel smoke-free” will still keep the air clean, and in a much softer and hospitable way.

The difference can be very subtle. Upon entering the restaurant at the Halifax Radisson Hotel, I saw a sign that read: “Please wait to be greeted.” I loved it! Changing “seated” to “greeted” made me feel welcomed and appreciated. The choice of words demonstrated thought and hospitality. Now, the sign would be mean nothing if this feeling wasn’t carried through by the actions of the entire staff throughout my dining experience. In this case, I am happy to report, it was!

Republished with permission from HotelExecutive.com.

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