Smartphones and the Art of Self-service: No Cost Spells Danger

By Olivier Dombey Chief Information Officer, HotelTravel.com | February 20, 2011

The global smartphone market is projected to grow by 24% CAGR and reach 619 million units by the year 2015(1). We as travel industry professionals are obviously dazzled by the very viable and possibly amazing opportunities for growth through mobile devices.

Be it location based applications, pushed SMS; it's all there for the taking. Or are we all wearing blinders? Have we paused to consider the increasingly possible pervasive effects of getting guests so focused on themselves? Meanwhile are we unknowingly fulfilling a core CRM financial principle namely, pushing client servicing costs onto the clients themselves? Are they organizing their myriad of self-servicing mobile nitty-gritty 'bits' rather than appreciating the sensorial value of the services you so dearly hope to sell them?

But for now, you are feeling good right? And so you should. ADR, LOS, REVPAR, OCC, and all your KIPs are comfortably trending in the green(2); rate parity is back on the straight and narrow again; owners are looking at their properties with a renewed sense of excitement. Even better, your guests are displaying a rejuvenated open mindedness with a refreshed appetite for fulfilling hospitality experiences, and a healthier wallet to back it all up.

Moreover, you are now grappling with your Facebook page, Twitter and other social networks to use them in a much better way; you are diligently monitoring your online reputation and your reviews on TripAdvisor. This has finally given you a multitude of new marketing conduits including mobile phones to reach your audience, push out offers, enhance services and get those guests coming in at the right price tag.

Better yet, your guests have a plethora of new channels and tools available at their fingertips to first find and then possibly do business with you.

Never in its recent history has the hospitality industry seen such a positive potential, all wrapped up in what would appear to be an unlimited array of marketing opportunities. In fact, it has been a long time since I last observed such an upbeat momentum in our industry.

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Guest Service: A Culture of YES

In a recent global consumers report, 97% of the participants said that customer service is a major factor in their loyalty to a brand, and 76% said they view customer service as the true test of how much a company values them. And since there is no industry more reliant on customer satisfaction than the hotel industry, managers must be unrelenting in their determination to hire, train and empower the very best people, and to create a culture of exceptional customer service within their organization. Of course, this begins with hiring the right people. There are people who are naturally service-oriented; people who are warm, empathetic, enthusiastic, pleasant, thoughtful and optimistic; people who take pride in their ability to solve problems for the hotel guests they are serving. Then, those same employees must be empowered to solve problems using their own judgment, without having to track down a manager to do it. This is how seamless problem solving and conflict resolution are achieved in guest service. This willingness to empower employees is part of creating a Culture of Yes within an organization.  The goal is to create an environment in which everyone is striving to say “Yes”, rather than figuring out ways to say, “No”. It is essential that this attitude be instilled in all frontline, customer-facing, employees. Finally, in order to ensure that the hotel can generate a consistent level of performance across a wide variety of situations, management must also put in place well-defined systems and standards, and then educate their employees about them. Every employee must be aware of and responsible for every standard that applies in their department. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.