Blending Technology, Customer Involvement, and Satisfaction to Boosting the Bottom Line
By Rohit Verma Executive Director, Cornell Center for Hospitality Research | September 04, 2011
Co-authored by Glenn Withiam, Executive Editor, Cornell Hospitality Quarterly
Service excellence, customer involvement, and customer satisfaction are all facets of the same jewel for the hospitality industry, because they all contribute to increased revenue and profitability. These issues were examined in detail in keynote speeches at the recently concluded QUIS 12, the international Quality in Service conference held in June this year at the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration. This meeting of the biennial QUIS conference featured four keynote speeches. The speakers did not coordinate their topics in advance, and as you can see they are involved in remarkably diverse enterprises. Yet, each of them were concerned with the critical matter of how to engage customers in a business, whether that involves goods or services. The speakers were Ted Teng, CEO, The Leading Hotels of the World, Ltd.; Conny Kalcher, global leader of Consumer Experience for The LEGO Group; Sanjay Sarma, professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and Gina Pingitore, chief research officer, and Stuart Greif, vice president and general manager of the global travel and hospitality practice, both of J.D. Power and Associates. Here's what they had to say.
Service Excellence: Ted Teng, CEO, The Leading Hotels of the World, Ltd.
Service excellence can be thought of in terms of four inter-related pillars: culture, personality, training, and motivation. Although culture varies from nation to nation and region to region, one can find genuine hospitality in every culture. However, that hospitality may often be expressed in a different manner in various cultures. In some ways, personality is like a culture of one person, and it's well known that those with certain personalities are more likely to deliver excellent service. I am particularly thinking of those who like people. Training is critical, because service excellence does not come naturally to everyone. A danger in poorly structured training programs is that service will become robotic, when it should come from the heart. Thus, it is important to choose people who are service oriented. Finally, motivation stems from many sources, including the chance to earn money, pride in accomplishment, and recognition for job well done. These four pillars must be managed with the following point in mind: the guest's definition of service excellence is the determining factor in all cases. Every service interaction must be based on the four service pillars and then personalized for the guest.
Consumer Engagement: Conny Kalcher, Global Leader, Consumer Experiences, LEGO Group.
LEGO group works to improve consumer engagement, which is one way to establish a relationship with consumers and to build their affinity with the product. We are truly trying to encourage our customers to become fans of our product. We do this through personally relevant and enriched LEGO experiences. Our model is as follows: We deliver personally relevant experiences; this leads to higher affinity and more product promoters who are higher spenders; and this in turn means revenue growth. Thus, LEGO is an experience brand, which will be the leading type of brand in this century. As consumers' engagement with the product increases, they become invested in our product, and many want to influence the company and help promote the product. The key in developing this level of engagement is to understand the consumer so that the firm can emphasize the experience around the product. Furthermore, by creating fans of the product, the company can work on continuous product improvement. As just three indications of consumer engagement with LEGO, there are 200,000 "brickfilms" on YouTube and well over 1 million LEGO-related pictures on Flickr. Additionally, LEGO community events attract 2.6 million visitors each year. Sales and engagement in an experience brand are enhanced by bringing like-minded fans together. Such an approach requires the creation of consistent experiences that engage consumers, including various membership and loyalty programs. The LEGO group uses consumer feedback from the program to improve the customer experience. Among other strategies, the company offers a direct response to customers who have registered dissatisfaction with their experience. Indeed, some of our customers are surprised when they are personally contacted. The connection between customer engagement and product sales is depicted by a net promoter score (NPS). The NPS records consumer engagement, and those who are higher on the NPS scale are more satisfied, recommend more, and spend more.