at the Level of Creating Truly Memorable Experiences?
|By Peter McAlpine, May 2006
It is inevitable that more and more hotels will try to upgrade their service to the level of creating truly memorable experiences (CTME). Some will succeed better than others. In my opinion, the hotels or hotel groups which succeed the most will be those that focus on ALL four of the following areas, and not just on the first two, and do so the quickest:
1. Experience Creating Technology
This is the easiest area and unfortunately, I think it will become the main battleground on which hotels and hotel groups will compete in order to create memorable experiences.
Technology can turn emotionless aspects of a guest’s stay into a memorable experience. For example, take the limousine journey from the airport to the hotel. If you’re lucky, the car driver has a small choice of CDs for you to listen to, though you may not like any of them. However, one hotel in Singapore, however, has karaoke screens in one limousine while the Conrad Bangkok has an I-Pod station in its limousines. This will no doubt evolve into virtual reality headsets becoming a standard feature of a hotel limousine.
I’d like to see imaginative use of different colours and types of lighting to create different feelings; more use / availability of aromatherapy oil burners to stimulate the senses; and creative use of music and the sounds of nature to touch people’s hearts. In city hotels too. I don’t see CTME as only being for resorts.
Technology and physical items can help to create memorable experiences, but to me, technology only supports and enhances a hotel experience at the level of CTME. A hotel’s main focus should be on creating memorable experiences by developing the warmth and creativity of the service staff. I fear that CTME could deteriorate into a struggle for dominance in the area of technology.
2. Actions That Create Memorable Experiences
I think that this will be the other area where the focus will be as hotels try to make a guest’s stay a memorable experience. This is an area of great fun where the staff’s imagination should be allowed to run wild with passionate abandon! There are so many ways to create a memorable experience, but I feel sure that many hotels will fail here because of inflexible procedures and because of having to follow sterile and emotionless (corporate?) standards.
Creating memorable experiences requires that staff can make spontaneous decisions without having to fill in a request form; or wait for the Supervisor or Manager to become available to approve an action. They should be able to “Just Do It!”, Nike style, without fear of retribution if things go wrong, as they will do sometimes.
Can your restaurant staff give away a rose to couples (or single guests) of their choice during or at the end of a meal? Would they dare to go to a couple during the dessert and say, “Because you’re such a lovely couple, I’d like to give you this rose.”
There are no rules for this kind of service. It has to have a strong spontaneous element or else it will become routine and lose its emotional value, like a Guest Appreciation Programme or … the hotel birthday cake.
Let your staff try things out. Even give them a “license to charm”. For example, a Waiter could go to a couple at a table and say to the man, “Excuse me, (name). There’s a telephone call for you over here.” When you are both out of sight of the table, give him a rose to give to his lady friend / wife, and encourage him to give it to her in a romantic way. Of course, he has got to play the game by saying to her that he had ordered it. For sure, she won’t forget the experience, and who makes most buying decisions nowadays? Men or women? Perhaps for the cost of a rose, you will have more loyal customers.
Corporate standards may be an obstacle, however. The lift is an example. How many of you find a hotel lift journey to be a memorable experience? It’s usually a place of deadly silence with people afraid to even look at each other, let alone talk to each other. Piped in music doesn’t change things. A TV screen tuned to CNBC certainly doesn’t. Surely nobody thought it would!??
Think … how can you get people from different races, religions, nationalities, and backgrounds to laugh together in the sterile and silent atmosphere of a 5-star hotel lift while going from the Lobby even just to the 5th floor? … One hotel wanted to install a flat TV screen with a continuous slide show of funny pictures, but corporate office would not approve the idea because it conflicted with their brand standards for a lift! Another hotel wanted to install a DVD player and TV screen in its limousines for the long journey from the airport, but corporate office would not allow it! … Do you see what I mean?
3. Aligning the Hotel’s Systems and Processes With the Concept of CTME
Now we arrive at the first of the areas where success in CTME becomes a lot of work and requires a lot of change. If you ignore this area, I don’t think you will achieve the level of service and experience involved in CTME.
So … let’s suppose that you want to upgrade your customer service to this level and you want the service to be infused with love, care, warmth, empathy, and creativity. What will you have to do?
a) Review Your Core Values:4. The Core Spiritual Values of Customer Service.
This may be the hardest area for hotels to develop because you can’t develop people in the core values in the same way as with skills and knowledge. It would take too much more of your time to explain this in detail here. (Refer to 3d).
The hotel experience at this level of service has to become like a handkerchief dipped into water and dripping with water. The handkerchief represents the services and facilities while the water represents the 5 core values. The more the hotel experience is dripping with love, care, warmth, empathy, and creativity, the more successful the hotel will be, and the easier it will be to progress to the higher level of customer service that CTME will evolve into.
The core values of love, care, warmth, empathy, and creativity should be like a golden thread that runs through every interaction, standard, and process so that the hotel experience becomes almost unreal. The intensity of these intangible core values should be almost tangible.
I think that you will know if you are succeeding in creating this level of service when you see it in the eyes, smile, and general body language of your staff; when the core values become a regular topic in the morning senior management meetings; and when the guest feedback refers regularly to the level of warmth.
If I were the CEO of a hotel group or even the GM of a hotel, I would be asking my leaders and staff every day:
I realize that all this may sound very idealistic and hairy fairy, but you really can create a hotel experience like this if you want to. Why bother with anything less? The concept of service will become a way of doing business, and hopefully banish customer satisfaction to the museums of the hospitality industry where it belongs.
The days have gone when it was enough just to provide fast and efficient service, and to show courtesy and respect. Even some pizza companies are moving on from that! People everywhere face many problems and worries each day - marital and family problems, pressure at work, loneliness, frustrated dreams, money problems, low self-esteem, etc. People need and want to experience love, care, warmth, empathy, and creativity when they stay at a hotel, even though they might not write this on their comment card.
Achieving this level of service and guest experience involves an awful lot of work. You have to change the way you are used to training. You also have to align all your systems, job descriptions, procedures, leadership style, etc., with the concept of service. But if you do so, and combine it with relevant technology, aromatherapy oils, lighting, sounds, and music, then you will transform your guests’ hotel experience to something truly memorable.
Bear in mind that this level of service will be the foundation for what customer service will evolve into – service and a hotel experience that fulfill the guests’ dreams!
Peter McAlpine is the Senior Consultant at Renaissance Consulting Ltd. in Bangkok. The company specializes in pre-opening 5-star city hotels and resorts at the level of creating truly memorable experiences; upgrading customer service to this level; and inspiring hotel staff. If you would like the full article, please e-mail Peter at info@renaissanceconsultingltd.Com
Renaissance Consulting Ltd.
|Also See:||What is Customer Service Like at the Level of Creating Memorable Experiences; How Do You Create It? What Does it Look Like? / Peter McAlpine|