Tuesday, March 21st, 2017 | 12 min read
Customer experience has never been more important. Connected and empowered like never before, customers’ expectations have skyrocketed. As a result, businesses have begun to realize that personalized interactions are now all but required – consider that 89% of marketers expect the customer experience to be their primary differentiator.
In the hospitality industry, especially, customer experience is everything. Hotels want to generate long-term customer loyalty, and it only takes one bad experience for 25% of customers to defect to competitors.
For those that excel at creating memorable customer experiences, the rewards are clear. Such hotels can achieve revenue gains of 5 to 10 percent and cost reductions of 15 to 25 percent within two or three years.
Here are four examples of hotels that take customer experience beyond the pillow mint.
EVEN Hotels offer wellness-minded business and leisure travelers the opportunity to maintain their routine while on the road. Every aspect of an EVEN Hotel is centered around health and wellness, using four focus points — Keep Active, Rest Easy, Eat Well and Accomplish More.
— EVEN Hotels (@EvenHotels) January 12, 2017
Maintaining such an immersive customer experience starts with hotel staff, who are knowledgeable about health and wellness, and quick with recommendations for local running routes. Hotel general managers are referred to as ‘chief wellness officers’ and take it upon themselves to arrange and lead group runs for guests unfamiliar with the city in which they’re staying.
Hotel staff set the tone for the facilities in general, which create a healthy living paradise. Each room comes with exercise guides and workout zones with various pieces of fitness gear (not to mention a standing guest).
A post shared by EVEN Hotels (@evenhotels) on
The attention to detail and immersive experience provided by EVEN Hotels makes it much easier for hotel guests to maintain their fitness routine on the road. Since first opening in Connecticut in 2014, the brand has expanded across the United States and is planning to expand to Australia and New Zealand.
EVEN’s success in targeting is all the more notable considering that the brand is owned by InterContinental Hotels Group.
EVEN Hotels create a memorable customer experience by providing a platform for maintaining normal routine, something that many hotels simply strive for.
The Hilton name is synonymous with hospitality, quality and – as Hilton CMO Geraldine Calpin puts it – delivering “white glove treatment.” Nowhere is this more apparent than in the brand’s loyalty program, Hilton Honors, which has over 60 million members.
There are many benefits to joining the program. Through the mobile app, guests can select the exact room they want, order meals ahead of time, check in and out, and unlock rooms and elevators using a digital key. These features streamline many processes for both the hotel and its guests – front desk staff can focus on more valuable face-to-face interactions, while guests avoid worrying about losing hotel room keys.
Hilton recently revealed updates the Honors program, including the ability to book travel using a combination of loyalty points and money, and the ability to pool points with other guests.
— Hilton Honors (@HiltonHonors) March 6, 2017
Furthermore, Hilton has partnered with Uber to give guests recommendations on places to eat and drink based on real-time information. This frees up time for guests that they would otherwise spend looking for places.
Hilton is also working on the implementation of a feature that seems to have been some way inspired by Uber. According to Geraldine Calpin, guests will be able to track the progress of their room service as it is brought into the elevator and down the corridor to their hotel room.
From a customer experience perspective, it is Hilton’s venture into location technology that is most intriguing. Through a collaboration with Spotify and concert promoter Live Nation, Hilton is giving Honors members ‘Money Can’t Buy Experiences.’ These include special offers on concerts and musical walking tours that take guests through important locations in music history.
Marriott is a truly global name. Its portfolio includes 363 luxury hotels in 61 countries with 180 more luxury hotels in the pipeline, including locations in 20 new countries. These figures are impressive, but how does Marriott manage the customer experience across such a wide spectrum of hotels?
According to Andy Kauffman, VP of digital, Marriott “[puts] the guest in the center of things.” By looking at the customer journey across channels, Marriott maximizes value for the business as well as its guests. Through recent updates to the Marriott Rewards loyalty program and exclusive for loyalty members Mobile App, the brand is meeting the demands of digital and creating an engaging customer experience.
Marriott has been a market leader in mobile app development in recent years, and was the first hotel chain to offer mobile check-in and ‘room ready’ alerts in 2014. Since then, the company has sought constant improvement in customer experience, announcing several new features.
The Marriott Mobile App now has a ‘one-button design’, meaning that new options are displayed in the app depending on what point of a trip the guest is on. For example, the app may list suggestions of things to do a few days into the trip.
Another feature, called Mobile Requests, allows loyalty members to communicate with on-property associates before, during, and after their stay. Requests such as extra towels or toiletries are common, but a chat box allows guests to communicate direct requests to staff. Up to 54% of guests make customization requests before their stay.
George Corbin, senior VP of digital, emphasizes the need for exemplary customer experience, saying that, to have relevance, Marriott “needs to have personalization”.
— Marriott Hotels (@Marriott) February 13, 2017
With luxury travel expected to grow at a faster pace than overall travel, many more opportunities lay ahead for Marriott to improve its already-impressive customer experience.
The Disney view of customer experience was summed up perfectly by Walt Disney, co-founder of the global behemoth: “Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends.” Through its yearly Customer Experience Summit and Disney Institute professional development offerings, the company reaffirms its commitment to customer experience.
Disney has created memorable experiences for decades, but Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida has taken customer experience into the stratosphere. Spread across 25,000 acres of central Florida, Disney World Resort contains four theme parks, almost 140 attractions, 300 places to eat, and a mind-boggling 36 resort hotels.
True to its “Happiest Place on Earth” moniker, Disney World Resort is constantly looking for ways to improve the already wonderful experience that guests are treated to. The company’s recent investment of over $1 billion dollars in the Internet of Things and wearable solutions has taken this commitment to exemplary customer experience to the next level. One innovation in particular, the MagicBand, reflects Disney’s next-level thinking.
It all begins when you book your ticket online and pick your preferred attractions, dining locations, and rides. Your preferences are processed and packaged into an itinerary that calculates the best logistical approach for all attractions you want to visit. A few weeks shy of your trip, the MagicBand arrives in the mail. By allowing guests to choose what they want to do in advance of arrival, the customer experience is personalized to a tee.
Inside each wristband is an RFID chip and a radio like those in cordless phones. With enough battery to last two years, the MagicBand replaces everything you would usually carry in a backpack. Not only does the wristband become your itinerary – it is your room key and it can also be linked to your credit card to act as a payment system during your stay. Thanks to the capabilities for personalization of the MagicBand, guests can carry everything they need in an understated wristband.
Since its debut, Disney’s MagicBand has been wildly successful — more than 29 million have been produced, leading to Disney becoming the fourth largest distributor of wearables in the world.
For Disney, addressing the little details goes a long way. By designing a customer experience across all touchpoints, your customers can become some of the happiest people on earth.
Hospitality brands are shifting to provide customers with greater control over their experience. Much like self-service machines at airports and banks, more hotels are adding self-service features to their mobile apps. This allows customers to take better control of their overall experience.
Another primary trend within the hotel industry is a drive for loyalty creation. Loyalty programs are becoming increasingly experience-driven, as proven by Hilton and Marriott, which indicates that personalization is the key to customer loyalty. Hotels like EVEN and Walt Disney World Resort are experience-driven by nature, something that customers seek in a world filled with touchpoints.
As proven by the success of disruptors like Airbnb, challenges lay ahead for hotels to convince customers that they are the best option. However, with travel & tourism expected to outperform the global economy throughout the next decade, opportunities are plentiful. Hotels must focus on one significant piece in order to thrive: the customer.
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