It's Not Just Celebrity Tweets That Reshape The Hospitality Industry
When You’re Feeling Less Than Chipper …
When Chipper Jones, professional baseball star, settled into his room at the 1,300-room Grand Hyatt in New York last September, he did not like what he found. He decided to tell his thousands of fans and ‘followers’ on Twitter about his tribulations. The cooling system was unsatisfactory:
That wasn’t all: “the movie channels don’t work and the beds make my back spasm up”.
As the social media universe began to spread news of Chipper’s discomfort, it was picked up by Lauren Schubert, marketing/PR Co-ordinator of the Grand Hyatt. She immediately notified Hotel’s Front Office Managers as well as the Convention Services Manager who was able to liaise with the travel manager of Chipper’s baseball team and assure him that any problems were being dealt with.
Within minutes, maintenance staff were at Chipper’s room, fixing his problems, causing him to post further tweets about the hotel – this time of a positive nature:
And Mr Jones’ last tweet is completely won over, telling all his 300,000 followers how fantastic the Grand Hyatt really was. All was forgotten:
You might think it was fortunate that Lauren Schubert noticed the social media traffic mentioning her hotel. Not really: it’s her job. ‘Social listening’ as it’s called is now a vital part of how brands and organisations connect with their customer: how the companies find out what they are feeling, how they rate their experiences, what they want.
Modern hotel management (or ‘hospitality management’) is not just about making sure the towels are folded right.
Hospitality: A Modern Industry For A Modern Customer
We work harder than ever – and we also play harder. In a pressurised work environment, our leisure time is vital to us. No longer content to wait for our annual holiday, we take more weekend and mini-breaks, organise elaborate stag and hen parties, pursue a wider range of hobbies, eat out more.
In our work lives, we have learned the importance of networking. We attend more conferences and other business events, entertain clients and stakeholders, and participate in team-building exercises. We have, in short, far greater contact with an industry that employs 2 million people (10% of the UK national workforce).
Not only is the hospitality industry continuing, despite any recession, to grow, it is changing beyond recognition. For the next generation of hospitality managers this presents both great opportunities and great challenges. They need to understand how the modern customer thinks and operates, and how the hospitality sector is responding to their needs.
A hospitality manager not only needs to understand the sector and its particular features but the wider business and technological context in which their businesses operate: how the sector is marketed, the accounting procedures used, how data and quality management systems inform the constant process of evaluating this intensely customer-focused environment.
Great Customer Service Brings Dividends
20 years ago, we would still trudge down to the travel agents, pick up a load of glossy brochures with suspiciously fuzzy pictures – into which we’d more or less stick a pin. In the same way we’d meander down high streets, peering at laminated menus, hoping their monochrome blandness would offer clues as to the meal we might expect to be served.
No longer. Now, we can instantly appraise each and every company by means of our tablets or smartphones. If we are famous, we can, like Chipper Jones or Kevin Smith (http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2010/feb/15/overweight-filmmaker-banned-southwest-airlines), severely harm a brand image, but even if we are not, our reviews, our ‘yays’ or ‘nays’, are vital to the futures of the businesses with which we interact.
No more is this true than with regard to hospitality: where we spend the money we work so hard to obtain, where we expect to receive service, empathy, but where we also ruthlessly compare and drive down prices.
But great hospitality brings great rewards: the power of great reviews is so marked that it can take your business from nowhere to the top of the heap. All around the world hotels and restaurants are fighting to get good reviews in sites like TripAdvisor – and the only way to get them is to offer exceptional service.
And you don’t have to be Chipper Jones to make that difference.
No going Back
No longer can the hospitality sector take its customers for granted, expect them to be passive recipients of a service. Nor can they charge what they wish, content in the knowledge that their clients won’t know the going rate.
But the pernickety, all-powerful consumer is only a problem if you cannot find an innovative way to respond to market realities. 20 years ago, who would have believed how hotels would differentiate themselves (http://hotelhaiku.com/), how camping would go upmarket , leading to glampsites in Sussex?
That hotels would start enabling check-in by tablet for more ‘personalised’ service? (http://www.infor.com/company/news/pressroom/pressreleases/CityNites/) That one day little guys with big ideas about how to make flying profitable would challenge the mighty airlines and force them to change? (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-22888304)
The winners in the hospitality industry will be those who know and embrace the changing technological terrain (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/19/hotel-industry-predictions_n_1982122.html), and know and appreciate the modern customer – in the world’s biggest industry.
Tell us what you think about changes in hospitality in the comments below – are you surprised that it’s the world’s biggest industry?