What Customer Experience do you Want to Deliver?
Having a vision of an ideal customer experience should be the starting point for investing in technologies and marketing approaches to grow your business. That’s one of the key messages for hotel and restaurant owners from Deloitte’s Travel and Hospitality Industry Outlook 2017.
Touch points are part of a bigger picture
Deloitte’s report suggests that gaining loyal customers in 2017 will come from, “…a shift in thinking to make customer experience paramount.” But what is customer experience?
Customer experience is shaped by many things: the quality of your products and services, the friendliness of staff, price, convenience, your decor, the music you play…the list goes on. But what matters, even more, is putting all these elements together in a strategic way.
Insights by consulting firm McKinsey shared in the Harvard Business Review reveal that perfecting individual touchpoints with customers may not be enough, if the sum of the parts does not meet expectations. That’s where customer experience comes in, ultimately acting as the impression a person develops over time based on their entire interaction with your brand.
McKinsey found that companies that successfully manage the entire customer journey “…reap enormous rewards: enhanced customer satisfaction, reduced churn, increased revenue, and greater employee satisfaction.”
What experiences will drive real value?
Given that customer experience is a cumulative effect, most people don’t get fed up by one bad interaction. But that doesn’t mean customers are inclined to be loyal. Most people are indifferent—willing to change their plans to take advantage of a better price, service or experience.
That means you need to envision the ideal journey for the customers you want to attract, and then prioritise efforts that will allow you to offer those experiences consistently, and at scale.
Deloitte’s report suggests brands need to provide truly valuable and memorable experiences that focus on authenticity, personalisation and immediacy. It says hotel guests, “…will define a brand by the quality of their experiences across a proliferation of touch points, including smartphones, desktops, wearable apps, over the phone, and on property”.
It takes a holistic, integrated approach to cultivate devoted customers, willing to leave positive reviews online, share your hashtags on social media or recommend your business to a friend.
Navigate new technology carefully
Deloitte’s report points to the fact that, as in many other industries, travel and hospitality leaders will be those that adapt to changes in the economy, technology and consumer mindsets.
Making the customer experience special and embedded throughout your business while riding the wave of disruption will inevitably involve investments in technology. But there is a balance to be found between being left behind and moving too quickly.
An example from the Deloitte report is the millions spent upgrading hotels with tablet kiosks similar to those used by airlines, only to be made obsolete by the rise of app-based mobile check-in.
The report acknowledges that making smart choices will only become more difficult as new technologies like virtual reality and the Internet of Things emerge. Decisions need to be driven by a clear understanding of what makes a great customer experience and what technologies will support that.
Create experiences worth sharing
The report also uses the example of a successful airline app that allows passengers to track their luggage using radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology. The app was not created to meet a significant practical need (lost luggage affects a small percentage of people) but rather to boost customers’ peace of mind: integral to a positive flying experience.
Understanding your ideal customer experience will also allow you to take full advantage of the most influential marketing platforms, including social media.
In a recent review of social media trends that matter in 2017, content marketing platform Contently highlight the fact that most people that use the internet also use social media, more often than not via their mobile, and most likely to watch or share video content.
Hotel and hospitality businesses need to understand how customers use travel and hospitality experiences to build their own personal brand; especially using image and video-based platforms like Instagram and Snapchat.
Deloitte’s report suggests that brands, “…make it a point to create experiences worth sharing in order to capitalize on the enormous exposure these platforms provide.”
Start with customer experience to succeed
It’s not possible to design and promote experiences that break through apathy or to cleverly leverage technologies and platforms to boost loyalty unless you can clearly imagine the ideal customer experience.
Using that knowledge to make decisions will ensure a cohesive customer journey where marketing promises are consistently met or exceeded in unique ways that resonate with your customers and deliver excellent hospitality experiences.
About the Author
A former news hound, editor and roaming reporter for News Corp Australia for 12 years, Josh is now a freelance copywriter covering politics, innovation, technology, health, science and financial services, among other topics.