15 Aug 2013

The Future of Hospitality Event and Room Services – Guest Blogger Andrew D. Shrout

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Between the internet and social media’s growing presence in our lives and the massive diversity in customers, the hospitality industry must evolve and adapt to new ways of providing service. Consistent and instant communication is a huge factor in gaining new customers, but to keep the customers, hotels must find a way to meet their specialized needs.  I was reading through a few articles recently on Chron (www.smallbusiness.chron.com) –“What Makes a Successful Event in the Hospitality Industry” by Brian Hill; “Management Theories and Practices in the Hospitality Industry” by Carol Poster and “Social Media in the Hospitality Industry” by Forest Time.  While I didn’t agree with all of their perspectives, the articles did make me think about what the future for our industry might be like.  A few factors and new trends in the hospitality industry are setting standards and will lead to better experiences.

Social Media
We know that social media has begun to become integral to communication and service in the hospitality industry.  Whether to offer discounts to your followers on Twitter, to tweeting “Good Morning!” to all of your customers in the hotel, or to share your customer’s story and experience on Facebook- instant connectivity is keeping the industry buzzing. Not only does a company gain presence and “free” advertising when customers check in, follow, or like their pages, but brand loyalty increases as customers (individual travelers and groups) receive regular messaging and offers from the venues. Perhaps the most important aspect of social media is the consumer’s ability to provide instantaneous feedback and/or criticism in a public way.  Via Yelp, Travel Advisor, Bing and others, the consumer holds more immediate power than was previously allowed.  A wise venue will watch and manage its social media closely for both the kudos, and the constructive criticism that will help them to improve services.

Quality Control
As travel and business meetings continue to grow post-recession and demand exceeds supply – I believe quality and exceptional, reliable service are the most important factors. Customers are less enamored with the idea of a famous chef cooking for them. Rather, they’re more concerned that their food is fresh and/or organic, or supports their lifestyle and dietary needs.   Maybe we thought Sally in When Harry Met Sally was high maintenance with her food demands, but in today’s world, accommodation of special needs is more the norm than the exception and a venue’s ability to be responsive & willing to provide viable choices can make all the difference as well as build repeat business.  Offering a versatile menu that features not the mere removal of things like gluten, meat or sugar, but quality food and effortless substitutions such as a mushroom burger instead of a beef burger, or gluten free breads as part of the buffet– will definitely help to build a happy clientele.
Consistency and ease are really important.

Unique Selling Points
With so many hotels and venues to choose from, travelers and event planners look for distinguishing factors. Certainly, brand favoritism plays a part and there are benefits to be reaped as a frequent guest, but I believe it is the little details that can make all the difference.  DoubleTree by Hilton Hotels still offer their warm cookie upon check-in to “every” guest, not just those with frequent stay status.  While their cookies are not my favorite, I do like that every customer receives this special gift. Discovering in advance what a guest likes, needs, or what would make their stay even better lets the guest know that they are valued and special.  If you can make an event or night’s stay memorable without being asked, it will cement the brand in the customer’s mind. But really, we aren’t mind readers – so “listening” becomes the true selling point.  Hotels must look to be the “best” at something no one else is: have the best free fruit bowls, the best coffee, and the best ability to get what you need with the most ease. If a person says “Wow!”, then you’ve secured a loyal customer.

The Future
With the creation of brand-loyal customers and hotels that cater to everything you could need, success in the future will become focused on preempting needs. When a venue starts to anticipate your needs in advance by getting to know you through communication and dialogue, they can then step up to take care of you before you ask.  Maybe it’s noting that on your last stay, you asked for foam pillows upon arrival, and thus they provide them each time.  Or if you requested soy milk for your buffet, it becomes a standard part of the food and beverage offering – not a special need.  Mostly, consumers don’t want to be segmented out because they have a “special need”.  They want providing their special need to be a part of the service a venue offers, and to feel special.  This is the future of making experiences the best possible through quality service and online presence.

These are just a few things I’ve noticed about the Hospitality Industry that I think are important.  What do you think?  Would you agree, or are there other things to consider?

A summer of sharing widsom!

A summer of sharing widsom!

 

Guest Blogger:  Andrew D. Shrout was a summer intern at Pick My Brain Consulting, and is currently a Political Economy major at U.C. Berkeley. He hopes to one day be an entrepreneur and is passionate about health and travel.

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