Forging a Connection

Forging a Connection 2

Establishing brand loyalty by forging authentic relationships with your guests.

By Geoffrey Ryskamp

To ensure your hospitality company provides a positive and memorable customer experience, you must start with your best source of information – the guest. Gathering feedback teaches your enterprise what it’s doing right, what it’s doing wrong, and which of the two has more impact on the guest’s overall experience.

However, establishing brand loyalty and cultivating customers who return to your hotels time and time again takes more than a few survey questions. It requires looking at each piece of feedback through the guest’s perspective – seeing yourself as guests do – and using that data to determine next steps. It requires empathy.

A couple years ago, Harvard Business Review released a list of the most empathetic companies in the United States and United Kingdom. Aptly titled “The Empathy Index,” the report determined the top 20 companies using factors like leadership, company culture and brand perception. In addition, HBR found that “empathy is more important to a successful business than it has ever been, correlating to growth, productivity and earnings per employee.”

So, what steps can hotels take to ensure they’re empathetic in their approach to CX? Here are some tips for hotel operators, front-line employees and everyone in between.

Make Authenticity a Part of Your Corporate Culture

At the core of every great company, you can find great people who know the corporate mission and make it their goal to uphold that mission. With specific revenue metrics to meet and other corporate mandated tasks at hand, it can be easy to lose sight of the overarching mission: to provide your guests with a personable and positive experience that keeps them coming back.

The hospitality industry is people-driven and guests need to feel like they’re interacting with human beings, not just a brand. This is especially important when responding to customer feedback or concerns.

Forging a ConnectionWhile it may seem like a small gesture, employees are often surprised by the positive reaction they receive when reaching out to a guest after their stay. Calling a guest to thank them for their stay or sending them a handwritten note to invite them back can make a world difference. Consumers aren’t accustomed to brands stepping back from the digital channel to exchange pleasantries, but when they do, it reestablishes that human connection.

Don’t make this best practice; make it a habit. Authenticity should be your mission every day.

Keep Your Guest’s Frame of Reference in Mind

We’ve all heard the old adage to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. The key to understanding your guests – and providing them with a memorable experience that keeps them coming back – follows the same advice.

Imagine your guest is staying at your hotel while on vacation. Now imagine all the other experiences they may have had in their journey before arriving at your front desk – airlines, rental cars, etc. If those experiences didn’t go well, they’ll likely affect the guest’s frame of mind when they are ready to check-in.

A guest’s experience is just that: their own. While personalization is a large part of making an individual experience great, keeping your guest’s point of view in mind can help keep them coming back. This is most important when reviewing guest feedback.

An inconvenience may seem like a huge deal to one guest, but another may find it insignificant. Look beyond the score and determine any underlying themes in the guest’s comments so you can tailor the experience to their priorities.

Evoke Empathy at Every Touchpoint

When encouraging your employees to remain empathetic in their guest interactions, don’t forget to show them empathy as well. Engaging employees with guest feedback and empowering them to problem-solve plays a vital role in establishing authentic relationships with guests.

More often than not, front-line employees impact a guest’s overall experience just as much as room conditions or a property’s amenities. When guests mention a positive encounter in their feedback, be sure to recognize that staff member and the great experience they’re helping provide. In any industry, your employees serve as your best brand advocates; treating them with empathy can go a long way.

Geoffrey Ryskamp is the global head of Medallia's hospitality, travel and leisure practice. In this role, he leads a team that designs, enhances and deploys enterprise solutions to support CEM objectives of Fortune 500 hospitality companies. Ryskamp has been involved in the hospitality industry for over 15 years. Prior to joining Medallia, Ryskamp served as the director of asset management for Pebblebrook Hotel Trust, was part of the business intelligence group with Choice Hotels International and in the hospitality & leisure advisory practice within the investment management & real estate group of PwC. He has held management and operational roles with Hilton Worldwide, Marriott International, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Carlson Hotels Worldwide, Dolce International and Levy Restaurants. For more information visit www.medallia.com.

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