Businesses that succeed for the next 15, 20 or 50 years will be customer-centric and experience-driven, but how many truly understand what this means? Over 80% of companies recognize customer experience as a differentiator capable of accelerating revenue and reducing costs, yet only one-third rate their own customer experience at a level of eight out of 10 or better.
One of the best ways to improve is to simply look at what others are doing. Here are four lessons hospitality leaders can learn from brands that are differentiating and dominating customer experience:
LESSON #1: Share your story
Every company has a unique story. The way you share yours has the power to revolutionize your brand entirely.
Consider Bombas, a provider of “mind blowing athletic-leisure socks with a mission to help those in need.” Socks are reportedly the No. 1 most-requested clothing item at homeless shelters, so for every pair of Bombas a customer purchases the company donates a pair to someone in need. We’ve seen this business model before with brands like TOMS and Mable, but it’s the way Bombas shares its story that sets it apart. The brand has a refreshingly different flavor that leaves you wanting more:
How does this translate into hospitality? Simply think about the story behind your property. For example, does your brand have deep family roots that you carefully work to preserve today? Perhaps you risked it all to launch a visionary boutique hotel unlike anything anyone has seen. Identify your story, and creatively share it with the world. At the end of the day, competing businesses offer relatively the same product or service. It’s the way they promote that product or service, and connect with customers in the process, that gets the sale.
LESSON #2: Know what you stand for
Ask yourself: why do you do what you do? You can’t possibly be in business with the sole intent of generating revenue. There must be a deeper meaning to your brand. What I don’t mean here is closing your eyes and pointing to a random corporate social responsibility program. I mean a real, heartfelt commitment to something that resonates with your brand and ultimately establishes deeper, long-term customer relationships.
Consider Buffy, self-described as “the world’s most comfortable comforter.” As a down-alternative comforter, every Buffy saves 12 geese from being live plucked (the amount it takes to procure 3 lbs. of goose down for one comforter). Its natural eucalyptus also uses 10x less water than cotton, saving up to 800 liters of water per comforter.
How does this translate into hospitality? Every organization, including your hotel, has a responsibility to go beyond what’s expected of it. Some ideas to consider: launching a creative marketing campaign to triple the amount of water your property saves by the end of the year. Or better yet, donating to a charity (Charity: Water is a great one!) for every room that decides to go green by reusing towels.
LESSON #3: Anticipate and deliver
By 2020, it’s expected that 57% of customers will depend on companies to know what they need before they ask for anything. Several leading brands aptly demonstrate this ability to anticipate and deliver, and it has made all the difference.
For example, Netflix uses a range of machine-learning algorithms to tweak and improve the way it presents content to hundreds of millions of subscribers. This is a strategy that has steadily increased customer satisfaction and revenue (the company exceeded $11B in a record-breaking Q4 2017, and is on track to exceed $15B by the end of this year). Or, consider Spotify: the company delivers personalized playlists to its over 70 million subscribers based on songs they listen to most.
How does this translate into hospitality? Consider a newsletter campaign that delivers anticipatory offers, updates and discounts based on guests’ past purchases, survey feedback or contextual data gathered during stays (ex: you see that a guest, connected to your property’s Wi-Fi network, listened to Justin Timberlake’s new album on repeat during her stay. So, you share in an upcoming newsletter that he will be playing at your venue as part of his upcoming tour).
LESSON #4: Design with the guest in mind
Always keep in mind what’s best for the customer. Consider eyeglasses company Warby Parker: the brand boasts a “mirrored layout” where every frame that is displayed on the left wall is also displayed on the right. According to Forbes, this setup sacrifices almost half of the store’s prime, eye-level shelf space. Yet the design ensures customers can try on frames without feeling cramped or uncomfortable. The decision, albeit unconventional, has helped the brand steadily outpace major eyeglass retailers (the startup has grown to $1.2B in just three years, which is practically unheard of).
How does this translate into hospitality? How can you put guests at the forefront of your property’s design? Perhaps there’s the opportunity to develop a new system for accelerating check-ins. Or, you might consider how you can better simplify check-outs. This would be a good time to leverage customer feedback to learn what matters to guests most.
Research suggests only 7% of brands are currently exceeding customer expectations. As leaders, it’s up to us to think creatively and push the limits of possibility to create extraordinary customer outcomes.