At the moment, business is good nearly everywhere, but many in the industry are quietly wondering when “the other shoe will drop,” and when the current profitability cycle will officially come to an end. Softness in growth in the current environment often comes from the onset of plenty of new supply of all shapes & sizes, rather than from a true softening of demand. Despite all of this, the downturn is coming, it’s just a question of when. Knowing this, are you spending your time (and money!) wisely on renovation/product enhancement opportunities now before the bubble bursts?
Many owners and developers are working hard to develop and implement renovation plans to carry them through the next cycle. It’s a logical strategy to be planning and working now, as cash flows will be impacted when business begins to slow. So, while all of this seems very matter-of-fact, it’s surprising to note how many such renovation projects will take place without any input from the most important constituents in this equation, namely, the customer.
To open oneself up to the creative input of the customer can be a slippery slope; so much of what a guest likes or does not like is highly subjective. However, there are many practical and cutting-edge applications that can be included in renovation plans that are not always considered by owners, managers, or even interior designers. There are many examples in today’s market of owners working to differentiate their products from their competition; owners, operators, and designers are all focused on providing their guests with the latest in technology, in “look & feel,” and in overall guest experience. The potential disconnect here, however, is that the guest him/herself seldom has a say in this process.
Experience dictates that it is crucial for ownership to engage the guest in the future of its hotel properties. Conventional wisdom suggests using our frequent guests for such feedback; we would encourage the involvement of regular as well as casual guests, because personal taste is exactly that, personal. A random sampling of guests on a regular basis, incented by the offer of a brief semi-private cocktail hour, or 500 bonus loyalty program points for example, can provide valuable input on what matters most (and what does not) to our current and future customers.
While perhaps more difficult for branded hotels, independent properties have an opportunity to gain valuable feedback from customers by incorporating a few key questions into your online customer guest satisfaction surveys. Such questions can’t be too broad, i.e. “what would you like to see in our hotel that isn’t present today?” but need to lead the guest to an easy but useful conclusion. For example, “the ability to access your personal Netflix, Apple TV, and other applications through your in-room television is something that we are exploring. Is this important to you?” Whatever the questions, they need to be specific enough to draw forth useful information in the responses that you receive.
Ultimately, owners have a tremendous opportunity—obligation even—to let their customers have material input relative to the product that they are trying to sell to these customers. Particularly now such input has a very real potential to impact future revenue, especially as we move closer to the end of the current cycle.