I think it’s fair to say that airlines and hotels make money at the margins.
In other words, you have various groups of guests you can “count on,” and then it’s filling those extra seats and rooms at the highest possible yields that has the greatest impact on your bottom line. That’s why dynamic pricing and inventory/revenue management are so important.
One of my favorite things about constantly being on the road is experiencing well-executed hospitality. The hotel industry is often referred to as the “hospitality industry,” and in theory for good reason.
But when you’re flying or staying at a hotel, how often do you really feel like a guest as opposed to a transaction?
A Starwood SVP appeared on Bloomberg the other day to explain that 2% of their guests generate 30% of their profits.
Let me throw some numbers out as a frequent flyer and hotel guest, as those numbers sort of resonated with me in another way. I’d say 30% of my perception and memory of a brand is derived from 2% of my experiences.
When I stay in a hotel or take a flight, there’s a range of services I expect.
In business class, for example, I expect call buttons to be answered quickly, flight attendants to be friendly, seats to be comfortable, food to be edible, etc. At four star hotels, I expect the check-in associates to be friendly, the phone to be picked up quickly, rooms to be clean, Wi-Fi to be fast, etc.
Of course there’s a range of services within those categories. But I’ve realized it’s really the smallest things that are memorable for me, and that leave a lasting impression.
I’ve had three such experiences so far this week, and they all put the biggest smile on my face, so I figured I’d share them:
In Singapore business class….
On Tuesday I flew from Frankfurt to New York in Singapore Airlines business class, and was really pleasantly surprised.
The service was amazing throughout. But what made me smile and really was memorable for me was in the middle of the flight when the cabin was dark, and within a minute of waking up I was approached and asked “Mr. Schlappig, would you care for something to drink? Perhaps another glass of champagne or a cappuccino?”
There are so many little things to get right, but in a cabin with 86 seats, he knew my name, approached me at lightning speeds without me asking for anything, anticipated I might want something, and remembered what I had to drink earlier. For me, that’s hospitality.
At the Park Hyatt New York…
I stayed at the Park Hyatt New York Tuesday night (which was also their grand opening), and will have a full review of that shortly. The hotel is spectacular and service was simply flawless.
There literally wasn’t one thing I could critique about the service. But that’s what you’d hope for from the flagship Park Hyatt property, right?
What stuck with me more than anything, though, was the doorman, Christopher. He was just so damn friendly and happy to be working there, and a positive attitude is infectious. But that’s not out of the ordinary. I expect people to be enthusiastic on opening day, and expect them to be excited to work at the flagship Park Hyatt property.
But what really impressed me is that when I left the hotel in the evening, he stopped me and asked if he could fix my collar.
That’s literally the thing I remember the most about my stay. Why? Because that was in no way part of his job description. He wasn’t doing it because I was a transaction, but was doing it because I was a guest.
And it was an amazing, amazing stay otherwise.
At the Grand Hyatt Tampa…
The Grand Hyatt Tampa is basically my home hotel. I stay there all the time, and they take amazing care of me. The staff are fantastic across the board.
I’ve stayed there dozens of times, but my most recent visit left more of an impression than anything that has been done before.
When I returned to my room there were two cans of Diet Coke (keep in mind Hyatt has a partnership with Pepsi), lime, and a cheese plate with nuts and strawberries. Thanks to Kenny at the front desk for that (who I swear will one day be the GM of a hotel).
I wasn’t expecting a welcome amenity (I chose the 1,000 points, after all), I’ve never received a welcome amenity before, and I don’t ever expect one again.
But that amenity which maybe cost a couple of dollars left a lasting impression.
Am I the only one impressed by the little things?
Well-executed service is great, and can certainly leave a positive impression. But for me it’s the little touches that make the difference between a great experience and a memorable one.
Loyalty programs are more competitive than ever, and in many ways the competition is getting tougher, especially on the hotel front. Hotels don’t just have to fight for business with one another, but are now also competing with the likes of Airbnb.
I’d love to see a “2.0” of most loyalty programs, which aren’t just about published benefits, but about customizing the experience.
How about a welcome amenity specific to the guest’s desires, like Kimpton has? Or actually getting to know the room preferences guests have?
For example, I hate rooms with connecting doors, and will take a room with the view of an airport over a view of something more “scenic.” I hate decorative pillows and when the TV is turned on at turndown, so I can’t even say how much of a smile it would put on my face if a hotel “got” that.
Interestingly in the Bloomberg interview I referenced above, the Starwood SVP (in part) says the following:
“One of the things we’ve learned from our SPG members is that their needs change trip to trip. I remember we were doing one of our focus groups and one of our Platinum members said ‘look, I’m on the road 100 nights a year at your hotels, and most of the time as a consultant what I care about is I’m going to arrive late and I want a couple of Diet Cokes and a cobb salad in my room. But you know what, the next time I’m taking a trip I might be with my husband and two small daughters, and if you don’t understand my unique needs for that trip, if you look at me as a Platinum guest as opposed to the valuable guest of yours who has unique needs, than you’ve missed an opportunity.’ So we’ve spent a lot of time on personalization.”
They’ve certainly talked the talk, but I’d love to see the major hotel chains actually walk the walk on this one.
And a sincere thanks to those of you in the airline and hotel industry that make it the hospitality industry. You guys rock!
Am I the only one more thrilled by the little touches that make me feel like the hotel knows me as opposed to just knowing me by how often I stay with them (be it the individual hotel or the chain as a whole)?