Upside down, inside out

There have been two common conversational themes over the last six months. Firstly, how will hospitality companies respond to the shortage of labour that will inevitably come with Brexit and secondly, how to be competitive and offer new engaging service lines in a market that is both under pressure and saturated with competition.

It is true, the market is saturated with choice and options. The consumer’s expectations are constantly on the rise and skilled labour will be at a premium. However, it is an opportunity to not just follow the traditional routes but perhaps throw everything in the air and review all the fundamentals so that new and old solutions are found. Rather than these problems being a major negative, it could be that these problems offer the opportunity for positive change and growth. There is a view that many operations have become lazy in the basics. Or have moved so far from their starting point that they have lost sight of how best to action their core business activities, caught up in the noise and distraction that now surrounds business practice.

 

Really? Lazy? Is this fair? Some thoughts to consider:

  • In the modern era, should five star hotels really charge for Wi-Fi access in their operations? It is now resented by consumers who understand the cost of the service and know they can likely access Wi-Fi freely outside of the building. Does this build customer faith and goodwill or destroy the potential relationships to be created? Is it a fair revenue line or is it a last possibly desperate way to increase revenue? Estonia now offers free Wi-Fi across the whole country and even many of the train lines in the UK offer free Wi-Fi and yet leading, expensive hotel operations do not? Why do they not see the benefit that small improvements in customer service and the customer journey can have on dwell time, loyalty and ultimately customer spend?
  • Airbnb is a business model that very few would have ever considered or invented – in fact most would have dismissed the model as being very unlikely to succeed and yet it has not only been successful, it has offered the consumer an excellent new service that really has challenged the mid hotel market. How has the hotel market responded in terms of innovation?

 

ESTONIA NOW OFFERS FREE WI-FI ACROSS THE WHOLE COUNTRY AND EVEN MANY OF THE TRAIN LINES IN THE UK OFFER FREE WI-FI AND YET LEADING, EXPENSIVE HOTEL OPERATIONS DO NOT?

 

  • There are very few hotels that still possess the old fashioned Mein Host General Manager that is clearly visible and yet the consumer/community really enjoyed seeing the GM on the floor, in control. It added a service line, a comfort and confidence, a sense of belonging. It declined as hotel mangers became business managers rather than service focused. Are we beginning to see a change back, is there a refocus on the importance of visible leadership and good old fashioned relationships?
  • It is interesting as one of the other debates that is linked to the above is that the skill of welcoming and hosting – the core of hospitality is either exceptional or pretty poor depending on which operation is entered. For a time, hotels were viewed almost as retail operations rather than hospitality centres and of course the result was a decline in core skills which are essential in order to build spend by the customer. The customer will always spend more in a venue that they are relaxed within. There is a new focus on training welcome skills and empathy for the customer and truly understanding the customer journey.

There is a debate whether most corporates carry too many middle managers and whether corporate cultures have become too strategic and box ticking rather than focusing on the business and having strong external facing cultures. There are companies that are beginning to debate the return of dress down days in head offices and more flexible working hours. All very relaxed but how do the operators at the coal face – who have to operate seven days a week – feel about their leaders having such policies at head office?

We have written previously that senior executives have to make decisions 40% faster and yet actions are taking 20% longer to action/implement. Is there a need to free up actioning? Is there a need to give leaders the freedom and support to enable them to lead? Is there a need to review existing processes and question why we do certain things, or why they are done in a specific way. What would the impact be if you just stopped?
 It is easy to be negative about the challenges that lie ahead but maybe the question is how does one re-engineer services and businesses? Far from being a negative challenge, this could be a great opportunity for those that are prepared to review just how they deliver hospitality.