Are people no longer the key drivers of great experience?

It seems an odd question to ask in the hospitality industry, given the main differential can often come down to the people. But as the world changes, competition increases and the need to have a USP grows, should hospitality businesses look towards other industries for ideas?

Recent retail, public spaces and workplaces research argues it is now all about the design experience – what can we learn from this?

Recently architecture business Gensler have created an Index which validates a quantifiable impact on experience. They argue their Experience Index and research shows that design can be the key differentiating factor between a good experience and a great one.

According to their index, a person’s experience in a space is driven by their purpose or intention in visiting that space. Those intentions are represented by five modes:

  • Task – seeking to accomplish something
  • Social – intending to interact
  • Discovery – open to exploration
  • Entertainment – seeking diversion
  • Aspiration – seeking personal growth/connect to higher purpose

The findings say that places designed to accommodate multiple activities – e.g. working and exercising are more likely to result in great experiences. Plus, whilst it’s important to understand intention as above, it is also about the experience and quality of interaction – so for hospitality this is the people.

It is an interesting conversation to be had and only this week Smith & Sinclair’s experiential retail concession has opened at the John Lewis on Oxford Street. The edible cocktail innovators aim to change perceptions of retail experiences with an interactive in-store experience that plays with the senses. Those visiting can try out scent diffusing walls and enjoy the cocktails which blur the lines between alcohol and confectionery, encouraging adults to play again.

What’s so interesting about this new experience is that the whole customer journey has been designed with what appears to be no real human interaction. Lighting, materials, layout and scent have all been considered with meticulous attention to detail but not people.

Both the Gensler Index and Smith & Sinclair Experience are fascinating examples of how businesses are changing their approach to the market and working on innovation to engage with their customers. It does make one question that if two businesses are competing for the same customer and both possess:

  • Well-trained effective employees
  • Quality food and beverage offers

Then will the decision come down to which provides the better experience and that could lie with design?

Some of you may have also seen this week the Claridge’s Christmas tree installation has been unveiled. It’s upside down. To what extreme must we go when one of the most reognisable hotels in the world aims to innovate the traditional? It’s an exciting time.