Many ask what has been the most surprising change which has taken place in 2022? It is hard to answer as so much has changed even from just a few months ago and the landscape is constantly shifting. However, the one trend which does seem to have a rising momentum though is the return in importance of relationships and a service level which places the customer right at the centre.
Many of the great city centre hotels, whilst enjoying the average room rates currently, are asking the question; how do we make the customer feel valued? What more can we do?
For so long, many have argued that hoteliers have been too transactional in their approach, focusing on the room rate and occupant levels over the full spectrum of services. This is best illustrated by how food & beverage has for so long been placed down the list of priorities due to the volume of associated problems and provided very little meaningful margin; certainly not enough to compare to the margins being delivered by the sale of rooms.
As restaurant concepts flourished and boomed over the last twenty years, it served to make many hoteliers almost lazier with the view that the external offers were so much stronger than what could be offered internally and so, the focus remained on where the high profit margins lay.
The opening of the Me did start to challenge the thinking and the Ned blew it out of the water as suddenly the City had a meeting place where customers could socialise and dine without ever feeling they were in a hotel. Even today, as the City’s return lags, the Ned is arguably one of the few hotspots of activity and life. Suddenly F&B in hotels had become important again as it became obvious that those hotels which engaged on multiple levels also performed strongly and retained strong guest satisfaction.
With the higher than forecast average room rates being achieved today, new questions are emerging. Are we providing great service and how can we provide a great experience?
The result is that the customer is sitting right back at the heart of business planning and services. Hotels arguably have travelled a journey which has returned them to their roots.
However, perhaps more importantly, service is once again the differential. This is now being seen across all businesses. Have you noticed how much more helpful the service is which is being provided by banks and insurance companies? The step up has been noticeable as companies have started to actually compete again for the customer.
It is the same in professional services. So many companies had become arrogant in their approach, believing that their brand would do the work. However, research is emerging which shows that those with strong relationships are achieving stronger returns and business levels than those who do not. It is no surprise as those with strong relationships will tell anyone that, when things go wrong, they will retain the trust and the time to ensure that a problem is corrected. It is about that elusive concept “trust”. So many have not worked hard enough over recent years to build trust with their customers and clients. They expect to rely on the past but the world has changed. If one is not working hard to win a client’s loyalty, there will always be another who will.
Everyone today, all across the market and social strata, are feeling concerned about the future. The one thing which is desired more than anything is trust and care. Customers will pay for a service which makes them feel valued, cared for and in which they can place their trust.
Companies are rebuilding trust through service. It is exciting to see as only a short while ago, the majority of consumers argued that they trusted apps and digitalisation over personal service. Maybe this was the catalyst for change? It could be the start of a strong new era for customer services.