Is the industry as good at building relationships with its customers as is needed?

It is one of the most common questions asked: Why has hospitality struggled to communicate effectively to external audiences? To engage on career options and possibilities?

It is no secret that the industry has struggled to promote itself effectively over many years. With the new skills shortages, the challenge is as great as it has ever been.

Could it be as simple as suggesting that an industry which exists to serve, to place others first, will naturally struggle to engage and place itself first? Or is it, as others argue, that the industry has not been effective in understanding its customer and building a strong and long-lasting relationship with the customer? The argument is that the industry is not seen to be a strong profession as it has not always acted as effectively as it could as a business.

Many will note that the base of the industry is to listen, to act and to communicate. Some will argue that the skill set of a hospitality executive is to do that – listen and act, less so communicate and it is this which is reflected in the troubles which the industry has faced in engaging external audiences. Maybe so and maybe a good reason for why both Hospitality Action and Springboard are enjoying the leadership skillset of former journalists?

It is, of course, a bigger issue as many hotels also struggle to engage and retain with customers. The industry has long struggled to collect and understand data as well as communicate effectively with customers in a personalised, bespoke fashion. There are a number of reports which have highlighted that hotel groups struggle to be personal. It is often felt that many hospitality companies do not actually know their customers.

Research is suggesting that the industry is very good at listening to the immediate needs of a customer but very poor at developing a relationship which is personal and more than a transaction. Could this be where the problem lies? Does the industry understand its customer well enough?

Research suggests that supermarkets, banks and mobile phone providers know their customer far better than hospitality companies and yet the consumer has major frustrations with all three groups. It is asked that if the industry does not understand its customer well enough, how can it expect to communicate effectively?

It is a fair question. As an industry, do we know what messages will be most effective when communicating on something which maybe bigger than a transaction?

The argument is that the industry excels in many areas. It excels in service, in food, in acting with care, in listening to the needs in a moment. Where it has been traditionally poor has been in:
• Strategic planning
• Data collection and analysis
• Business planning
• Building long term relationships with customers.

Do you agree?

The argument which does link to this is the argument which suggests that little builds strong external relationships better than strong behaviours. The industry plays such a major central role in daily life and is truly global; it has every possible opportunity to build a stronger message so why has it failed to engage more effectively?