News - The Art of Guest Experience
In a world where what was once seen as luxury is now only acknowledged as mere necessity, what was once unexpected is now anticipated and where frequent travellers demand the best as standard, how do we stand out? This is the modern challenge for the hospitality industry; how do we hold customer attention and generate loyalty?
The answer is of course the last frontier in hospitality: great service. Creating world-class guest experiences is a rare art. It’s more than simply the provision of a pleasant meeting place, a sofa to laugh on; a bed to dream in. The art lies in the sum of these things combined with the validation of an individual’s current state of mind and the practicalities of the real world.
Virgin: Far beyond functional
Take Virgin Atlantic as an example. When Richard Branson decided to take on the mighty British Airways he knew he couldn’t beat them in the air so he decided to challenge them on the ground instead. The critical ingredient that Branson recognised was that the flying business didn’t need reinvention. Only the user-experience needed to be improved.
Virgin lounges, designed by some of the great talent within the YOO studio, are undoubtedly an example of some of the best guest experiences available. They include free limo services, a grand arrival hall at Heathrow, fantastic amenities, expert mixologists at the bar, food at any hour, spa treatments and a pool. Clearly, this concept as a whole reaches way beyond the immediate function of the facilities. It’s about the creation of a space that reflects an inherent understanding of the complex human condition in a particular moment – a particular time and space. Whatever you need, that’s ok. We’ve got it. For individuals who spend a lot of time in the air, in airport lounges and in hotels the difference between good service and great service is simple. It lies in the recognition of your needs as an individual, and Virgin Atlantic do go the extra mile.
A universe in every detail
In a highly competitive market of savvy travellers, more and more of what was once considered ‘service’ is simply expected. No longer luxury but mere necessity. To really stand out in the service industry it is no longer enough to offer a bell boy, a space for wedding celebrations and anniversaries or business meetings in the lobby. It is not enough to simply provide biscuits with tea or plumped cushions. The best guest experiences exhibit awareness that there is a universe in every detail.
Like Richard Branson recognised all those years ago, the service industry is aware that ‘just enough’ simply isn’t enough. Guest expectations are at an all-time high. To truly stand out from the competition and to create genuine customer loyalty, individualism is the key idea we must reflect on. Cater to the individual - create a tailored space for them to enter and be in. Offer them the opportunity to create unique memories.
Outside of our own comfort zone at home or our own city, out of our usual routine, our senses are heightened. We are more aware of our surroundings, more likely to notice flowers the lobby or recognise the detail in the wallpaper. We are more mindful of flaws and irritations. Yet it is this realm that the hospitality sector has the greatest opportunity to excel.
For example, ask any frequent traveller and they will reel off a list of items they cannot do without: On a personal note, when I travel I like to spritz the room with my favourite scent. It makes me feel at home. The room must also be at my preferred temperature and in all honesty I I’d prefer a maxi bar than a mini bar! I often need a female staff member available to help me do up that hard to reach zip of my dress when I go out or mend a button in an emergency. I like fresh coffee in my room every morning with warm frothy milk, a large bath tub ideally with a view of more than just the toilet. I expect access to a proper gym (not simply a shoddy treadmill in a broom closet sized back room) and full 24-hour room service. If I want eggs at 1am, then I want eggs. That last point is a no-brainer. After all – if you want eggs at 1am at home, you can get them, so these are not lofty ideals.
Guest experience is about the human condition. It’s what, at YOO, we refer to as ‘human luxury’ - the validation of a small human desire in a single moment. That’s great service; an intelligent environment managed by thoughtful people who can recognise that a guest might be tired and simply wants to hide from the world, or that a guest is having a particularly great day and wants to celebrate, perhaps at the chef’s table in the restaurant. The ultimate goal must be that the individual leaves the premises in a more elevated state of being than when they arrived. Yet a very small minority of hotels seem actually to understand the nuances of customer service. Understanding the guest experience requires an insight into the individual, but it also requires a deeper understanding of human behaviour.