In order to overcome the challenges and capitalise on opportunities in the post-pandemic business recovery, the hospitality industry will need to re-think former working processes and be prepared to adapt to meet the changing customer requirements.
This was the clear and inspiring message from the recent HSMAI Region Europe webinar entitled ‘The All New Customer Journey’ which took place last week.
According to the latest research from HSMAI Europe unveiled at the webinar, more than three quarters of the membership surveyed believe firmly that customer experience rather than profitability will be a core focus for the rest of 2020 and 2021.
Ingunn Hofseth, President & CEO of HSMAI Region Europe adds “The industry cannot remain fixed to the former way of working. Now is the time to pivot and to truly understand the customer mind-set and needs, rather than the industry telling about their customer journey maps. This is a time for being creative about the experiences and, crucially, listening to both loyal and potential new guests.”
“Life is a book and those who do not travel, only read one page” says Monique Jaspers-Wijn, Chair of HSMAI Region Europe Customer and Distribution Advisory Board
Other highlights of the research included:
o 43% of the respondents stated that guests will only stay again at hotels if there are strict corona guidelines. As part of the customer journey, establishing, implementing, communicating and executing protocols to ensure safe and hygienic experiences, should be guaranteed.
o 29% of respondents believe that customers will only book direct with their trusted brands. Expectation management has thus never been more critical. Setting the right expectations before arrival will not only make sure guests will be more likely to accept the measures taken by the property or brand, but also increase their overall satisfaction.
o 36% of HSMAI’s survey respondents stated that a contactless stay empowered by technology will be the new standard (e.g. during check-in, check-out, and for ordering food).
Other news and insights discussed during the panel discussion included:
o Benelux has already shown a remarkably strong recovery due to its light lockdown measures. Scandinavia, Iberia, and the DACH region have taken more time, and thus recovery so far has been slower.
o The UK and Italy struggled the longest before finally, a positive pick up is now emerging.
o Until now, residents from within Germany, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands are the only ones who significantly go outside their domestic home market.
o The industry is currently seeing more return guests rather than new ones, although the panel agreed that this will probably change over the next few months.
o August and September are still forecast at only half of the booking numbers of July. However, according to the panel, this is likely increase closer to the booking dates in this period.
o From September, more bookings from corporate travel are expected. However, restrictions will continue to dictate demand and pickup, and booking patterns will follow accordingly. There was a unified view from the panel that, for now, short lead times for bookings will be the way forward with flexibility for last-minute cancellation.
o Guests will seek brands they trust, not necessarily the brand they have known and trusted before the pandemic. Training of staff will be is one of the key elements; e.g. how will you teach your staff to refuse a hand-shake from one of your most loyal customers.
o The panel recommended doing more marketing and social media communication than ever before, to ensure their property/properties are to be the first or preferred choice whenever the big surge for bookings resumes.
o Finally, there was agreement about making policies sustainable, in every meaning of the word.
"HSMAI members wanted to bring the customers to the heart of this advisory board. Not only do we focus on eliminating silos, but also by empowering everyone involved in the customer journey we enable a memorable experience at every touchpoint. By developing an environment where professionals can fail fast, we foster a culture of learning and sharing that enables personal development at the highest level”, says Ingunn Hofseth, President & CEO of HSMAI Region Europe
“While the desire to travel comes back, trust and customer experience are going to be the currencies of tomorrow. A key success factor will be to focus on customer centricity. To the outside market, customer relationship management becomes more critical. Digital and personal interaction with the customer at all touch-points before, during and after the journey is vital to drive direct business. To the inside, hoteliers review their org-charts to the benefit of a more agile and guest centric working culture. The crisis can be a powerful catalyst for digital transformation. Now, after the lockdown, people have a strong desire to experience something outside their home. The hospitality industry needs to answer this new demand” says Michael Hucho, member of HSMAI Region Europe Customer and Distribution Advisory Board.
For more information on HSMAI ECC programme this autumn, please visit: https://hsmai.eu/2020/03/30/ecc-excelling-at-customer-centricity-a-hsmai-certification/