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Don’t Make Mission: Engagement a Mission: Impossible

RECENTLY, MY HUSBAND AND I WERE AT A CASUAL DINING CHAIN AND HAD AN EXTREMELY OVEREAGER SERVER. To give credit, if we were “secret shoppers” there to make sure she was pushing the drink specials and loyalty program, she would have earned high marks. Since we were trying to make a movie – and I was visibly nine months pregnant and not in the market for a spiked lemonade – her well rehearsed promotions became grating before we had even placed our orders.

By the time we were wrapping up and declining her 45th product plug, when she said we could sign up for the loyalty program on our mobile devices, I said we would definitely do that later. Unfortunately, she quickly returned asking if we had finished the sign-in process so that night’s bill could count towards our loyalty points. A sluggish Wi-Fi connection led to five more minutes and innumerable exasperated sighs. We got our newly minted loyalty code, read it back to the server who attributed it to our bill, paid, and fled the scene one meal on our way to getting a reward of some sort. Neither of us cared all that much.

Loyalty, mobility and customer engagement are all top-of-mind in hospitality and continue to be areas that garner discussion, evaluation and continued investment. HT just released its 2015 Customer Engagement Technology Study, which examines the adoption of technology across sectors of the hospitality industry and its impact on customer engagement.

Brands in foodservice and lodging are racing to deploy solutions to engage guests and engender loyalty. The difficulty comes in fi nding that balance between providing service and creating memorable experiences. Where companies struggle is putting the guest at the center of CET strategies while identifying value for the organization. This is where a disconnect can occur. In an attempt to force ROI, the engagement effort can have a reverse effect and result in alienating customers.

The key for operators will be to integrate mobility with appropriate systems in ways that add value and convenience. If customers wind up feeling like they are being asked to jump through hoops for a vague promise of future engagement or rewards, the guest connection is broken. This could result in a server thinking she had gotten two diners to join a loyalty program, when in reality they unsubscribed on the walk across the parking lot.

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