How can rewards best be used to foster engagement without operators falling into a “discount everything” trap? How do you recommend incentives become a strategic and dynamic part of customer engagement?
TEMPESTA: Embrace discounts. Treat it as an investment and get the most return you can from it. Discounts work well when used surgically to target those customers who need an extra incentive to pick your brand versus others. Discounts become dangerous when they are used without bounds by cannibalizing full-ticket sales. High frequency guests do not need a discount to motivate a visit. Instead, reward those guests with unique access to your brand and experiences that are not otherwise available to the general population. Leverage predictive analytics to remove high-frequency guests from promotions that include a discount offer.
CONNOLLY: From our research on Customer Engagement Technology, guests indicate that they are looking for deals to incentivize them to download and use mobile apps. However, when we delve deeper, we see that what guests really seek is a strong price-value relationship, which is not the same as discounts. While it is nice for hospitality operators to offer special deals, they should consider offering rewards that cost little to no extra money such as upgrades, recognition, and service benefits.
With the Internet of Things and connected devices becoming the norm, how must engagement adhere to an omni-channel strategy?
CONNOLLY: As the Internet of Things become more pervasive, hospitality organizations will be expected to interact with guests in more ways and provide seamlessness across these different channels. There will be more touchpoints resulting in more opportunities for hospitality companies to learn about, interact with, and serve guests. Integrating data across each device and touchpoint will be critical to providing seamless, flawless, and friction-free services. For many in the hospitality industry, there is still a long way to go to provide this level of integration, the ability to collect data on one channel and use it effectively on another.
YELDELL: Once you’ve established a successful connection with your guests on-site, staying in touch via digital channels is a must. Create a strategy to remain top-of-mind with your returning and prospective guests via your social networks, email and targeted digital advertising. Make sure to curate big data analytics to create personal offers, and be sure to monitor and listen to conversations across social channels so you can be responsive and manage your brand reputation.
Emerging technology is reshaping customer engagement. What up-and-coming innovation do you think has the most potential for customer engagement and why?
TEMPESTA: Emerging technology will continue to enhance the customer experience by making the buying cycle more efficient for the marketer and more convenient for the guest. AI/voice control will inevitably make it easier for guests to purchase goods. Emerging payment technology, such as Apple Pay with single tap loyalty will also add a level of convenience for customers as well as throughput for restaurants. This will enable restaurants to produce more revenue from the same stores year over year while reducing costs and capturing valuable customer behavior data.
YELDELL: AI and voice will play a growing role on industry websites and for in-room entertainment as more individuals expect to be able to “talk” to their devices and hear a response. Whether using voice activated remote controls to select TV programming or completing forms on your website with voice activations, voice is becoming an important application in the connected guest experience.
What stumbling blocks do you still see hospitality companies falling prey to with customer engagement strategies? What solutions would you offer?
CONNOLLY: The big obstacles right now for customer engagement technologies relate to integration and data sharing across channels. Without these, the flow of service will continue to be disjointed. Additionally, hospitality firms must continue to look at service delivery processes. Technology should not be added to the service mix without looking at process flow and the impact on operations. It is important to design experiences that are carefully thought out to avoid unintended consequences, service bottlenecks, and customer complaints.
TEMPESTA: Operations and marketing are symbiotic. Introducing new technology and programs to the customer base has to be easy for the customer and the front-line staff. If not, the brand ends up either eroding the customer relationship or the program fails because operations avoid acting as ambassadors for it. As marketing teams become more technically savvy, selecting partners that focus on the guest and operational experience, the relationship between operations and marketing becomes a go-to force for brand growth.