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Rebuilding Consumer Confidence in Hospitality Will Be a Long-Term Process

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Ahead of the recent 4th of July holiday weekend, SafetyCulture, a technology company that provides a mobile inspection platform to help simplify the auditing process, and YouGov released findings from a nationwide survey of Americans. It found that more than half of Americans said they would feel uncomfortable or very uncomfortable dining in a restaurant/bar or staying at a hotel in the next three months. This data isn’t exactly comforting for the hospitality industry, which continues to suffer. However, the survey also found that there were specific tasks a hotel and restaurant could undertake to bolster consumer confidence and trust. To learn more about this, HT spoke with Bob Butler, General Manager, Americas at SafetyCulture.

What have your survey results revealed regarding consumer confidence in dining out & staying at a hotel in the next three months?

The SafetyCulture and YouGov survey revealed some interesting findings, in terms of consumer confidence, and also in terms of what it would take to increase that confidence with consumers. Some interesting findings included the following:

    • More than half of consumers (54%) would feel “very uncomfortable” or “uncomfortable” staying at a hotel over the next 3 months.
    • More than half of consumers (52%) would feel “very uncomfortable” or “uncomfortable” dining in a restaurant/bar over the next 3 months.
    • More than half of consumers (53%) said that a publicly shown list of daily safety procedures being undertaken by a business would increase trust and confidence in that business.
    • More than half of consumers (57%) say that businesses making public a real-time list of cleaning and disinfecting activities completed hourly throughout the day would increase trust and confidence in that business.

Were you surprised by these results?

The consumer concern we saw expressed in these results makes sense. People are understandably worried - it's now up to businesses to allay those concerns with action and transparent reporting.

Everyone has the right to expect a safe experience, so businesses must prioritize the safety of their people and customers, with clear lines of communication that make everyone an active participant. With mobile audit apps, you can share inspection reports with customers, partners, contractors and other teams simply by clicking a button. We believe this commitment to putting people first and to adopting a safety-focused culture is the key to getting the world safely back to business.

What might this indicate for the recovery of the hospitality sector in the short-term and in the long-term?

It clearly indicates where our focus needs to be: safety. Safety has become a differentiator that will attract customers and talent in the same way as product quality does. Safety is now a core component of brand reputation across industries, and it’s become a permanent agenda item for every board meeting.

Rebuilding customer confidence is not a one-time exercise, it’s an ongoing endeavor, and taking steps to ensure and show safety measures are being taken will no doubt make customers feel a good deal more comfortable during these uncertain times.

What actions could hotels/restaurants take now to improve customer confidence?

They can build safety into their value proposition and actions, and appeal to the traveler. In a sense they can make safety their “edge.” Safety is now a value creator and customer-facing value proposition for many industries. Businesses that are transparent about the safety measures they have in place are more likely to attract employees and customers.

Cleanliness was always key but COVID-19 has changed its emphasis forever. Hotels and restaurants can empower employees to properly conduct daily or hourly inspections and act properly on safety issues as they arise.

Businesses can also follow local, regional, state, national and even international guidelines and show their compliance.

In your opinion, how can hotels and restaurants use technology to improve customer confidence?

The risks of COVID-19 are evolving on a daily basis. Businesses cannot rely on the old methods of inefficient, infrequent paper and pen-based compliance audits. Only by empowering staff to conduct frequent quick checks across the business can companies develop the early warning system to identify and remediate risks. 

Staff members benefit when they have access to an audit mobile app that is easy to learn and allows them to conduct inspections in five minutes or less. Additionally, the mobile app should allow staff members to be able to identify risks and report them instantaneously.

At SafetyCulture, we've digitized the world’s COVID-19 reopening guidelines into a simple mobile checklist and inspection app that any team member can use easily. The checklists can be made collaborative and public, so businesses can transparently show their commitment to national guidelines while building customer trust and loyalty. Our app helps businesses, even those with multiple locations, easily update and distribute their best practices rapidly, with real-time visibility into effectiveness and insights, across sites.

What kind of insights from your hotel and restaurant clients can you share with us as it relates to technology, customer confidence and COVID-19?

Certainly. We're hearing three main things directly from customers:

  • Safety is now a permanent agenda item for every board meeting and the #1 priority for businesses
  • The realization is emerging that the relationship between health and the economy doesn’t need to be a zero sum game. You can have both, and still get back to business.
  • Interestingly, customers are telling us that the role of the compliance officer, as we traditionally know it, is dead. Every business needs a culture of safety, and that represents an opportunity for us, as an enabler.

About the Author

Bob Butler is General Manager, Americas, with SafetyCulture, based at the company's US headquarters in Kansas City, Missouri, where he leads critical business and sales operations for the company throughout the hemisphere. SafetyCulture is known as the company behind the world’s most used checklist inspection app, iAuditor, an innovative, mobile first product that makes managing safety and quality affordable and accessible. The app, now used in over 150 countries, with more than 30 million audits conducted worldwide and an average of 85,000 daily active users.

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