I must admit: I was a bit scared.
BTO 2020, Florence, Italy. As part of my speech, I brought a couple of case studies to showcase how combining data in a way that could be beneficial for the direct booking strategy of any hotel.
For the first time though, I wanted to try something new.
Yet, it was something I have totally and always believed in.
After showing the case studies and before closing my speech, I asked my audience, thirst-for-knowledge and brave hotel managers and hotel owners, to switch off, for a moment.
I asked them to forget everything I just talked about, and get back to focusing on what they (wait, we) have always been great at: Being A Great Host!
Whether we like it or not, we live in a Digital World.
And especially if you attend an event like BTO-Buy Tourism Online, you expect to get some practical tips in terms of new technologies, new trends, new ways of dealing, living and surviving in this Digital World.
In fact, that’s what I did by bringing 2 case studies.
Certainly, you don’t attend BTO to hear someone telling you “Be a great host!”.
But that’s what I did. And I did it, because of a profound and recurrent feeling and thought: Have we lost the way, our True North?
That’s why I was a bit scared: I simply didn’t know what the reaction would have been.
The feedback I got, though, was really touching. To a certain extend, unexpected.
Clearly I brought my reasons to sustain my be-a-great-host suggestion. So, I thought, why not sharing with everybody else?
To be clear, I don’t pretend anyone to agree with me. This is my very personal point of view on our beautiful Hospitality Industry and on us, hoteliers, as the main players of the game we have been playing.
The How has evolved. The Who hasn’t… and never will.
The Digital World we live in has radically changed the way we do business.
We host Guests from all over the world and the first human touch only happens at check-in.
Before their arrival, all we know about our Guests is a name and how long they are going to stay. That’s it.
Most times we don’t even have an email and a telephone number, because the OTAs hide them with the fear of hotels bypassing them in favour of a direct booking.
Like it or not, this is the Digital World we live in.
A simple but realistic equation is Digital World = Technologies.
The biggest mistake and misleading myth.
And here lies what I believe is THE hallucination: we buy into the equation technologies = solutions.
If you think about it, that’s the main reason why we – hoteliers, hotel professionals, industry experts – attend events like BTO and many others, globally.
A never ending run towards the best and most recent technologies, tools, algorithms.
We spend more time speaking to cold algorithms than engaging with our guests.
We believe that if we adopt and (eventually) manage the best solutions the market comes up with, we win!
As if our success no longer depends on us, as human beings, rather on objects, physical or virtual, we may or may not have at our disposal.
We got soooooooo much alienated by this Digital World, that we forgot that technologies, even the best and most recent ones, may have changed the way we sell our rooms and produce revenue and bookings, in other words, the HOW we do business, but none of them will ever change the WHO we do business with: other human beings.
And, lucky us, it will never change.
In all business, especially in the Hospitality Industry, people buy and sell products and services with other people.
People, who have thoughts, feelings and emotions.
Rational vs. Emotional.
In your opinion, is the buying/selling process a rational or an emotional process?
95% of our decisions happens in our subconscious.
I repeat: 95%. Ninety-five-percent!
And only 5% is rational.
And what is that thing that drives our subconscious decisions?
The thoughts that we think generate the feelings we feel.
The feelings we feel generate the emotions we live, in the very moment.
People buy on emotions, and use logic to justify what they buy.
Are not peeling the onion?
You see, when trying to sell your hotel, how much effective you think your message is, if you talk about your rooms?
How much effective you think it is, if you show your prospects the pictures of your rooms, your restaurant, or the hall of your hotel?
Turning the questions upside/down, meaning asking the same questions from the point of view of your prospects, let’s say, me, in this example: do you think your rooms will move me, emotionally speaking?
The point is, prospects don’t give a damn thing about you, your rooms, your hotel.
Does it hurt? Do you feel offended?
Ok, let me say that again, in a slightly different way: people don’t give a damn thing about you, unless you give them something that makes them feel good.
Yes, a room is likely what they are looking for. But why do the seek a room? Why do they want to come to your hotel?
Why? Why? Why?
Become a child in his why-age and keep asking yourself: “Why?”.
Imagine you having the following conversation (interview?) with your prospective customer:
- Why are you visiting my website?
- Because I’m looking for a room.
- Why are you looking for a room?
- Because I want to visit your city/town.
- Why do you want to visit my city/town?
- Because I want to get to know more about its history and art.
- Why do you want to know more about its history and art?
- Because I like travelling and discover new places.
- Why do you like travelling and discovering new places?
- Because I want to collect memories and moments with my wife.
- Why do you want to collect memories and moments with your wife?
- Because it makes her happy, which, in turns, makes me happy.
- Why does it make you happy?
- Because I love her.
There it is.
You see what’s happening here? By asking “Why?” or “So what?” you are getting into the root cause of what really makes your prospects move and take a decision.
Just like peeling an onion.
When you talk about how beautiful your rooms are, you are answering the first question on top.
Do you notice the difference between this question and the last one at the bottom?
That’s right: the more WHYs you ask, the closer to your prospect’s emotions you get.
The closer you get to your prospect’s emotions, guess what, the higher chances you have to sell your hotel, your rooms, your rates… at higher price
Technologies, tools, software… great support to everyone’s job.
Yet, not a solution.
Our job is to sell our hotels. And none, again, none of the technologies we are surrounded by sells our hotels.
WE sell our hotels.
We, human, sell our rooms, rates and services to our Guests, other humans.
How? That’s what we rely on technologies for, a never-ending evolution.
The WHO, though, will always be the same.
The point is, we have been focusing on the HOW for so long now, that we forgot to take care of the real players of the game: the WHO, our Guests.
Numerical vs. Emotional Goals.
Our goal has become a number, a number to be reached: the budget.
The revenue that we will produce during the year? Budget.
The ADR? Budget.
The occupancy rate? Budget.
The RevPAR? Budget.
More direct bookings? … You got the point…
But what if I asked you: “What’s the role of your Guests?”
And this is, in my opinion, the real root cause of the biggest issue: we don’t set any emotional goal.
Revenue, RevPAR and all other metrics, are numerical indicator. You sum them up, you have a numerical goal (budget), meaning values, numbers, figures.
One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned from one of my mentor, is about thinking, defining and working towards reaching emotional goals, too.
What is an emotional goal?
In a nutshell:
- How will you make your customers feel with your product (hotel) and services (customer-service)?
- How many lives do you want to impact?
- How can help them move from their current state to their desire state?
Believe me, I learned all this on my own skin.
The reality is: you really need to set your emotional goals. And the reason stands in what you will end up doing if you don’t have one: treating Guests as if they were numbers.
Let me ask you a question. And please, be honest, not with me. With yourself.
How do you really see your Guests?
You see, this Digital World we live in, is a double-edged sword: it opens up as many beautiful opportunities as the number of traps.
The way I see it, the only way to not only survive, but thrive in this world is, ironically, to remain ourselves, who we really are. In our case: Hospitality Professionals.
With no emotional goals, we are left with numerical goals only to be reached, meaning the budget that we need to hit every month, quarter, year.
Logically, since Guests are not framed into an emotional goal, we see them framed into the only goal (the budget) we have and reason why we wake up and go to work each morning.
Thus, we see Guest as mere vehicle to our only goal: again, budget.
Differently put, we see them as numbers.
A real example: me.
I attended BTO in Florence and stayed 3 nights in a 4-star hotel in the city centre.
In 3 days and 3 nights, all I got, in specific chronological order was:
- Good Afternoon (and little more due to check-in procedure, including “your room number is” and “breakfast from 6:30 to 10:30“)
- Good Morning, your room number? (3x, each morning for breakfast)
- Good bye (check out)
It is true that I didn’t spend much time in the hotel, for obvious reasons. However, I was there, check-in, 3 morning breakfasts, for 3 times I ran into the housekeeping Staff while I was going out or coming back, the barista I crossed-path with, while going to the reception… neither a single nod.
Besides the 3 situations above (check-in, check-out, breakfast) in which human touch was obviously required, I got nothing else. Literally, nothing.
Not that I cared much, in fact, this is just another hotel I had stayed at. The very moment I stepped out the main door after checking out, I even forgot the name.
Think about it though, what was I for this hotel?
Exactly, a number. A vehicle, the instrument that gets them closer to their only goal: budget.
Will I ever come back again? Will I leave a good review? Will I tell my friends how incredible my experience was? Will I tell my partner what a nice and sincere smile I got from the doorman?
You bet I will.. not. Quiet as a mouse. Because, you know, numbers don’t speak, nor do they have emotions, right? ?
To be memorable, you don’t need to spend a dime.
And now, I shut myself down for a while and I let this Facebook post speak on my behalf:
Now, you tell me, to get this Guest speaking up this way and sharing this post:
- What kind of technology was it needed?
- How much did the hotel spend in marketing and tools?
- How many resources, a.k.a. people involved to set up a pillow fort?
- What is the Guest talking about? How beautiful his rooms was? Or the simple yet memorable extra-mile he received?
Yes Sir, Yes Ma’am… the so old-fashion tool no one gives a s*** anymore: the extra mile.
A wonderful product (your rooms, your hotel) doesn’t make up this kind of posts, doesn’t generate any emotional vibration into any human beings.
The extra-mile has always been and will always be the most effective marketing weapon in our hands!
And you know what?
- It doesn’t cost a single dime. It’s freaking FREE!!
- the only thing you need to do is… listen, to what your Guests ask.
- if you run out of creativity, you can google extra-mile hotel and you’ll get tons of beautiful and worthy ideas from other hotels, all over the world, you can get inspired from.
Isn’t it great? I can’t help but getting excited every time I think about it.
The number 1 feeling that impacts your sales is…
As per Wikipedia, empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
What is the above post about?
That’s right, empathy.
And you see the result.
But wait, I might guess know what you’re thinking…
Fall in love with your Guests, for real. Or don’t even try.
Imagine, you have a sewer leak in your hotel, bur rather than calling a plumber to fix the problem, you go for what it seems a faster and probably cheaper temporary solution: spraying perfume all over to cover the bad smell.
Disgusting, right? And inefficient, would you agree?
The “for real” I put above, is exactly the difference that occurs between calling a plumber and spraying perfume.
You gottta love your Guests, for real. Otherwise, it’s just a question of time for the perfume to fade away, leaving you with an even stronger smell fo s***.
You’re not authentic? Rest assured, it’s just a question of time and your forgery will be as clear as the sun.
Just like a sewer leak: forgery stinks.
You remember the 95% subconscious-based decision I talked about before?
The bad smell of your forgery may be perceived by your prospects on a subconscious level. The result? It’ll be their guts that will tell them to stay away from you.
Those who talks about empathy in sales, usually refer to it is as a skill.
In full honesty, this pisses me off and drives a little crazy.
A skill, jeez. Screw them! Screw them ALL!
Empathy is a feeling! Not a trick to get more sales, revenue, ADR, occupancy rate and direct bookings.
The pleasure of giving.
Give, give and again, give.
Without expecting anything in return.
Listen to your Guests, love them, cuddle them, hug them, make love to them.
You combine passion and love, you know what you get? Empathy, the most powerful weapon you to your success.
A burning passion coupled with absolute detachment is the key to all success. – Mahatma Gandhi