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Hospitality Insights from Medallia’s Experience ’18 Conference

I don’t travel often for industry events—with a new promotion and family obligations, I prefer virtual or local conferences—but Medallia’s annual “Experience” event is just too good to miss. After the incredible takeaways from last year’s event (recap here), I was eager to return. This year’s conference, which took place May 15-16 in Long Beach, CA, certainly did not disappoint.

This year’s event was packed with compelling keynote speakers, engaging breakout sessions, and demos of the latest technologies for driving customer engagement. Insights were geared toward winning customer experience—today’s greatest competitive battleground—in line with evolving expectations, preferences and behaviors. With research showing only 7% of brands are exceeding customer expectations, it’s clear this is still a much-needed discussion.

Experience ‘18 brought together some of the world’s top customer experience experts including Jennifer Dulski, Head of Groups and Community at Facebook; Tiffani Bova, Global Customer Growth and Innovation Evangelist at Salesforce (love this title, by the way); and Tracey D. Brown, Sr. VP of Operations and Chief Experience Officer at Sam’s Club.

So, what can hospitality leaders learn from Experience ’18? Here are some of my top takeaways…

There is nothing more powerful than the guest review: Medallia CEO Borge Hald’s story about a Canadian chapter of Hell’s Angels taking on a restaurant with a flood of one-star reviews perfectly illustrates this point (the group was denied entry due to wearing “gang colors”). “Technology is changing the world, and it’s also changing the experiences that get those ratings,” Hald said. It’s critical that hotels nail this experience in an era of full transparency where even the slightest mishap can significantly hurt the bottom line.

There’s transformation, then there’s transformation: Companies are moving full speed towards digital transformation (global spending is expected to peak at $1.3 trillion this year). But how do you go from vision to execution? From initiation to consistent, sustainable growth? This is the exact question Jason Mock, SVP, Contact Center & Fraud Ops Executive at Bank of America, asked himself one year ago. “You can’t just say it, and will it, and hope that it’s going to happen,” he explained. Powerful drivers of this transformation are culture and people. Digitally-driven organizations make transformation part of their DNA; a committed workforce lives and breathes it every day. This is how companies—even those like Bank of America with 47 million customers worldwide—can successfully create long-term change.

Be a movement-maker: Over 90% of people trust recommendations from individuals—even people they don’t know—more than they trust traditional forms of advertising. In an era of sponsored ads and reviews, consumers now directly correlate culture with credibility. This is especially true when a company’s culture is aligned with a movement. If a company proves itself responsible and actionable, standing up for a purpose it believes in, it can be trusted with customers’ hard-earned money. This was the main message of Dulski’s keynote, where she also stressed that movements start with people. Organizations, culture nor technology create movements—we do.

Did you attend Experience ’18? If so, what were your thoughts on this year’s event? If not, what do you think of these guest/customer experience insights? Continue the conversation in the comments section below.

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