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Hoteliers: Heed These 5 Lessons from Experience-17 to Revolutionize the CX

It’s not a matter of opinion, but fact: the CX paradigm is changing in hospitality. Technology is advancing by the minute, and guest expectations are continually evolving. The word “service” is no longer in any innovative hotelier’s dictionary. Guests today have some pretty wild ideas about what their hotel experience will look like in years to come. According to research from Marriot, 35 percent believe space will soon be a possible destination, and 40 percent believe underwater hotels will become more of a reality.

Hospitality leaders can either keep up with today’s rapid pace of innovation or face the consequences. The question is: how can they stay on track?

I was thrilled to attend Experience-17 to learn just this. The event, which took place last month at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas, offered the opportunity to learn, connect and peer into the future of the guest experience. Besides my excitement of visiting Vegas for the first time (I was like a kid in a candy store!) I was eager to do a deep dive to learn how I could become a leading CX expert at my property and better support my region via our Guest Satisfaction platform.

The event offered ample breakout sessions and keynote presentations from hospitality heavyweights like Adam Malamut, Chief Customer Experience Officer at Marriott and Lili Tomovich, Chief Experience/Marketing Officer at MGM Resorts. I also had the privilege of participating in an interactive panel during the event.

Here are five lessons from Experience-17 that I believe every hotelier must keep in mind for CX success:

1. You have more power than you think: This was a point stressed across the board. You alone have the power to turn your brand strategy on its head, like Tomovich did for MGM Resorts. You have the power to deliver on the unique expectations of your guests today. You have the power to ensure your brand promise isn’t an empty one. Your CX strategy only begins to fail once you allow it to. There is significant power to our thoughts that translates into action.

2. Link CX to financial performance: Just as important as ensuring guest satisfaction is demonstrating economic value from your CX strategy. You must approach the CX with a solid understanding of which components drive revenue and costs, and how the CX will affect those drivers. To shed light on this point, the Medallia Institute examined 15 companies across nine industries to better understand how CX creates value in different contexts. As Medallia stated in its findings: “CX execs must think like a CFO, accounting for CX outcomes that impact a company’s financial position.”

3. Customer intelligence is key: This was a key takeaway of Malamut’s keynote presentation, which had me hanging by the edge of my seat. It’s true that the CX is nurtured by technology and design, but it will always come down to the guest him or herself. So, how well do you know your customers? Do you inherently understand their desires? Are you constantly anticipating their wants and needs? The answers to these questions are determined by your level of customer intelligence, which is at the heart of CX innovation and growth. The future of the customer experience will be a delicate balance between design, technology and, above all, human touch.

4. Customers will never love a company until employees love it first: This is a point I’ve made time and again: employees must have a love affair with their job, and it’s our job as hospitality leaders/managers/supervisors to get them there. Customers will never become raving brand advocates—the kind that lock in long-term loyalty and revenue—until they believe employees genuinely love working for that brand. Corporate culture is now a massive, immovable driver of customer loyalty. Employees must be represented in this organizational outlook.

5. Close the outer loop with customers and root causes: Joanna Vinall, Senior Manager of Customer and Channels at Accenture, put it best: wouldn’t it be great to understand customer sentiment during the customer journey, rather than waiting for a survey result? It’s vital that organizations identify root causes of customer issues in real-time to enrich the guest experience. The key here is to implement customer journey analytics to seamlessly track, collect and share data across all teams and customer touchpoints. Siloed systems have become hoteliers’ worst enemy.

Perhaps the greatest lesson I learned from this year’s event is simply that hospitality leaders must always stay innovative. No matter what, we must always be current, aware, and committed to building high-level guest relationships. This is critical not just for customers and brand reputation, but also for our own personal development. It’s vital for our individual growth, and how we’ll use that growth to help others see success in their careers.

“After all, this is never about me. It’s about all of us.”

As a hospitality leader, I can’t help but see everything around me as an experience that’s being created. Las Vegas was the perfect place to host Experience-17, as it really spoke to the kind of experience all hoteliers are ultimately trying to create: friends celebrating, family together, people from every corner of the globe connecting. Experience-17 was aptly named; hospitality leaders learned how to enhance the experiences of their guests, and we also enjoyed a memorable experience of our own.

If you’re looking to continually raise the bar at your property (I hope so!) remember that learning opportunities are always available, either within your company or externally within your industry. In the end, it all comes down to being smart, intuitive and forward-thinking. It comes down to building a personal development plan for taking action and producing results. As I mentioned in my first takeaway above: we have more power than we think.

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