What do you think this 19th century ink pen is worth? You’d probably see something similar fetch £30 to £50 at auction.
But this pen is actually the one that Abraham Lincoln used to write the Gettysburg address. I bet you feel different about its value now. It’s probably worth 10,000 times that of a similar pen, just because of its story.
And it’s the same in the hospitality industry – people are buying an experience or a story. Its value is wrapped up in how it makes them feel and the memory it creates.
So, what are the most important things you need to focus on to create a good experience and so, great perceived value. The first is, know your customer.
Your Ideal Customer – A Tale Of Two Restaurants
It’s so important to have a really good picture of who your perfect customer is and the kind of experience they are looking for.
Down the road from where I live, is the small riverside village of Bray and in that village is not one, but two restaurants with three Michelin stars — ‘The Fat Duck’ and ‘The Waterside Inn’. They both provide amazing food and service but have a very different feel and atmosphere. Just take a look at their websites and you will the difference straight away.
The Waterside Inn is more of a classic fine dining experience and The Fat Duck is more fun and flamboyant. You don’t just make a reservation, you book a ticket!
The more you can define your perfect customer and have a clear picture of them in your head, the more easily you’ll be able to create the perfect experience for them.
Forget Silver Service, Customers Want Gold Service
At the heart of creating great ‘perceived value’ is exceptional service. This involves making the customer happy by going that extra mile. If you and your staff go out of their way to make a customer happy and feel valued, they won’t forget that in a hurry. And don’t worry if there’s the occasional mishap, a drink gets spilt, you’ve run out of something, the WIFI in their room doesn’t work. What’s important is how you deal with the issue. They’ll remember how helpful you were and how hard you tried to solve the issue, not the problem itself.
What’s also important is that genuine desire to help and that comes from happy staff and an ethos of putting the customer first. A great example of this is the American online shoe retailer Zappos. One of their employees had a customer-service call that lasted 10 hours, 43 minutes. Steve Weinstein answered a call from a customer who needed some help with an order of a few items. But after he had sorted out the problem, the customer still wanted to chat, so Steve stayed on the line. Great customer service and a great brand story as well.
Supersize Your Ideas
Now more than ever, the hospitality industry needs to think creatively and come up with innovative ideas for their guests. And remember, good ideas can come from anywhere, co-creation, customer feedback, your staff.
But when you do finally have an idea, make sure you see how far you can push it, to really bring it to life. What you ideally want is to create what I call ‘talking points’. These are when you create something that is so special, innovative or fun that people will tell their friends about them. And when you’ve really hit the jackpot, the friends will tell their friends as well. Here are a couple of examples of creating talking points:
It’s a Dog’s Life
More and more people want to take their dog on a weekend break these days, so quite a few hotels are starting to allow dogs to stay.
But with a little creative thinking, you can take it to this next level. The Smith & Whistle, a Sheraton owned bar in Mayfair, has its only range of ‘dogtails’. It offers a free poochie colada for every Pina colada their owner buys. The Lawrence Hotel in Lancashire, offers pup-icures and pawsecco, claiming to take ‘even the most dog-eared pets from ruff to ravishing in just one night!’.
The Best Sleepover Ever
The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe, has come up a great way to make any stay more fun and memorable for kids, by offering the option to camp in your room. The package includes a tent outfitted with Ritz-Carlton linens and featherbed, an activity book with crayons, camp light, teddy bear and marshmallows to toast by the outdoor fire pit.
They could add even more opportunity for extra revenue by providing canapes and cocktails for the parents to make it a special experience for them as well.
Accentuate The Positive
Is there anything different or special about the location of your hotel or venue that you can make more of? Are you by the seaside, in the heart of a historic city or in the middle of the countryside?
Recently I helped a hotel by the coast in the South West put together a compelling Spring offer. With so many people likely to take their holiday in this country, we created a Cultural Staycation package aimed at couples that offered a group cooking lesson with local produce by the head chef; a walking and boat tour of heritage highlights and a visit to a vineyard.
Another good example is Cliveden, a beautiful stately home in Buckinghamshire surrounded by wonderful woodland.
They’ve made the most of this, by building a weekend break around ‘forest bathing’ also known as ‘Nature Therapy’. They even give every guest a free book on the subject.