LIve from FOCI 2013 – Relationship Matters: Is Being Too Connected a Disadvantage

Eric Lucan, of Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants, led a
discussion about the benefits and drawbacks of social connectivity for the
hospitality industry. Kimpton employees have been empowered in the same way
that employees at the Ritz Carlton chain have: Delight the customer ‘ it is
your budget and in your power.
To help attendees think about the differences across rewards
or loyalty programs, Eric lined up the attributes of membership programs versus guest
initiatives
. Under a membership program, guests are considered to be part
of a program in which they accumulate points in a tier-based manner that is
based on their transactions.  The result
of a well-managed membership program is loyalists. 
Kimpton takes a guest initiative tack toward rewarding their
loyal customers.  Kimpton is focused on
ensuring that guests feel like part of a family, and makes a point of noting
and responding to their preferences in order to capitalize on opportunities to
delight customers.  Kimpton emphasizes
the relational aspects of their guests’ business, and desires to engender trust
in customers.  The result of Kimpton’s
orientation to guests is evangelists.
On their website, Kimpton encourages guests to respond to
several open-ended questions that reveal more about them ‘ most notably, the
prompt: ‘If I wasn’t working, I’d be”
Kimpton hotels are in the boutique category, with each hotel
having a distinct personality.  The
hotels average about 250 rooms, and each hotel determines how it will build
trust and delight customers, as there isn’t a set budget across the chain for
these customer relationship efforts. 
Kimpton has grown to about 60 hotels, nearly doubling over the past
years, and they are determined to grow. 
Kimpton is even more determined to sustain their customer relationship
building through the personalized service and compelling outreach to guests
that is their trademark.
As Kimpton taps in more to social media, it is conscious of
the need to ensure that social listening does not become creepy.  Kimpton believes that maintaining the human
component in their transactions, listening to the reward program, and will keep
them close to customers. Being careful to hang onto the culture that Kimpton
has developed means that Kimpton can continue to grow but still keep doing what
makes them special. 
Connectivity can mean that the humans are taken out of the
transaction. Automation and Smartphones could eliminate what makes the hotel
stay special. As a result hospitality may be becoming less hospitable.  But at Kimpton, guests will continue to say, “You
had me at ‘Welcome‘”.

Gigi DeVault writes a market research column for About.com
Market Research Guide
http://marketresearch.about.com/