Unlocking guest-centricity and adaptability for the future of hospitality


Unlocking guest-centricity and adaptability for the future of hospitality

4 organisational and talent actions for hospitality leaders

Hospitality leaders are busy preparing for an unknown post-COVID-19 future of travel and hospitality. What is pivotal in order to stay ahead of changing traveller behaviours, is a parallel investment in the improvement of both short- and long-term guest-centricity and adaptability. What are the 4 suggested actions that will contribute to future success?

The hospitality industry: guest-centric by nature

The Hospitality industry is by its very definition guest-centric. A perfect example is the Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan hotel, officially recognised as the oldest in the world, having housed Japanese samurais, emperors, military commanders and townsfolk since 705 AD. Today - from the executive boardroom of international hotel chains to the front desk of an independent boutique hotel - hoteliers are still ahead of the game in terms of embedding a guest-focused mind set at all levels.

More opportunities for guest-centricity and adaptability

This already mature customer mind set is something other organisations can only dream of achieving. Nevertheless, there are other ”big plays” that businesses are making (across all industries – and in particular in Retail) to enhance customer outcomes. These opportunities are not yet fully explored in hospitality. As hoteliers are developing scenarios to prepare for a post-COVID-19 future of travel, we share four suggested actions related to your organisation and your talent that can contribute to guest-centricity and adaptability:

  1. Re-think organisational structure in line with guest experience priorities 
  2. Unlock the power of hidden organisational networks to understand how guest insights actually flow
  3. Organise your people around guest ”missions” or outcomes
  4. Bring the talent and guest experience on equal footing

We believe these actions can drive speed in better adapting to traveller needs and expectations. They are an investment for both the immediate post-COVID-19 recovery and for the longer-term outlook where travel will thrive again.

Action 1: Re-think organisational structure and portfolios in line with guest experience priorities

Does your operating model and organisational structure truly reflect guest experience as a top priority? For example, hotel businesses can:

  • Combine relevant functions in innovative ways. Depending on the strategic priority, guest experience functions can be paired with digital, with marketing, with quality assurance (e.g. to enhance guest confidence in the quality of hygiene, health and safety in a post-COVID-19 world), or even with talent. The right pairing of functions should be unique to your organisation’s strategy.
  • Break through the ”hotel brand” organisational siloes to deliver on cross-brand guest outcomes. Hotel organisations are piloting cross-brand teams in the space of marketing, for instance to align on the same guest segments being targeted by multiple brands, or even to jointly define guest segmentation as a starting point.
  • Elevate guest experience as a C-suite portfolio. This involves re-thinking current executive portfolios that are traditionally function-based in the industry (e.g. marketing, digital). For example through the introduction of an end-to-end Chief Guest Experience Officer.

Action 2: Unlock the power of hidden organisational networks to understand how guest data and insights actually flow

Traditional organisational charts help understand formal reporting relationships, but to get closer to customers it’s essential to uncover the ”real” underlying connections that are generating value for them. Hoteliers can use network analysis to examine true organisational collaboration patterns, silos, and enablers against different stages of pre-identified customer journeys, such as post-stay reviews and loyalty.

In Retail, organisations that are looking to solve customer issues such as high turnover or low conversion, are using network analysis to understand how information flows, how people actually work together, and where the formal structure supports or impedes collaboration. Imagine visualising the ”hidden” network of how guest insights flow post-stay across properties or across departments. What would you expect to see versus what is actually happening?

Action 3: Organise your people around guest ”missions” or outcomes

While many hotel organisations already have (or are seriously considering) a Chief Customer (or Experience) Officer, they are still often operating within traditional functional business units such as marketing, digital, new concept, talent, and operations, and struggling to truly build a cross-functional functional response around guest experience priorities.
Before rushing to create a new cross-functional team, your organisation first needs to:

  • Clearly define a specific guest mission or measurable outcome to be achieved. In hospitality, an example could be the activation of brand (re-)positioning across the portfolio, or the definition of on-property guest service experience. Characteristics of effective missions are discussed in Deloitte’s The Adaptable Organisation.
  • With this mission in mind, design the right team to deliver. There is a wide range of structural models to consider, from cross-functional project teams (least disruptive) through to mission-oriented adaptable models, or even to autonomous teams. Common to all is a foundational shift in ways of structuring and working. 
  • Realise that customer missions may require innovative collaboration with outside experts. For instance, in the post-COVID-19 ”new normal”, guests may expect new standards around health screenings and contactless transactions. Having a single view of the ”new normal” expectation in turn defines the right cross-functional mission and the partners (e.g. in health or technology) to be involved.

Hoteliers already experimenting with these concepts are designing cross-functional project teams that bring in global, regional and property stakeholders ”from the get-go” around a common objective. For instance, to design what the end-to-end guest service experience should look like for a particular brand.

The Adaptable Organization

Action 4: Bring the talent and guest experience on equal footing

Traditionally, hotel companies place great emphasis (separately) on both the talent experience and the guest experience, knowing that creating and cultivating the best experience for talent will in turn drive the best experience for guests. That being said, is there still an opportunity to bring these two closer together? In the spirit of The Ritz-Carlton’s iconic motto "We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen", hoteliers can consider strategies such as:

  • Bringing together the teams that develop the talent experience and value proposition with those that define the guest experience and value proposition. Providing these teams with common and interlinked objectives can inspire the identification of connection points and the sharing of strategies.
  • Linking data from talent surveys and guest surveys to pinpoint how and where talent engagement drives successful guest outcomes.
  • Building on talent mobility to enhance understanding of guest segments. Knowing there is strong talent mobility at the property (and corporate) level from brand to brand, how can you benefit and drive cross-brand discussions on guest segments? For instance, by flagging this talent as candidates to participate in cross-brand initiatives.
  • Align HR priorities to anticipated guest and traveller expectations. Hoteliers are using information on guest trends to better direct their own HR programs. For instance, to guide where to focus hiring efforts geographically, or to understand in which geographies there should be increased training on on-property automation.

Optimising talent and organisational structures

The travel and hospitality brand Airbnb is among the go-to examples of disruption in discussions on customer connection and adaptability to the unknown. These have sparked businesses (across all industries) to re-think their own organisations and to be more adaptable and even more customer-centric. Long-established hospitality companies can use the actions highlighted here to optimise their own talent and organisation in line with guest experience objectives.

Immediate recovery and long-term thriving

This approach will help in the early stages of COVID-19 recovery, when guests both apprehend and long for ”new normal” travel experiences that respond to their altered needs as a result of COVID-19. It is also an investment that will help in the longer term, when global travel will thrive again and when the hotel brands that are most quickly able to adapt to traveller needs will emerge from the crisis one step ahead.

More information?

Are you interested in how to introduce one of these actions, and where to start? Reach out to our Hospitality Lead, Fleurine Mijinke, below.

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