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Don't make fools of your customers

“An ounce of performance is worth pounds of promises.” – Mae West


The power of marketing is immense. For hotels it can fill rooms, boost traffic, and create a din noisier than fanatical fans at a soccer match during the weekend.


The purpose (among others) of Marketing and Sales is to create expectations. But when Customer service and Operations fail to deliver – the takeaway insofar as customers are concerned, is one of being made to look foolish. Initially, for falling for the trick when booking the hotel room (the "first moment of truth") and for ending up disappointed when checking-in to it (the equally important second).


Most marketing strategies tend to lean towards telling a story. But what occurs when these stories are spun more around fiction than on facts? For example, inaccurate descriptions to proclaim the hotel in sea view, when the majority of rooms are not, or hotel websites that promises “modern air-conditioned rooms with free Wi-Fi,” when in reality" the hotel has guest rooms with noisy dilapidated air-conditioning units and sporadic Wi-Fi. 


It’s not hard then to guess what happens when such claims are put to the test. Obviously, they will fail to meet guest expectations, which then translate to giving vent to anger at the front desk, to voicing one’s rage over social media.


Consistency and authenticity are crucial in crafting a powerful hotel story. The narrative must align with the hotel's actual guest experience and the promises made in marketing materials – whether it be it through the hotel's website, social media channels, brochure or guest interactions.


The relationship between hotel marketing and service excellence is an art as much as it is a science. Both must align closely with the actual guest experience. For that to happen, reality must balance with the promise of delivery. Overselling or under – performing can hurt one’s reputation.


One must also remember that some hotels make customers look foolish without intending to. This happens unintentionally, through weak internal communication and / or poor training. Nevertheless, it’s still inexcusable.


Trust is not a proxy for mis-use. Trust matters in customer relationships now more than ever.  Today's marketplace demands total transparency. Hotels need to communicate with integrity and make sure the information they post about the property and surround, is clear, accurate, and readily available.


It’s time to separate the hype from the reality. Remember people are empowered and equipped with the means to learn practically everything they want about a company and its practices (good or bad), so they'll find out the truth one way or another.


George Jessel (retold later by several others) is credited with saying “Give the people what they want, and they'll come.”  I guess if you give customers more than what they expect, they’ll come… again and again!


Shafeek Wahab– Editor, Hospitality Sri Lanka, Consultant, Customer Service Trainer and Ex-Hotelier



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