Legend : It’s a sweet ride around Hong Kong in one of The Peninsula’s fleet of Rolls-Royces
AND THAT IS WHY WE DO NOT RELY ENTIRELY ON BIG DATA
From #HBR, Ana Brant, March 2016.
You check into your $1,000-a-night luxury suite. Your bathroom is lovely, stocked with shampoo, body wash, lotions, soaps. Your towels are plush, plentiful, neatly folded. This is great. But where’s the hair spray? You have a meeting in an hour. You need hair spray.
You call the front desk. The front desk says, “We sell that in the gift shop, madame.”
That’s not good enough.
Why isn’t there hair spray in your bathroom?
It’s not there because a) it most likely wasn’t on the mystery shopper checklist from a ratings agency — such as AAA or Forbes Travel Guide – engaged by the hotel company to help it guarantee the consistency of its service, and b) the hotel has neither developed nor leveraged customer data at a level of granularity required to know that you are 1) a woman and 2) in town on business.
To do that, the hotel needs to know you on a much deeper level by leveraging data and turning that data into information it can use to deliver a customized experience. It can’t rely on a checklist.
Mystery shopper checklists are used not only in the hospitality industry, but also in automobile, restaurant, and retail businesses, among others. Businesses design standard processes to make sure they get good ratings by checking all the boxes on the agencies’ lists. These ratings are then used by company marketing departments to impress customers, thereby driving volume and revenue. These ratings cannot be ignored. Get a bad one, and your competition will use it to sell against you.
However, trying to provide luxury service by implementing standardized processes that will ensure compliance, with checklists designed by third parties that do not know your business as you do, will inevitably fail to address individual customer needs. These kinds of checklists address the fundamentals of good service — but meeting the requirements of the ratings agencies with standardized processes will inevitably disappoint the individual that you, as a luxury business, most need.
Catering to the individual is what defines luxury; in the luxury segment, it is the critical competitive differentiator. The challenge for any business seeking to deliver a luxury experience is to be knowledgeable enough to go beyond the standard, to have hair spray for the person who needs it whether or not it’s on a checklist.
Ana Brant serves as director of global guest experience and innovation for the London-based Dorchester Collection, having previously served as the quality manager for The New York Palace and the area director of quality for The Beverly Hills Hotel and Hotel Bel-Air. Brant started her career with The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company. Brant’s public speaking engagements have included the Harvard University Graduate School, the Malcolm Baldrige Awards Recipient Conference, and the 2014 Cornell Hospitality Research Summit. She’s on twitter at @AnaMaritaBrant.