From having spacious rooms furnished with feather-filled duvets and gossamer sheets to providing immaculate customer service experiences, hotels have been indulging in an intense competition across the globe. The hospitality industry has been sprinting on the fast track when on one side, people frequently take trips for vacations throughout the year and on the other side, businessmen never seem to take a break from going global. As pointed out by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) that in the recent years, international tourism and hospitality has grown at a pace faster than the world economy itself. Thereby an ever-increasing number of people buying round-trip tickets and consequently staying at some hotel abroad is not surprising at all. What might come as a surprise is the fact that even after witnessing an escalating demand for stopovers, how hotel managements have a propensity to overlook ‘Prosumers’.
Consumers cum producers, better known as Prosumers, are responsive patrons who like to voice their opinions to businesses hence helping them improve on the level of their product or service standards. Coining the term in 1980, the futurist Alvin Toffler anticipated the possible appearance of such type of consumers who would like to get involved in the design and manufacture of products. When talking specifically about the prosumers in hospitality industry, it refers to individuals who are especially proactive as they keenly search for information prior to booking for stay at some hotel, engage in dialogues with brands to weigh the available options and sometimes, post online reviews to get their point across to the organizations. Multiplying with every passing day, this unconventional emerging consumer class has been fairly held responsible to help hotel managements fill in the existent gaps in their prevalent customer service standards, and consequently offer an impressive customer experience.
It is said that a hotel is a home away from home, so according to prosumers’ perspective, after an exhausting journey, the last thing that a customer would expect is an inhospitable treatment of any kind. Throwing light on the matter, prosumers hold the view that surprisingly enough, the simpler the formula to customer satisfaction is, the more easily it is scoffed off when managers focus too much on glitzing factors, such as having the tallest building in the world, equipped with the most advanced settings and all. Although such factors largely affect customer perceptions, but they certainly are not the only answer to a satiating customer experience. “By positioning excellence in customer service as a competitive differentiator and sustained value driver, businesses can intensify the customer experience, reinforce ongoing customer loyalty and maintain healthy profitable growth,” Ethos Consultancy director of marketing, Barry Judge noted. The hotels that focus on consumer as well as prosumer opinions, track their preferences right from their check-ins to the time they check-out, are more receptive to the diverse range of customers they have and value their feedback, are winning the day.
Consumer involvement for the improvement of products and services has been building for years but over the recent years, co-creating with constant input from prosumers has been trending even more.
On the International front, New York City’s hospitality industry has been receiving positive prosumer reviews due to the fact that it has been offering the most sophisticated setting while presenting highest level of customer service to its clients. Whether a tourist chooses to stay at the sleek Setai Fifth Avenue or the homely Casablanca Hotel, one factor is persistent, i.e., immaculate customer experience.
Places like Athens and Hong Kong have remained the center of attention for tourist for quite long due to their richness in cultural heritage, but Hong Kong has been able to uphold its panache of being the perfect tourist destination. What differentiates them from each other is the fact that Hong Kong has been smartly attending to prosumer analyses. Even though Hong Kong is known to be a place starved for space, yet the hospitality industry managements wisely keep erecting the most modern structures offering outstanding services, majorly owing to the fact that today’s consumer is more into radicalization of the customary hotel stays and sight-seeing services. Keen working on prosumer feedbacks is, undoubtedly, the very reason that the city has been still ranking amongst the most clamored-for Asian tourist hubs. From the budget friendly Cosmo Hotel, Wan Chai to the unique nine versioned Bridal Teahouse Hotel, Sai Ying Pun, the place holds options for each and every visitor. Hong Kong has successfully managed to keep its charm alive by building an immensely modernized city while retaining tints of its ancient civilization. The tourists are not afraid to stay at the culturally traversed metropolis as they have trained their managements to not be afraid to take chances while serving customers.
On the contrary, despite enjoying huge popularity for the last 40 years, the Greek tourism industry staggered severely after failing to satisfy the modern tourists’ requirements. With both its potential and competitiveness becoming increasingly questionable, the place is gradually losing its charm due to negative word of mouth from prosumers. Although the 2004 Olympic Games offered a unique opportunity to regenerate and rebrand Greek tourism, the consumers and prosumers still don’t see enough efforts by the managements to facilitate their preferences, which have incredibly altered with the passage of time. According to the director-general of the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises, Georgios Drakopoulos, “Looking at the overall tourist season, Greece remains a popular destination and it shows that Greek tourism is resilient despite the crisis, but Athens really had a big problem this year.”
With the world at the cusp of an advanced era, the Middle East has also been trying to keep up the pace as it has been continuously active in bringing radical modifications to its hospitality industry. The place is a miracle; it is simply amazing to see how sand dunes have been transformed into luxurious resorts and hotels while defying all norms and principals of architecture. From building the magnificent Burj Khalifa to having super suave international hotels, tourists have been gushing towards the golden land to have cherishable luxurious vacations. Construction of the undersea Water Discus Hotel will, yet again, mark the beginning of another chapter of advancement in UAE’s hospitality industry.
Right now, Dubai’s total room capacity is 54,300 which is believed to increase dramatically (to 69,800) in the coming years. It has also been estimated that luxury assets are sought after the most in Dubai. As compared to the growth rate of 5.3% of tourists in UAE, hotel industry has been predicted to grow by 5.3% in Dubai from 2012 to 2022. Both occupancy rates and revenue per available room (RevPAR) have shown an increase of more than 10%, while the average daily room rate has somewhat declined which can be attributed to the negative impact of the recent political turmoil. With the Arab Spring movement still going on, danger for tourist travel has faded and key regions are regaining back their popularity as the most desirable tourist destinations.
Having a plan to open up 150 new hotels in 2013, the Middle East has been predicted to experience a phenomenal growth in the near future. Along with Saudi Arabia and Oman, Dubai’s is predicted to have an exemplary double digit growth. The Middle East has been greatly anticipated to have dominance in the international market due to its steady increase in occupancy and average daily rate since 2009. Setting itself remarkably above than the rest, the region has been bringing awesome changes to its landscape with every passing day. Haven’t there been any prosumers, the investors would have never been able to go this far in terms of offering glorious structures and fine customer experiences.
There is no doubt that the Middle East has excelled by far in building versatile architectural structures, accommodating millions of tourists every year. With hotels like the Palace of the Royal Mirage, for example, one can truly see what it’s like to live like an Arabian king. “With stunning design and decor and impeccable hospitality, a stay at this hotel is an experience not easily forgotten”, a tourist shares his thoughts. “Paris is the largest destination for big group business as most of groups go to Paris. I think Dubai is ideal for MICE business. You have wonderful airport, clean and hospitable city. Because of nice road infrastructure it doesn’t take much time to reach downtown from the airport. While in other cities it takes more time”. In addition to that the Emirate provides very good choice of hotels and restaurants, general manager of JW Marriott Hotel Marques Rupprecht Queitsch said.
However, stay in ME can sometimes be baffling for a common man. With the region getting lavish in offering all the delightful facilities, from whirlpool baths, dedicated butlers to chauffeur-driven rides in a Rolls Royce, the rates and charges are going sky high as well. Moreover, despite excelling in building grand hotels, the Middle East still fumbles a bit when it comes to decoding the prosumers’ perspective to render an unforgettable customer experience. Take the example of Rush Lounge at Yas Hotel, the lounge is one of the most creative and visually mind-blowing place to be yet it lags behind in customer service. According to a customer, “What looked like a really hip and happening lounge turned out to be rather lame. Their lack of patrons was probably due to their insanely slow service. We ordered a few cocktails and even though there were only a few people, it took forever for them to deliver our drinks. We had to follow up twice!”
The Middle East also somewhat lags behind when catering to a diverse customer base. A disappointed customer describes her experience to be far below the normal standards, “Down at the front desk, many of the receptionists were rude and unhelpful. The men that were in the lobby whenever I came and left the hotel leered at me. I got some prank phone calls late at night during the night on my first night and on my second night the hotel woke me up with a phone call close to midnight to invite me downstairs to the bar.”
Though the fact remains that customer service loopholes are never region specific, particularly the Middle East needs to work on discovering prosumers’ preferences as its hospitality industry seems to be all set to rise above and beyond the rest in near future.
No matter what industry we talk about, the significance of customer service cannot be denied or even underestimated. Infact, customer service acts as a major determinant of influencing a customer’s preference for choosing you among the rest. Businesses must foster an organizational culture of employee empowerment, i.e., allowing them to make autonomous decisions while catering to customers’ out of ordinary needs instead of making them wait until a directive is received from the upper management. It is important to gain feedback from customers after their visit and determine if there are any glitches that need to be addressed or not. “Face to face feedback will always win over a comments form or questionnaire,” says Ms Cooper. “Ask them what they like and what disappoints them if anything, so you can learn from this and continually improve.” Even though they may go out of their way to keep guests as happy as possible, hotels will mostly find elements of their service they can improve. Managing the cultural fit has emerged to be the most challenging part for the hospitality industry. It’s no more about serving the same people or the same country you are operating in. Managements must be taught standardized procedures alongwith smart ways to serve the diverse nationalities or cultures fleeing from all across the globe.
Taking a page from Ritz Carlton’s customer reviews reveals how the brand name owes it all to having an exceptional way of treating its guests. The hotel has been persistently raising the bar, layering on a richer yet more customized experience to its traditional service standards. The luxury hotel chain has long been heralded for working on prosumer preferences for a better service.
Having an online presence and lending an ear to the customers’ gripes through social networks can also greatly impact their perceptions. Considering the fact that there is nothing better than a responsive customer, hotels must focus on prosumer preferences so that they are able to render quality service to their users and subsequently earn a loyal customer base.
Hospitality is all about service. The hotels that successfully establish credo are those that show an un-wavering commitment to service. Hotel customers frequently come across some common miffs which are mainly the result of lack of attention towards fostering a culture of providing a pristine customer experience. While many bemoan at the lack of customer service in the hospitality industry these days, there are still hotels around the globe that know how to do things right. That only makes us wonder what exactly is the management of such hotels doing? The answer is – they value their consumers as well as prosumers.
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