The following summary encapsulates the highlights of a panel discussion for the Travel/Hospitality/Entertainment industries hosted by Pete Hayes and featuring CMOs Deborah Fell, Adriana Lynch and Aurora Toth. For the full benefit, view the discussion video in its entirety (19 minutes). Short of time? See the discussion highlights (6 minutes).
The travel and hospitality industries have been severely impacted by the pandemic but companies are slowly starting to re-open for business. It’s an unprecedented time and one of the major underlying sentiments is fear. How can CEOs and businesses in these market segments address and overcome this concern?
Some employees are afraid of coming back to work. CEOs and management teams will need to convince employees and the public that the necessary procedures to ensure everyone’s safety have been implemented. Guidelines need to be clearly defined so everyone knows what to expect, how to prepare and how to interact with customers under these new circumstances.
CEOs should understand their employee’s fears and questions in order to build a proactive plan together. Listen to your employees and make sure they feel comfortable with the safeguards that you are putting in place.
If you bring your employees onboard and help them feel at ease, you minimize the risk of creating bad customer experiences which will damage your brand. It doesn't matter if you are a big company or a small inn or restaurant, it's the same process, just at a different scale.
Customers also need to know that it’s safe for them to be in your establishment. It’s about serving them and creating positive experiences. The cleanliness stake rises dramatically and this means visibly displaying (and communicating) your safety processes: sanitization, the use of gloves and masks and personal distancing rules. A strong message around safety communicates that your customer service has been redefined to provide the best customer experience.
Communication and transparency are key, but you also need to reinforce that your brand is still your brand. Your message needs to be clear about protecting your customers and employees, but you also should be authentic and empathetic in all touchpoints. This is a challenging balancing act.
People miss interacting with others. They miss the humanity. One way to counter this is to communicate in a light way, because after all your business is entertaining people! Your business provides an escape for people who are eager to recapture normalcy in their lives. The onus falls on the CEO to make sure all the safety precautions are in place while at the same time, communicating a sense of warmth and lightness. An injection of lightness into the whole experience for the customer will go a long way into making the entire travel process, hotel stay or dining experience that much better. And since the lightness in your message is somewhat unexpected, this approach becomes even more effective.
Big players in the Travel, Hospitality and Entertainment industry have a lot of advantages but smaller companies can learn a lot from them. Some things will be the same – you don’t have to be a big company to have a website or communicate via email. You don't have to be a big company to have well-trained associates who follow a script, but also have compassion and empathy and are welcoming to your customers.
However, these extra efforts carry a price tag. As an SMB in this industry, you may not have the deep pockets of a big company, but you can take a page out of their playbook, study what they're doing and follow the process. You don't have to execute it the same way, you can downsize the actions to meet your own needs.
Recent surveys show that people are chomping at the bit to get out again and indications are that the public is adapting to the new rules and regulations. People love to travel, whether it's for work life or personal life. It will take some time, but it is the hope of everyone to get back out there and travel and hospitality are a big part of that.
Initial re-engagement will trickle back slowly from consumers who absolutely have to, followed by those whose dreams of travelling or dining out again turn want into need. The people who are hanging back or on the fence are going to watch very carefully to see how things go. These industries exist to serve - with a passion and human spirit that can't be underestimated. With a little creative thinking, there are ways to work around this current dilemma, and like Marriot recently did, encourage people that it’s time to come back out and play.