Iconic companies like Starbucks and Disney have built their empires on smart customer engagement and great service delivery. These and many of the best operated organizations have a great people culture that reinforces creativity, new processes, and strives to reward and give back.
In the world of hospitality, these big five ingredients are potent in creating a sustainable, profitable, and growing enterprise.
1) They Engage the Guest in Meaningful Ways
Often when you think of great guest interaction, Disney parks and properties are usually top of many. As one of the world’s top tourist destinations, they have made a science of meaningful guest interaction from ingress to egress. By maximizing the parks and hotels environment through appealing sights, scents, sounds and textures, the customer’s senses are fully engaged, creating strong emotional connections.
In the QSR category, Chick-Fil-A-consistently ranks at the top for highest satisfaction by wide margins, driving sales near the top of the charts across the US. While their loyal fan base grows from enjoying tasty chicken sandwiches and milkshakes, it’s their service standard and that key connection with customers that differentiates it from most. Their service model of “Going the Second Mile” is where they see their separation from many competitors. They know expectation is quality food in a prompt manner. However, really focusing on the details such as saying “My pleasure” versus “You’re welcome” as well as using customers names, assisting with carrying their trays, and well-organized processes that accentuate strong guest interaction is what has helped set them apart. Through great food, service, and exceptional guest-centric focus, this popular brand continues to excel and outsell most of the competition. Especially impressive when considered they are closed Sundays!
2) To Grow, They Know They Must Continue to Innovate
In a recent McKinsey Innovation Survey, 84% of executives agree that innovation is critical to their business. While technology and analytics play a big part in the innovation push, often getting back to the basics can bring exponential return. Domino’s Pizza’s re-emergence over the last decade has been nothing short of stunning. Stock that once bottomed out at under $3 a share in 2008, is now nearly 90 times that!
As it was getting beaten up by its biggest rivals, and facing some of its own self-inflicting damage, the pizza giant simply began admitting in national ad campaigns that their pizza wasn’t quite to standard. This self-reflection catapulted major changes, and under the guidance of former CEO Patrick Doyle, they not only changed their pizza recipe, but began an aggressive campaign to increase its position with a focus on changing the experience for customers. The last decade has brought plenty of technological innovation from 2008’s introduction of the Pizza Tracker to voice ordering and using multiple platforms to order via Twitter, Facebook, Messenger and Amazon Echo. Most recently they have even rolled out a few attention-grabbing, if not gimmicky initiatives that includes replacing your pizza if you somehow manage to ruin it on the way home, and even signing on with a number of towns to help fill potholes, called “Paving for Pizza” so that calamity doesn’t happen in the first place. Regardless, refusing to stay status quo is paying off in a big way!
3) They Look to Create Strong Partnerships
Hilton-Uber and Spotify-Starbucks, these are some of the very high-profile partnerships that aim to collectively excel their brands through this smart strategy. This is a growing trend as companies look to leverage the strengths of others. In the world of hospitality, guest chefs and celebrity chefs have been the rage for well over a decade. Whether in sports stadiums, entertainment hubs, in premier hotels, or the recent emergence of food halls, new culinary partnerships and experiences reign supreme. Why these strategic partnerships? Because they work! They refresh and elevate brands, driving business that creates new experiences for their guests while influencing their positions in their respective markets or industries.
4) They Know the Importance of Immersing Themselves in the Community and Giving Back
In a 2018 study from the consulting firm Great Place to Work, that surveyed hundreds of companies and 380,000 employees, it was revealed that employees who believe their organizations give back are an astounding 13 times more likely to look forward to coming to work. Furthermore consumers feel a greater affinity to a company that gives back or shares their concerns on issues. In a 2015 Nielsen global report, 66% of those surveyed would spend more with socially conscious, sustainable organizations and an even bigger number, 81%, want to support companies that display good corporate citizenship.
It also helps when an organization endure themselves to those communities where they conduct business.
Southwest Airlines “Heart of the Community” initiative, working alongside with Project for Public Spaces, has helped transform over 20 gathering spaces in the downtown communities across the US since 2014. In cities like Atlanta, Detroit, and San Antonio, they have enhanced public spaces with millions of dollars in renovations to encourage community through celebrating the artists, performers, vendors, entrepreneurs, and families that make each city so unique.
5) They Have an Outstanding Plan for Their People
Last and certainly not the least—in fact it is by far the most important!
No surprise that those that engage their customers exceedingly well also have the best plan for their people.
Erich Kurschat, owner of Harmony Insights and founder of HRHotSeat states that some organizations can be quick to calculate the potential ROI on a new model or investment, but they overlook the many quantifiable benefits of investing, and worse, the costs of losing good people. “Richard Branson, among others, talks about the importance of taking care of your employees so that they take care of your clients. In the hospitality space, we can get so focused on serving the external guests , our customers, that we neglect the internal guests, our team members. There is no quicker way to lose your greatest asset” He goes on to say, “ I think that a great people plan engages and empowers team members. If they have one without the other (or neither), they choose to leave or remain unhappy and unfulfilled in their work.”
Erich highlights what he sees are the most definitive aspects to engage and empower your team members to help drive exceptional growth:
Alignment– Placing people in roles and with responsibilities that speaks to their natural strengths, preferences, and values.
Professional Development– Acknowledging career aspirations via continual learning and growth opportunities, both in and out of the organization.
Collaboration– By connecting people with other colleagues or resources at all levels of the company, you increase perspective and knowledge sharing.
Recognition– Rewarding performance in ways that are uniquely meaningful to individuals. Acknowledging strong performance in diverse and meaningful ways will help reinforce great culture and drive business objectives.
In actuality, whether it is expectations of high engagement with customers or driving and executing new ideas, the foundation is always people and in turn the extent to which a company chooses to engage their team members!