In the first part of this series, I will outline two of four key points: the value of customer focus, and managing and sustaining infrastructure, profit margins and human resources. In the next edition, I will address drivers and trends, as well as industry disrupters.

Let’s start with the hotel customer, whose expectations have shifted significantly over the years. Excellent facilities, highly trained employees, unique experiences and a range of personalised services, as well as the ‘wow’ factor, are now minimum requirements. Ensuring customer satisfaction, high-quality professional service and a bit of extra effort to meet and even exceed customers' expectations make up the magic formula for growth and success.

In order to give customers what they want, we need to get to know them. Spend time with them in person so you can better define the right product and service concepts while combining planning with logistical and operational support.

After all of these conditions are met, add an extra service to make the customer experience special and memorable.

Personal contact

Personal contact with guests remains especially important. A balance of crossculture competence, attention to detail and the ability to interact with guests gives hoteliers a pathway to success.

If a hotel or any service provider is to enjoy long-term success, the customer focus starts at the management level. The desire and determination to exceed customer needs and expectations must be an integral part of any hotelier’s professional philosophy, as well as a core attribute of the corporate strategy. It is simply not enough for management to tell their front-of-house employees how to treat guests.

Foster a culture of professional pride, passion and dedication. Embody the mission statement of satisfying customers and be an example for your employees. Hoteliers are increasingly challenged to keep their properties up to date with trends and developments in the industry, as well as adapting facilities and services for multicultural clientele.

Broadly speaking, we face economic and political obstacles that, depending on the country, are more difficult to influence or manage. On the level of a hotel operation, however, hoteliers will face some specific challenges over the coming years.

Expectations of the various stakeholders influence and impact the approach hoteliers take to planning and operating. Having a clear strategy, efficient time management and a well-connected professional network are essential.

Changing needs

Investments are also important. In a competitive market, room rates and profit margins are under pressure, particularly due to rate transparency and easily accessible information on the internet.

Fast-changing customer needs, expectations and service requirements, as well as communication and digital technology, add to the challenge of keeping up with hardware maintenance, digital technology improvements and operational success. A curious and committed management team and its employees, smart investments, cost management and digital know-how are vital.

None of the above is useful if a hotel lacks motivated, well-trained and loyal employees. It is the responsibility of hoteliers to motivate, inspire and train young people to join and remain in the industry, helping to keep turnover low and ensuring a consistent level of service.

Hotels must work on attracting and retaining talent through decent compensation packages, professional development and career opportunities.

A final point is tied to what we began with: customer focus. With access to so much information, guests are unwilling to pay for services they do not need. It’s a case of ‘less is more’ when deciding what to include in the offering

For that, we need management and employees to take ownership of the hotel space. Throwing in a few ‘wow’ effects will help to deliver the competitive edge in service, ensuring that guests will be more than willing to pay for what they receive.

Hans Koch

Hans Koch is president of EHMA and official delegate for EHMA’s Swiss chapter. Throughout his 35-year career, he has worked for hotel operators all around the world, ranging from Hilton International to ITC Hotels. He is also managing director of Hans E Koch Hospitality Solutions.