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Oh, What a Web We Weave!
Pitfalls with Descriptive Language

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By John R. Hendrie, CEO, Hospitality Performance, Inc., April 2005

No wonder the Consumer, our Visitor and Guest, is not only confused and wary but also frequently leaves our Destination hotels, restaurants and attractions shaking his/her head in disappointment.  We have applied license, quite loosely, to what we present to them.  Through glowing words, flowing and flattering descriptions, superlatives, grand language or even simple, we have created an expectation, one which often we do not or cannot deliver upon.  We should have asterisks after all our promotional material, “Caveat Emptor”, for we really do go overboard and invite Consumer dissatisfaction.

Join me in a journey from the quaint to the sublime, noting parenthetical comments as well.  Then, consider how you posture your business. 

Mom’s home cooking (my mother struggled with baked potatoes).  Overlooking the Harbor (not through adjacent buildings).  Latest hi tech (alarm clocks do not count).  Reminescent of a bygone era (the age of Charlemagne, perhaps).  Fresh Maine Lobsters daily (not fresh frozen and last Thursday).  Voted the best (thank you, Uncle Fred).  Romantic sunsets (what about rain and mosquitoes).  Exotic animals (a pig, rabbits and a snake do not make the grade).  Modern amenities (a 19” Zenith and drapes that work are a start).  Luxurious accommodations (a canopy and pillow chocolate are a stretch).  High Quality (too many interpretations).  Game Room (you need to move beyond Pong).  Only locally grown ingredients used (live through a Boston winter).  And, my personal favorite, Fine Dining (far too many expectations).

From the above you can see the pitfalls with descriptive language.   Yes, we want to share our passion and message with the marketplace.  Yes, we are restricted by language and pictures.  But, every phrase and every photograph we use should be vetted, because our Visitor and Guest look at that “picture we paint”, and from their own experience and sensitivities, they create an expectation, often quite different than ours.  The end result can be a disappointing experience, which sadly is broadcast to others.

You can be creative in your marketing, sharing your imprint about the business.  But, I encourage you to make sure that what you state has veracity and limited nuance.  There are several means to accomplish a valid and believable message:

  1. Consider using testimonials.  Broadway and Hollywood have been doing this for years, although they can also make a “dog” look good.
  2. Retain Professionals, who will provide objective verification.
  3. Use your Guest Satisfaction vehicles (Internet, Comment Cards, and Surveys) to ascertain that you have indeed delivered.  This is also a good means to create loyalty and also gain testimonials (see #1.)
Your emphasis must be on framing an experience which is valid and memorable.  Otherwise, you become trapped, “hoisted by your own petard”.  The journey to Remarkable Hospitality is fraught by challenges, but so many are in our own control, yet we can become lazy or arrogant with our message.  The Consumer simply will not stand for that!
Contact:
John R. Hendrie, CEO
Hospitality Performance, Inc.
www.hospitalityperformance.com
978-346-4387
Also See: Woe is We! We in Hospitality Have Lost Touch and Share the Responsibility for Consumer Cynicism, Angst and Ennui / March 2005
Moving the Guest Comment Card from Paper to Paperless / John Hendrie / March 2005
Myrtle Beach Area Hospitality Association Launches 'Total Quality Destination' and Presents 'Gold Star of Excellence Awards' / March 2005
The Evolution of Guest Room Amenities / John Hendrie / February 2005
Advertising Integrity; Framing the Visitor's Expectation Through Print, Signage & Internet / John Hendrie / February 2005
Hospitality Trade Associations:  What Have You Done for Me Lately? / February 2005
I Would Like to See your Hospitality Standards. Where Are They? Anybody Seen Them? / John Hendrie / January 2005
Remarkable Hospitality - the Road Map to Excellence; Exceeding the Expectations of our Guests / John Hendrie / January 2005
Are Your Guests Expecting Mediocrity with Your Hospitality Services? Move Your Level of Excellence to the Remarkable / John Hendrie / December 2004
Guest Services - A Tradition Diminished / John Hendrie / December 2004
Rescue from Mediocrity; The Decline of Service Etiquette - A Sequel / John Hendrie / November 2004
Offering Crushed Pepper Before Tasting the Entrée; The Decline of Restaurant Service Etiquette / John Hendrie / October 2004
Destination Marketing – How to rebuild your Reputation and the upcoming Season after the Hurricanes / John Hendrie / September 2004
Six Factors Which Dictate Success in Performing Destination Marketing / John Hendrie / September 2004
Influencing the Consumer to Book Business through Your Commitment to Quality / Aug 2004
Major Hotel Operators Have Rediscovered Hospitality Fundamentals by Revisiting the Guest Room / John R. Hendrie / July 2004
Destination Marketing 101: Take Care of Mom / John R. Hendrie / June 2004
Service Unions Combine, Presenting Huge Challenge to Hospitality Industry / John R. Hendrie / March 2004
What Value Quality? Most Hospitality Operators Use the Term “Quality” In their Advertising. What Exactly Does that Mean? / John R. Hendrie / April 2004


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