Hotel Online  Special Report
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Recognizing the Moments of Truth
for Your Hotel Guests
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by Rick Hendrie, January 2006

One of the essential elements in every business is to recognize where the Moments of Truth are for your guest. One could make a case that every moment is a crucible which may tip the consumer up or down the Raving Fandom Ladder, which looks something like this:
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Ultimately, it takes that kind of fanaticism, where every moment is “The Moment of Truth”, to create masterful brand experiences, where your guests are committed Raving Fans, evangelizing to the world the wonders to be found with your brand. It may seem daunting.

The truth is most of the world is asleep, so actually starting somewhere puts you ahead of the crowd. Branding is emotional work, or more precisely, work on the emotions. The consumer most likely already has their conception of your brand personality, flaws and all, firmly embedded in amygdala, the brain’s center of pleasure, passion and buying. Your place on the ladder of Raving Fandom is firmly set there.   The beauty and curse of the amygdala is that logic will not penetrate its walls. Emotion created through human connection and dynamic aesthetics is the only means to get through. To shift your status up the ladder of Raving Fandom begins here,

Every business needs a Brand Story, a linear description of the ideal branded experience. Within that story are the critical Moments of Truth that drive it. These are the ones with which to start. Regardless of your business, I suggest you have at least five Moments of Truth. They are captured by these sentences:

  • “Hello, come on in.”
  • Welcome, what can I do for you?
  • I will do what it takes to make this experience WOW.
  • Thank you.
  • Good bye and come back soon.
Look at these five moments beyond the social niceties, which, by the way, are powerful unto themselves. Look at them through the brand prism.
 
Hello

This is the shorthand used to staking your brand purpose and values into the sand. Hello isn’t just a means of greeting, but a way to establish your brand’s essential attitude toward your guest. I don’t care what has happened to your guest prior to “Hello”, when done properly, it will change poison into ambrosia and be a catalyst to lift your guest up the Ladder of Raving Fandom
What are the brand benefits of “Hello”?

“Hello” gives the functional brand benefit of starting the brand journey; the place a guest transitions from ‘what has come before’ to a new reality. A hello that is genuine and consistently offered eases the guest through that transition. We often think that it is only kids who have trouble with transitions. Don’t kid your self. We grown-ups have just gotten slicker at hiding our anxiety.

Hello also offers the emotional brand benefit of confirming that emotional state your guest is really seeking, the one that supercedes the mechanical gain of a particular product or service. Think of Starbucks, whose emotional brand benefit is all about enhancing and deepening their guests feeling. Their Starbucks is a refuge, a Safe Place from the madness of the Outside World. It’s not about the coffee. 

Lastly, it is an opportunity to make an aspirational brand benefit hit home. For Lexus, hello can connote not just the emotion of elegance and luxury, but of “Having made it and living the Good Life”

Welcome, what can I do for you?

Here the initial emotional impact  of ‘Hello’ (remember we’re fighting to penetrate the amygdala) is broadened, deepened, giving you the chance to expand your hospitality from the handshake of hello to the spread arms of ‘welcome’. It’s a Moment of Truth, where you take this basic social nicety and up the ante. Have it pack a wallop. When Harley says “Welcome”, it’s to the promise of a ride on the open road with brothers and sisters. “Welcome” is never just “Welcome”, but an invitation for your guest to enter your brand’s story, in all its color and glory. The “What can I do for you” is the natural follow through as you want the guest to know that they are Captains on this trip. The fastest way to the brain’s brand central is to have it feel like it’s in control.

I will do what it takes to make this experience WOW.

Here’s where the overture of Hello and Welcome is followed by the Show. This Moment of Truth is long, indeed. But the key is responding to the guest’s essential emotional and aspirational benefit needs, rather than only the functional.  Many operators spend much of their time with their ‘actors’ focusing on the mechanics of this portion of the Brand Story, but not on the emotion. Mechanics are important, no doubt. A WOW brand is premised on superior product and service as a pre-requisite.  The real WOW, the propulsion to lift a guest up the Ladder of Raving Fandom, is rooted in the attitude that you are committed to doing what it takes to make the experience WOW – defined in whatever branded emotional and aspirational way you’ve devised. If I feel you care that I have a WOW experience, I will overlook a good deal of human frailty.

Thank you.

Few businesses say thank you. The several that do, tend to wait until you’re on your way out. You’re missing a golden opportunity to WOW. When I get the bill, it is a Moment of Truth. Here the guest makes an instantaneous evaluation of all that has come before. It is rife with pure emotion, the kind that goes to the amygdala and has a party. I would venture to say that if consumers were wired up so their chemical brain activity was recorded; this Moment of Truth would rank high on the Richter Scale. Take this moment and acknowledge the exchange of money and thank the guest for their patronage. 
Whatever may actually occur at ‘check time’, recognizing your guest’s payment at the moment they give you their cash or credit card is a mighty potent act of thanksgiving.

Good bye and come back soon.

Here, the brand story gains closure and the brain’s pleasure center recalibrates its feeling toward your brand. It is a moment where you can intensify the golden feelings of delight you hope to have created for them. It is a moment they recertify (or not) the emotional and aspirational benefits they sought in buying your brand. At the Ritz, it isn’t just good manners, but affirmation that I am royalty – at least for that moment.

There are plenty of other Moments of Truth to look at, but I suggest you take these five to heart and really consider how each fits into your brand’s story and reflects your Guiding Principles. By revisiting and, perhaps more powerfully imbuing your brand’s mechanical, emotional and aspirational brand benefits into these five Moments of Truth, you have a shot at elevating your guest up a rung or two, toward Raving Fandom.

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Rick Hendrie is President & Chief Experience Officer of Remarkable Branding, Inc. a Cambridge MA based consultancy which helps clients create  and market memorable brand experiences. For a complimentary newsletter go to www.remarkablebranding.com
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Contact:
Richard K. Hendrie
Chief Experience Officer
Remarkable Branding, Inc
617-335-1011
rick@remarkablebranding.com
http://www.remarkablebranding.com/
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Also See: Telling Stories: Your Brand is About You / Rick Hendrie / October 2005
Hear Me Out: Talking & Listening to Your Current Guests May Be The Best Way To Get More Of Them Through the Door / Richard K Hendrie / October 2005
Winning Brand Loyalty; Discerning Your Guest’s Tribal Loyalties / Richard K. Hendrie / April 2005
The Why, What and How of WOW / Richard K. Hendrie / March 2005
Creating Customer Loyalty: Beyond Food and Bed, A Good Relationship Is Your Best Marketing / Richard K. Hendrie / March 2005
Ask What Makes You Great; Questions for Hospitality to Ask Itself / Richard K. Hendrie / February 2005
Great Service Grows From Great Praise / Richard K. Hendrie / February 2005
Is it ROI, Return On Investment or ROL, Return on Loyalty / Richard K. Hendrie / January 2005
Brand Enhancement: Invite Surprise and Delight Into Your Operation / Rick Hendrie / November 2004
Your Experience Is The Brand; Good Hospitality, Food and Service Are Merely Entry Points into Being Competitive / Rick Hendrie / November 2004

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