Putting Guest Interactions Into Accounting Terms
October 12, 2016 7:49am
By Larry Mogelonsky, MBA, P. Eng. (www.lma.ca)
To those who have taken a course in accounting or general finance, both of these four letter acronyms should be instantly familiar. Adapting these terms beyond bookkeeping and into the realm of hospitality, we can lever such terminology for a completely different purpose – guest interactions.
First, a refresher for those who have been away from the financial texts for a while. FIFO, or ‘First In First Out’, is the generally accepted means of assessing the costs of inventory. With FIFO, inventory valuation is based upon a calculation that infers that products being sold are the oldest on the shelves. Thus, as costs increase, your sales figures reflect on-going inventory turnover. LIFO, or ‘Last in First Out’, is an accounting method that is just the opposite; your cost of sales reflects the most recent inventory purchase.
What does this have to do with your hotel and guest interaction? After all, human beings are not inventory units. We have memories of our experiences, and typically our ability to remember activities has a direct correlation how recent they are In other words, our memories fade with time and our brains are operating in LIFO!
Within this context, let’s examine how we as hoteliers treat our guests, and look at the operational activities that we undertake to make them feel good about staying with us. We have the ‘FIFO’ down pat. We greet folks when they arrive with efficient doormen and bellmen immediately taking bags. Lobbies are grand and comforting while the front desk staff are friendly and attentive. If the property is full-service and upscale, a handwritten note and welcome gift usually greet guests upon entry to their rooms. All of this is cemented into standard protocols or training manuals. In traveling to 30+ properties annually, I can confirm that by-and-large this is to be expected.
But remember what I said – memory fades with time. How does this apply to longer term stays and the departure sequence? Say your guests are staying with you five or more nights. The complimentary champagne has been consumed; your welcome letter has been read and discarded. The lustre of your opulent lobby design has now become routine to the eyes. The memory of the warm welcome has faded by the time they are forming a final, emotionally based opinion and getting around to writing an online review.
How do you go about mitigating this psychological problem? Start thinking LIFO.
When guests are planning to stay with you for more than half a week, you need to rekindle their awareness and appreciation for your property. Your perfect housekeeping, punctual room service, poolside drinks and attentive concierge are not enough. You need to find that something extra that differentiates your property in their minds.
This is where personalization becomes a critical factor. By the third night in, you should have gleaned enough to learn a little bit about your guests – information that you can apply towards a gratis ‘surprise and delight’. Moreover, given the heightened margins on a stay of this length, you can afford to give back a little as a reward.
For instance, if longer term guests ate at your restaurant, consider a gift on their last night of a book from the chef, autographed and with a clip to the recipe of the dish that they ordered. Or, if they visited a museum or gallery, give them an appropriate gift item from that location (there’s a partnership opportunity here, too). Locally produced non-perishables, such as honey or jams, represent another memento idea. The key is to have it delivered to their room prior to their last night so that they can pack it as no one likes to hand carry and so there are no issues at airport security.
This ‘departure gift’ usually comes as a complete shock, making it all the more valuable from an emotional LIFO point-of-view. And remember, because you gave it to them last, it will be the first item your guests talk about when asked about their stay.
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Editors note: To discuss business challenges or to discuss speaking engagements please contact Larry directly.
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One of the world’s most published writers in hospitality, Larry Mogelonsky is the owner of Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited and founder of LMA Communications Inc., an award-winning marketing agency based in Toronto. His experience encompasses hotel properties around the world, both branded and independent, and ranging from luxury and boutique to select-service. Larry is also a principal of Cayuga Hospitality Consultants and is on several boards for companies focused on hotel technology. His work includes three books “Are You an Ostrich or a Llama?” (2012), “Llamas Rule” (2013) and “Hotel Llama” (2015). You can reach Larry at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss hotel business challenges or to book speaking engagements.
Contact: Larry Mogelonsky
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