This week’s theme on the Hospitality Blog is customer engagement. Here is a section taken directly from my eCornell course Hospitality Demand Management with New Media Marketing. Using the customer consumption stages, we can identify eight touchpoints where the supplier can interact with the customer along each of those stages. Be sure to download the complete guide on Engagement Touchpoints after reading this introduction.
Unlike many goods and services, hospitality is co-created between the producer and the consumer. Hospitality is jointly produced and experienced when suppliers like hotels, attractions, and restaurants individually or working together co-produce experiences with their guests. This means that innovation can occur at virtually every point when the customer engages with the brand. The key is identifying where value can be delivered by enhancing the guest experience.
The Customer Engagement Cycle
What if we consider customers with regard to these consumption stages? That is, how can we map new media innovation onto the customers’ hospitality consumption process? What should be the main focus of this innovation? The answer is relatively simple. It’s about engagement. That is, how can we create more and better opportunities to involve customers in the process of producing value through their hospitality experiences?
If you take the hospitality consumption process, the dreaming, planning, executing, and reflecting, and think of it more as a cycle as opposed to a linear process with a beginning and end, so that the reflecting stage may actually be considered the beginning part of a new dreaming stage, we get the Customer Engagement Cycle.
Now let’s think of how we can map touchpoints where the supplier and the customer interact at the level of the brand. I’m going to discuss eight of these touchpoints. For more detail as far as what these touchpoints are and for examples of recent innovations that new media companies have used, there is a downloadable PDF file associated with this topic.
Let’s start off first at the dreaming stage. There’s where suppliers can think about how to target customers either by placing, for example, advertisements on Web sites or by using new media to attract customers and to create a kind of virtual experience, such as with lifestyle videos.
Also at the dreaming stage, there’s the chance to converse with customers and have a live discussion. This might be on review sites or even by having a link on a Web site where potential customers can have a conversation with representatives of the brand.
Moving from the dreaming onto the planning stage, there is the socializing touchpoint. This is where customers can look at a Web site, and by examining pictures or videos of other guests they can get a sense through live or vicarious education of what that experience is going to be like and become socialized into it.
Moving further along the planning stage, there’s the producing or the execution touchpoint. And this is where new media innovations can be used for customers to help produce, and specifically co-produce new service processes. So, for example, using their mobile phones as a way to expedite the check-in process.
As we move further along into the executing stage, we have opportunities for touchpoints through experiences where customers can help to co-create the experience for themselves with the supplier. Apps such as a digital concierge where guests can contribute information about their favorite attractions and dining in the area can provide an excellent opportunity for guests to co-create their experiences.
As the consumption process continues, there’s the responding touchpoint. And this is where the supplier, the brand marketer, or even the operations personnel can interact with customers such as through tweeting or even through some kind of satisfaction discussion, so that the customers can use their own voice and talk about their experience.
As we move from execution into the reflecting stage, here’s where we try to enlist our customers as advocates for the brand. So we encourage them to promote the brand by communicating with others on their social network.
And finally, the very end of the stage as we go from reflecting back into dreaming again is where we look at relating as a touchpoint. And that is connecting with customers through specific brand communities, such as creating Facebook fan pages where customers–hundreds, thousands, or even millions of customers–can become a part of that brand family and continue their relationship with the company.