The Power of Ambiance Design
By Roberta Nedry President & Founder, Hospitality Excellence, Inc. | June 06, 2010
Remember lyrics like "I'm in the mood for love". When guests are "in the mood" they are relating to a feeling that seems to be surrounding them in all that they see and do. That mood makes them happy and agreeable. When guest moods are up so are the dollars that they spend. When guest moods are down, they are likely to notice more problems, complain more and they certainly are not in the mood to spend.
How do hotels create the mood? What mood is most appropriate and what mood should employees be in to deliver..."the mood"? Mood actually translates to ambiance.....the setting of an environment and the feelings that an environment generates. Ambiance is actually a powerful aspect of service delivery. Groups of personnel providing service collectively create a "Service Ambiance."
When guests visit any hospitality venue, all their senses are potentially in play and can be turned on...or turned off. Each employee contributes to the comprehensive experience and mood of any guest, whether they are on the frontlines or behind the scenes. Guests will feel the impact of any inconsistencies along the way. Those organizations that create a consistent feeling of the desired service ambiance at every point of contact will be rewarded by guests who want more.
Recently, on a trip to Tennessee, we visited a themed hotel that was designed to appeal to all the senses related to this theme. We were delighted with the sights and sounds and especially the wonderful spirit of employees who took great pride in representing the hotel's "theme" personality. The ambiance was stupendous and so much fun. We had planned to dine out but stayed on property a lot (and spent more dollars on site!), just to take advantage of the wonderful mood we were in while there. Until, that is, the last night of our stay. The hotel seemed to be taken over by teenagers who were allowed to run amuck at 11pm when the rest of the guests were sleeping. The ambiance was shattered and our mood became quite grumpy. The hotel did not appear to manage the ambiance after hours and left ambiance control up to us, the guests. Try telling 50 excited teenagers to go to sleep! Service ambiance and physical ambiance need to be aligned at all times!
The applicable rule for ambiance should be that what is created is what is controlled. Maintaining the physical facility is not more important than maintaining the service ambiance created every minute by personnel. Management has the responsibility of defining the desired ambiance for the hotel's overall experience, physically and interpersonally, and then sensitizing all employees in their own roles in the delivery of the complete sensory experience.
Walt Disney was a master in ambiance design. Just by taking a walk down Main Street USA at Disneyland, guests experience the clang of the trolley, the smells of vanilla from the candy store, the bustle of store fronts and an overall feeling of home town America. Employees are dressed in costumes that reflect that era and are trained to generate that home town feeling of hospitality. Each point of contact for a guest's experience was analyzed and mood influencers were designed. The result: guests who begin their experience in a great mood with all their senses alerted. The attitude of each employee attempts to be consistent with the expectation set by the environment.