Service: An Emotional Connection
By Deepak Ohri Chief Executive Officer, lebua Hotels & Resorts | September 01, 2013
Satisfaction is in the emotional connection guests have with the hotel and service – lebua connects with guests emotionally and knows their mood and behaviors to best meet their needs and preferences.
Emotional connection is everywhere at lebua. Our brand concept of service focuses on building emotional bonds with guests at every touch point, whether through language on our website, pre-arrival outreach, personal interaction with guests during their stay, the amenities we provide, or through the surveys we send them after their visit. This idea of service-as-emotional satisfaction contrasts sharply with the notion of service-as-efficiency. There are many profitable global brands that offer efficient customer service. But to truly stand apart, build loyalty and stand the test of time, brands must go beyond the commoditized transactional view of goods and services. For example, Blackberry once dominated the Smartphone industry. Users were addicted to the connectivity of their Blackberries and even nicknamed them "crackberries." Cue Apple and Samsung, who cemented emotional bonds with consumers by providing products that were not only functional, but focused on design that appealed to the senses and on branding and advertising that spoke to their personal sense of identity. Needless to say, Apple and Samsung now own the global Smartphone industry.
To build long-term success, brands must tap into a deeper level of exchange beyond that of money-for-goods or services. While we offer efficient service, we concentrate on affecting emotional responses in our guests. By creating positive non-cerebral, non-voluntary reactions-or feelings-in our guests, we offer deeply personal, uniquely memorable experiences. In fact, we equate exceptional guest service with positive emotional connections, and believe that life's truest luxuries are those unforgettable moments that stir emotions. This philosophy on luxury has suited us well, particularly as consumers' and guests' attitudes have shifted away from conspicuous consumption over the last few years. More and more, they desire meaningful experiences and memories that endure. In the same way that a quality timepiece provides a sense of heritage and permanence, our version of luxury and service offers longevity through indelible, lasting memories.
First and foremost, brands develop emotional bonds by understanding and anticipating customer needs. For example, Louis Vuitton recognized the "democratization of luxury" and anticipated their consumer's desire to feel even more special. So they launched their brilliant "Mon Monogram" service, allowing their consumers to personalize accessories and luggage. Our team members are trained to reference previous stays and to pick up on details. This strategy enables them to truly understand and anticipate guest needs, as well as exceed their expectations. For example, a team member will not only deliver a guest's luggage to his room, but will see that he has brought a golf bag and be sure to ask to the concierge to prepare and deliver golf-related suggestions for his stay, prior to him even asking. Similarly a team member in one hotel restaurant will note in a guest's profile that she declined bread during dinner, so that when she dines at another hotel restaurant, the staff will be sure to ask if she'd like bread instead of automatically bringing it to her table. Recently, one guest mentioned he regretted he had only one day at our hotel and could not try all our restaurants. So our team member arranged for a progressive "safari" dinner through which the guest could enjoy a different course at each of the restaurants.
We design services to show guests we understand and care about their needs. Many guests travel for over 24 hours to visit Thailand and are beyond exhausted when their planes land. lebua offers a Welcome Escort who meets guests at the airport gate, ushers them through an express line at immigration, assists them with luggage, and helps them find their private car and driver. And we make sure their car is stocked with a selection of healthy and delicious beverages and treats. Guests feel welcome and cared for the minute they arrive in the country. To accommodate guests' privacy concerns, we offer the comfort of in-suite check-in. Our pillow menu addresses ours guests' diverse sleeping needs, including hypo-allergenic pillows for sensitivities, firm Fire Ball pillows for side sleepers, and an anti-snore option for those traveling with companions. By perceiving and anticipating mood, analyzing behavior, and acting accordingly, we elicit positive emotional reactions and prove to our guests that their satisfaction and needs are our top priorities.
Additionally, emotional connections are created by providing genuinely memorable, distinct features and amenities. Disney has mastered this strategy, delivering the "Magic of Disney" through unmatched park amenities in the U.S., Asia, and Europe, generation after generation. The vistas from the restaurants and bars atop Tower Club at lebua and lebua at State Tower State, our Bangkok-based flagship properties, are breathtaking and truly unmatched. We also use local ingredients and distinctly combine them with imported products, often exclusive regionally to lebua. For example, we offer ALMAS, one of the world's rarest and finest caviars, produced by Caspian Sea sturgeons that are over 100 year olds. (Our guests consume 30% of ALMAS' yearly production.) The views, along with the caliber of mixology, food preparation, and products, keep guests returning. They know, and more importantly, feel that they cannot attain the same experience elsewhere. At Devi Garh by lebua, our heritage hotel located in an 18th century fort in Rajasthan, we arrange private dining in intimate non-traditional venues throughout the property, providing guest unforgettable, poetic experiences. We make it a priority to recruit the best in the business, whether they are award-winning chefs, gifted front-of-house staff, or graduates of the world's top business schools. Talented team members fuel innovation, enabling us to create experiences that guests treasure and desire more of.