Keeping up with industry buzzwords, I learned recently that we have left the SERVICE economy behind us and are now in the EXPERIENCE economy. (Technically, this happened a few years back. For data and details, check out the book The Experience Economy by B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore that was last updated in, um. 2011. Full Disclosure: Not the first time I’ve been late to the party. Just sayin’ .) Anyway, here in the wonderful world of hospitality we still believe that service is king, oh yes we do! But, the current challenge is to find more and better ways of providing excellent service experiences at the same time that we’re embracing unemotional systems, policies and procedures.
To put it in a hospitality-hotel nutshell, if you’re smoking your iPhone and are addicted to technology (yes, you out there, currently tapping your thumbs on your you-know-what), do you really want or care about that smile delivered with your room key at hotel check in, or would you prefer to bypass human interaction at the front desk and unlock your room with an app that you’ve downloaded on your very own hand-held piece of legal crack (aka iPhone, Samsung Galaxy, Nokia Lumia, or whatever you’ve got)?
That’s just one of the new engagement technologies that’s being tested and offered in hotel prototypes. But in that scenario, who would give you directions to the pool and health club (maybe), or lobby bar (yes!). What’s that, you say? You prefer to use that hotel app your swift fingers just downloaded on your hand-held crack machine, OR you could possibly/maybe just wander around and find it on your own? Okay, but what if I, Ms. Hotel Hospitality, genuinely want to help you find it? As always, the answer lies in finding the happy medium between the ‘old fashioned’ way of providing service with a smile and meeting the new needs of technology-addicted consumers.
Speaking of ‘meeting the new needs’, most everyone has heard of the new Walt Disney World Magic Bands (are you or are you not a fan?) but is everyone embracing their use? Not yet, but stay tuned. And while the verdict is still out as to whether or not they are universally well-received, the point is those bands are now on the forefront of the experience economy. You ask for it and you got it. Now, do you like it?
Your answer probably depends on your age.
So, how about you? What other ways have you already encountered the experience economy in your life, and was it a thumbs up or down in the process? On the learning curve of happiness in hospitality, there’s one thing we know for sure – if you’re a tired, weary traveler who’s already been on the road too long and now you’re schlepping your own luggage up to the 14th floor to save a dollar only to find the lock on room #1421 won’t open no matter key nor app nor Harry Potter’s magic wand, someone is going to have to show up in person to let you into that coveted room.
Hopefully, said rescue employee will arrive with a smile and a little humility, but preferably also with a drink coupon for the lobby bar to turn this back into a more positive service experience. (Hint-hint to all you hotel employees out there.) And let’s just hope they don’t try to send a malfunctioning security robot to do the job, at least during my lifetime.