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What can Hospitality learn from Retail regarding Customer Experience

As a keen frequent visitor of our hospitality friends establishments and with a public holiday this weekend it seemed a good time to write about a discussion I had with a group of friends regarding the differences in customer experience between hospitality and retail and whether Hospitality could learn from Retails approach to customer experience. 

Retail now has a strong focus on customer experience.  Product and store merchandising are no longer the sole drivers of sales; only businesses with superior customer experience will grow and ultimately survive the jungle that is the retail sector.

Now I have worked in the hospitality sector and I do love you, but I am also intrigued at the different approaches to customer service between two customer focused sectors – so no haters please! I am also by no means saying Retail has a perfect customer experience model, but as a sector there is a groundswell of change to customer centric standards. 

One interesting trend everyone bought up was that in New Zealand generally retail and hospitality staff do not see what they are doing as a career and so generally speaking do not have the same amount of drive to exceed customer expectations as those in retail and hospitality overseas.  This starts a whole other debate on whether New Zealanders see the service industries as an extension of being “servants” and that’s a whole blog topic on its own!  Retail and hospitality offer fantastic career opportunities and it does sadden me that they are not promoted as such.

But back on the topic at hand, interestingly there were a number of shared complaints between retail and hospitality; staff attitudes, how complaints were handled, opening hours and the lack of interest in creating a positive customer experience but some of the area’s the group felt hospitality could learn from retail were:-

-          Wineries charging for tastings – isn’t this the platform to sell your product? A winery recently charged me $25 for tasting 4 wines, not redeemable on purchase ... wow! (yes I did pay it as I thought it must be amazing wine to charge so much, sadly for me that was not the case). So while we begrudgingly pay to try our wine, would you be so happy to pay to try on a dress?

-          Wineries with restaurants charging different cellar door and restaurant pricing for their wine. Why am I being charged more for your wine because I choose to have a meal with it?

-          Public holiday surcharges.  Really, you are going to charge me more because you have to pay your staff time and a half?  Guess what, your retail cousins also have to pay their staff time and a half but they are going to have a promotion and advertise it to drive traffic to reach sales targets.  Why don’t you come up with a great promotion to get people in – after all public holiday’s in New Zealand tend to be on a Monday, a day when you will have low footfall to your establishment.

-          Opening hours – during the America’s Cup friends and I had many a commiseration lunch as we planned on celebrating an America’s Cup victory.  What we were surprised to find one Tuesday was that 6 of the wineries and restaurants around us were closed Tuesday’s (in truth quite a few close for Saturday lunch also). Even worse, at the weekend I went out for breakfast on Sunday only to be told by one cafe that they don’t open till 10am, the team were standing around talking.  So we walked next door as did five other groups within a 20 minute period. How great that the business made so much money that it could turn away 6 groups within 20 minutes.  While I have a good understanding of wage costs, I have a better understanding of customer experience and by closing I simply learn to go elsewhere.

-          No Wireless or Wireless which is charged for.  Quite frankly wireless to me is as essential as the bed and if you don’t offer me free wireless (which works) I will stay somewhere else.  Why in New Zealand is this such a barrier for hotels to roll out?  Travelling in Vietnam last year, towns were wireless but our NZ hospitality industry hasn’t cottoned onto the fact that we want wireless, we want it now, and we want it free!   

-          Technology - retail now is all about the omni-channel experience, with consumer’s today having high product knowledge and research on products.  I’m looking forward to seeing how this will translate into the hospitality sector and wonder if we well see the likes of the ultimate in cool, Mogul’s social media display wall, ‘’ in any hospitality venues soon?

On a positive note, a discussion was held around a cafe in Palmerston North whose owner identified that the cafe had an opportunity to draw more customers on a quieter night during the week for evening meals.  They have fantastic food and fantastic service so could have relied on other day’s trade to pay the bills but instead of closing on the quiet evening they started offering a promotion where you could win your whole tables meals for free – all you had to do was roll a certain number on the dice and it was yours, no questions asked.  Rule of averages suggests that it wouldn’t have cost too much to run, and is a fun engaging way to interact with your clientele. A great Retail based promotion, and has really helped to draw in the traffic on what would normally be a quieter time for the business.

So as we head into a long weekend, I imagine I will be paying for wine tastings followed by a surcharge for eating out before heading out to pick up the bargain I snapped up using click to collect at my local retail store. Food for thought?

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