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Monday, June 04, 2007

Unwrapping Jonathan Tisch's Chocolates On The Pillow

If you remember from Book Review: Chocolates On The Pillow Aren't Enough, I had followup questions for Jonathan Tisch author of Chocolates on the Pillow Aren't Enough: Reinventing The Customer Experience. He addresses those here:

How has the book affected the evolution of the Loews Hotel customer experience? Did some examples/case studies hit home more than others? Which ones?

Since my father and uncle opened Loews Hotels 65 years ago, we have seen so many trends come and go. We’ve also seen the industry expand to one of the most popular around the world as part of the growing travel and tourism industry. But the more things that have changed, the more things have stayed the same.

In light of changing trends and expanding industries, we have always prided ourselves on our customer service record and understanding the needs of those who choose to stay with us, whether they are traveling by themselves or with their families, on a business trip or on a vacation.

But we also have spent a great deal of time understanding who our customer is and what the brand Loews Hotels means in the minds of consumers. We discovered that we are known for our service and hence we have taken initiative to find ways to upgrade the service that our coworkers can offer. We instituted training programs, such as Living Loews and Genuine Personal Engagement, which give our coworkers the tools necessary to do their jobs. We are continually looking at other ways to support the brand and any brand extensions that can come from the Loews Hotels name.

RE: the chapter on diversity. Some hotels have made a big effort in recognition of women's changing roles in business [and increasing work-related travels] to attract them. How is Loews reacting? Has that caused any friction and how have you addressed that? What about other non-traditional groups?

We have always tried to ensure the safety and security of our customers while also understanding that, in this post-9/11 world that we live in, transparency has become a very important issue. So as it relates specifically to female travelers, we do everything we can to offer them the accommodations to make them feel comfortable and give them the opportunity to accomplish their goals for that particular trip.

We also have broadened our understanding of the diverse nature of our customers by offering programs such as Loews Loves Kids, where we encourage our travelers to bring their families on business trips, in addition to vacations. We were also the first in the industry, in terms of a chain-wide program, to encourage the traveler to bring along their favorite pet through the program we call Loews Loves Pets.

Consumers' value equations are changing across categories including hospitality. They expect more for less money, and are getting it. How is Loews reacting?

The consumer today is so well-educated and understanding of their specific needs that value can be delivered at any price point. For example, there are some consumers who are interested in getting a $100 room per night who also expect $100 worth of value.

But as this global expansion continues in our industry, there are those consumers who are willing to pay $500 to $600 a night for their room and also want a specific return in value. As a value proposition is really in the mind of a particular traveler, it is incumbent on us to offer that value or even expand on that value when someone stays at a Loews Hotel. While price is an element, customers can differentiate between price and value. They understand that a great customer experience adds value and are willing to pay a premium for it.

There are so many travelers aware of what’s cool, hip and chic who are going to college and shopping at the Gap and going to Ikea and Target that we are seeing a very well-educated consumer today who wants value, but once again that value might be at a very different price point.

What are the various tools that Loews uses to monitor consumers and changes in the marketplace? Which are most valuable? How do you manage all of these tools? How do you transfer the insights to the organization? How do you keep the process fresh?

We ask our senior managers to always be aware of what they are hearing in their lobbies and hallways. We also seek out customer feedback, and really try to monitor the trends in the industry.

It also comes from my extensive traveling, seeing what our competitors are doing and reading lots of trade magazines, online publications and blogs. General consumer publications are also helpful, in terms of where the traveler wants to be located and which amenities she desires.

We also do a variety of focus groups, in addition to requesting direct feedback, which we have now migrated to doing electronically because the consumer is much more comfortable filling out a questionnaire with a few clicks than using a pen. With these methods in place, we have a pretty good idea of what the consumer wants.

Quite candidly, one of our challenges is that with only 18 properties we do not have representation in all major U.S. cities. The individual guest or meeting planner who is happy with a Loews hotel might want to use one of our properties in a city in which we’re not represented – it is a bit frustrating for us because we are very proud of the Loews Hotels brand and our record for serving the needs of our customers independent of locality.

Wow! Great food for thought. Thank you, Jonathan! Thanks, too, to Rachelle Lacroix of Fleishman-Hillard.

In addition to these two posts, I hope you've had a chance to experience an in-depth perspective on the book and the author made possible through the blog book tour. It took place the week of May 21st at the following blogs:

Brand Experience Lab, including a report from a live presentation by Jonathan in NYC
Customers Rock!, with questions submitted by Becky's readers
The Engaging Brand, Anna Farmery's podcast
Conversion Rate Marketing Blog, two-part podcast with Bryan Eisenberg
Vacant Ready, Q&A with Chris Clarke
Lipsticking, Q&A with Yvonne Divita
Experience the Message, Q&A with Max Lenderman
Customer Experience Crossroads, Q&A with Susan Abbott
Chocolates On The Pillow Aren't Enough: Blog Book Tour and her podcast interview with Jonathan addressing touch points, Living Loews, partnerships, the criticality of human interactions, and other valuable nuggets.

Now that you've experienced Chocolates On The Pillow Aren't Enough, are YOU ready to reinvent your customer experience? Have you taken advantage of these unbelievable opportunities to stretch your mind so as to figure out new ways to truly enhance the experience you offer your customers?

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