When it comes to customer loyalty, perhaps no other space has it as rough as hospitality. After all, who doesn't enjoy trying out new hotels and restaurants? Hank Freid, CEO and founder of Impulsive Group, knows a thing or two about the subject. The New York City real estate mogul's portfolio includes a number of luxury hotel properties throughout Manhattan, including the Ameritania Hotel at 54th and Broadway, the Moroccan-themed Marrakech Hotel on the Upper West Side, and, his most recent acquisition, the newly renovated Sanctuary Hotel on West 47th Street, which was named International Hotel of the Year at the 2011 European Hospitality Awards.
Here's his advice on how any company can stay relevant.
1. Embrace change.
Human beings crave novelty so it's vital that you consistently offer customers some kind of newness. It doesn't mean your product or service needs to change constantly; it could mean something as easy as regularly featuring fresh elements on your website. Just look at the doodles Google often plops onto its homepage or the way Bing showcases a new beautiful image every day--people love being surprised. "Anyone who doesn't keep moving with the times and presenting new ideas or a fresh face is going to get stale and the brand won't be interesting anymore," he says.
2. Keep your message succinct.
Like it or not, most people have some kind of device within arm's reach almost every waking second, giving them the ability to flit between apps or social networks at the tap of a finger. As a result, inattention is a modern pandemic. "The message has to come across simple and memorable enough to engage a wide audience," he says.
3. Find and tell interesting stories.
Freid makes sure that, in their newsletters, his hotel properties tout examples of superb customer service, such as the time a concierge had a shoemaker repair a broken high-heel shoe that a customer had asked him to throw away. "Without asking her or anything," Freid says. "She couldn't stop thanking us enough and then wrote a super review for us on TripAdvisor. It's those kind of things that you don't expect that are the kind of stories you might want to tell."
4. Invest the time and money required to stay in front of your competition.
Freid renovates Sanctuary Hotel's rooftop bar seasonally with a new theme--an expensive process, but one that keeps customers coming back. While the space originally was going to be a summer-only venue, it was so popular he enclosed it with clear plastic and installed heaters. Visit this winter and you'll find a Moroccan motif featuring imported rugs and lamps as well as hookahs for customers to smoke. "If you don't keep things new, if you don't innovate and keep people engaged, they're going to go on to somebody else because everybody likes going to the new guy or to what the new product is," he says.