My recent experience as a guest in a Dutch Fletcher Hotel in The Netherlands inspired me to re-think the opportunities for co-creation in the hospitality industry. While lying awake at night, unable to sleep on the uncomfortable pillow, and wondering where that cold draft came from, I was imagining ‘how my otherwise very pleasant hotel experience could become even better’.
Exceeding customer experience
The hospitality industry is a complex environment where every interaction with the guests has a direct impact on their experience. In other words, the product is an experience which needs to – at a minimum – match the guest’s expectations.
Given that negative experiences travel much faster and further, and resonate much longer than positive experiences, exceeding customer experience should be the hospitality industry’s number one priority. In today’s world, this is more important than ever before, since multiple online review and social media platforms allow customers to instantly share their experiences with lots of people.
Because hospitality is all about interaction with customers it makes an ideal environment for co-creation. And indeed, there have been various attempts at co-creation within this sector. However, most of them are some form of customer engagement, at best used as a marketing tool. A common example is conducting an online crowdsource or survey to get input from customers, which is then reviewed and used by the organization.
TheCoCreators refer to such ad hoc forms of customer closeness as ‘incomplete co-creation’. Incomplete co-creation is any co-creation attempt that is not a continuous process, and/or not a productive collaboration with the end-user and other relevant parties. These incomplete co-creation attempts fail to benefit from the six main advantages of Complete Co-creation.
A good start
A recent example of an online ideation is the Starwood’s Marriott Travel Brilliantly initiative. It is a well-executed online platform that invites guests to submit ideas and vote on other guests’ ideas. However, in essence, this is nothing more than an online suggestion box. It is not a continuous collaboration with the end-user and other relevant parties, resulting in concrete co-created solutions. It is market research through a personalized online channel.
Several years earlier Starwood was also the first real-world hospitality company to open a virtual hotel in Second Life. It was used to learn and test-market their new hotel concept Aloft and rapidly prototype the evolving concept. The project was also an effort to tap consumers for ideas.
Another example of a co-creation attempt in the hospitality industry includes the Klaus K Design Hotel in Helsinki. They organized a guest-led redesign challenge, which called for new ideas to transform their lobby and bar into an informal hangout space. Entries were accepted in any form, from a sketch on a cocktail napkin to 3D computer-aided designs or even an inspiring picture.
Similar to Starwood’s Marriott Travel Brilliantly, Aloft and the Klaus K Design Hotel challenge, initiatives are limited to individuals (not necessarily the target group) sending in their ideas, rather than a continuous productive collaboration extended over various stages of development. These initiatives are examples of customer engagement, which can lead to ideas and compelling material for a PR story, but are a far cry from Complete Co-Creation.
Why Complete Co-Creation makes a difference
Rough ideas generated by an online suggestion box concept are certainly not worthless. It is, however, only one of the many tools that perfectly fit in a Complete Co-Creation process. It is TheCoCreators’ conviction that these tools and its output will only help getting the much needed competitive edge if it links straight back to a strong customer insight, and is further developed into implementable solutions through direct collaboration with the end-user and other relevant parties. Only then will guests feel that they are really taken serious as experts on their part of the customer experience. Only then will they feel they are ‘co-owners’ of the experience, and only then will they be intrinsically motivated to help optimize it.