In the world of business, trends appear and vanish like so many clouds drifting across the sky. Open plan office spaces are a good example. When millennials entered the workforce – not just as employees, but as visionary leaders of massive tech companies – they turned away from cubicles and offices in favor of open, fluid and flexible workspaces. There were studies and anecdotal evidence to show that tearing down walls could create healthier, more collaborative, more productive team environments.
That is, until new studies suggested otherwise. The BBC ran a recent story (January 2018) about how and why tech companies are reverting to “closed” office layouts, citing problems like loss of focus and a decreased ability to retain information. Distractions and constantly sitting in different places appears to make many people less productive. Just when we think the boundaries are being pushed in meaningful directions, we find outcomes that force us to reassess.
So when you hear that certain hotels are bringing a “Chief Customer Experience Officer” or “Chief Customer Officer” onto their team, what comes to mind? Does the concept have legs? Or is it akin to spending a million bucks converting your office to an open plan, simply because the trend looks good and seems to make sense? Will we be laughing at this trend in five or 10 years?
Probably not. Before we even know what a “CCEO” does, we can safely say the trend looks good at a glance. Why can we say that? Because with hotels, everything revolves around the guest experience. If you’re unable to consistently curate a great (or at least good) guest experience, your hotel simply can’t compete. Of course, you could lower the bar in areas that allow you to charge less – there are different ways to create appeal within the guest experience. But in the age of AirBnb, there’s always somebody pushing the envelope to do it better – whether it’s a hotel manager or an apartment host. If someone hits on a formula that leads to great guest experiences, they’ll probably find a way to exploit it.
Which is to say that dedicating an entire position within your organization to the guest experience seems entirely justified – if you are a collection or chain of hotels, that is. If you’re in need of oversight that takes the latest research into account. Press releases announcing this kind of hire have recently been issued Dorchester Collection in London and Hilton, among others. Hilton’s CCO will “oversee the Global Brands, Marketing, Loyalty & Partnerships, IT and Strategy teams” while Dorchester’s CCEO will “implement the overall strategy of customer experience.”
What does this actually mean? Corporate structures require a certain amount of corporate speak, but what these organizations are really hiring is a new kind of focus.
For a giant brand like Hilton, this may be more of a necessity. There are a lot of moving parts and it’s easy for a big organization to lose focus.
But where boutiques and independents are concerned, a CCEO falls squarely into the “luxury we can’t afford” category. Sure, it would be nice to have a new team member whose everyday focus is set squarely on the guest experience. As it happens, this focus (maintaining it, constantly strengthening it) is up to the manager – as well as every team member. The boundaries of the guest experience are fluid and difficult to define. There is literally no aspect of the operation that isn’t somehow connected to the guest’s journey from booking to check-out.
It may sound hokey, but CCEO is not a new job position at all. In fact, many of the responsibilities held by the CCEO used to be embedded in every single job in the hotel, from maintenance to upper management. A classic book on hotel sales - “Everybody Sells Strawberries” - suggested that, whilst the Sales Department is not the whole hotel, the whole hotel IS a sales department. Customer service bolts straight into the same section. Walls and doors and job titles may come and go, but constantly strengthening the guest-centric focus within your organization as a whole is most definitely not a passing trend.
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