At EyeforTravel Europe yesterday, Senay Boztas heard how one company is using ‘millennial friendly emojis’ to drive loyalty and fill seats

How do you fill those difficult mid-week spots, without inviting online travel agents to the table?

John Potter, managing director of Potter’s Resort in Norfolk has the answer – and the secret weapons, he says, are emoticons.

“In business, we suck at measuring relationships,” he told the EyeforTravel Europe 2018 summit in London on Tuesday. “They are fluffy and intangible. But we have gone through the product era and we are now in the relationship era.”

When Bain & Company asked company directors if they delivered a superior customer experience back in 2005, 80% of them thought they did. When the consultancy asked their customers, only 8% agreed.

So Potter, whose resort fills 250,000 bed nights a year, started to delve into this gap to find out more accurately what customers thought.

In business, we suck at measuring relationships

Long form surveys, he believes, don’t work outside academia. “When you get into a relationship, the first thing you shouldn’t do is annoy your other half,” he said. “The only people who fill them in are those who will love or hate you. Using this method means you are making big decisions listening to polarised views.”

The Net Promoter Score – where customers give a rating from 0 to 10 on how likely they would be to recommend your business – wasn’t good at communicating to his workforce. “We employ everyone from dancers to gardeners and they have different interest levels,” he explained. “Some are engaged in NPS, generally if you bonus them, but it doesn’t change their behaviour. We have to have everybody involved.”

Taking back control

His solution is a one-question satisfaction survey based on five emoticons, from seriously disgruntled to delighted – giving something called the ‘Customer Happiness Score’. Customers who are super happy are invited to join various loyalty schemes, to recommend friends and get cash rewards or fill tables themselves on less busy nights. They are also encouraged to become advocates on the Facebook page and review sites.

Meanwhile, there are emoticon prompts on posters with QR codes, 3D cubes in hotel rooms and on a tablet given to diners at the end of a meal.

Our customer happiness score starts with a question: how do you feel about your experience today?

“When we talk about marriage we say: is it happy or unhappy?” said Potter. “I believe business should be no different. Our customer happiness score starts with a question: how do you feel about your experience today? It measures that in five millennial-friendly emojis. They are simple but important, and you don’t translate a feeling into a number where it gets lost in translation.”

Everyone is asked to fill in an email address to take part – gaining customer data, which is especially important if guests have come through booking agents. Customers are invited to give free feedback too, which goes into a live, two-way platform where employees reply and problems can be fixed.

Potter believes personalised customer data is just the starter for building long-term, happy clients. “OpenTable don’t pass on the email address of the customer and unless the restaurant pays, it has lost that,” he said. We have to take back control and have a symbiotic relationship with online travel agents.”

So don’t be paralysed by slow Wednesday nights or off-season vacancies. According to Potter: “If businesses are struggling to fill seats, it’s simple, easy to understand and everyone can use it.”

EyeforTravel Europe 2018

June 2018, London

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