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Managing service during business interruptions

January 27, 2013

Most service companies, particular large ones, have developed procedures for coping with crises that interrupt business in the aftermath of 9/11 and force majeure events such as Hurricane Sandy. Despite that some crises that emanate from unforeseen quarters such as Boeing's extended woes with its Dreamliner leaving the company and many of its service industry clients grappling for ways to keep consumer sentiment from building against them. 

Business interruptions due to change in processes, plants or personnel that are brought on voluntarily in what is meant to be a calibrated manner frequently result in frayed customer tempers and millions of dollars in lost revenue, much of it unplanned.

A notable example of the preceding point is renvoations in the hotel industry.  After holding back on substantial capital expenditures due to the great recession, the US hotel industry is expected to have spent over $5billion in 2012 on items that such as redesigned rooms, new bedding and beds, high-speed Internet access, flat-screen TVs, renovated restaurants and upgraded exercise rooms; all considered requisites from demanding consumers.

In the haste to avoid being viewed as a dowdy old establishment, many hotels fail to put in place procedures to handle guests during the facelift; and other than very high end hotels, establishments need to remain open during the process.

Ensuring project work flow and ensuring aesthetic factors are de-rigueur but establishing  who/which department will communicate sufficiently in advance to customers, particularly repeat clients, the nature and scope of the renovation along with a projected date of completion is a critical first step. The last element always needs careful consideration as "field conditions" and supply chain problems almost certainly will push the date further along than intended. Like in all communications transparency, barring what is not foreseeable, is an absolute must.

While it may seem intuitive and often is the right course of action to take, scheduling a facelift during the off-season can bring its own set of challenges. In many instances it coincides with adverse weather resulting in supply chain bottle-necks and even staffing issues that result in periods when the project gets stalled.  Customers who patronize the establishment can walk away with the feeling that management is not in control of events and never return. 

It also takes more than the oft-tried and most times successful "incentive" of offering a discount to bring and keep clients. Augmenting that by offering before and after digital and hard copies of the project can make many customers feel "a part of the process". Additionally, offering those who "weathered the storm" a grand opening rate good for a finite period in the future is not only a way of ensuring they return but come back and translate the visual handed to them during the project into the reality that has been brought about.

 

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  • President of Apple Core Hotels, a chain of 5 midtown Manhattan hotels offering value and comfort in the heart of the city.

    Member of the board of Directors - Hotel Association of New York.


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