Is your hotel team made up of “head” people or “heart” people? Perhaps a bit of both? A strategic combination of rational decision-making and a heart-felt connection is the key to great hospitality, according to Doug Kennedy. With over three decades of experience, hospitality, and sales training trainer and conference speaker Doug shares his insights on how technology and the human touch can be brought together to support and elevate guest service. He goes into the concept of “sentipensante”, a kind of humanist hospitality, and discusses some challenges posed by tech and how it can be used in favor of hoteliers today.
We recently read your article on the concept of “sentipensante.” Tell us more about the concept and how hoteliers can apply this concept to technology to make guest interactions more meaningful.
5 Key Takeaways
- Combine rational decision-making with emotional connection for great hospitality.
- Use “sentipensante” hospitality to integrate emotions and reasoning into technology for meaningful guest interactions.
- Deploy tech to enhance human touch, like using self-check-in to free up staff.
- Break through generic sales conversations with personalized, multi-medium follow-up methods.
- Prioritize emotional connections to outperform the competition in the face of industry-wide commoditization.
The term “sentipensante” is used to define an individual who naturally integrates emotions and intellectual reasonings when dealing with others, basing decisions on empathy and intelligence, and that is, to me, the perfect word for connecting these two very important concepts in hotel communications, namely the philosophical and the demonstrative parts.
The term came about when presenting our hospitality class at one of our regular clients, Nizuc Resort & Spa in Cancun, I was talking about how communication essentials – important skills that allow us to have polite, eloquent guest service – are more thought-based, while, more importantly, the philosophical aspects of hospitality are heart-based, and how we need to take, as I like to say, “a long two-foot journey” from the head to the heart. At the end, one of the staff members there approached me to say that there’s a Spanish word for the concept I was sharing: “sentipensante.”
Using a tech-touch approach has been a theme of all of our training across all verticals of hospitality. As a hotel, you want and need to have the best tech, but it would be best to deploy it in a way that enhances and enables the human touch. Take automated self-check-in, which is a fantastic thing, provided it is used in a way that frees up the front desk associate to now be a greeter in the lobby, to truly give that warm welcome instead of worrying about transactional tasks. Or from a sales team perspective, yes, add a website inquiry form or be present on different distribution platforms, but, if you want to stand out, don’t just reply through a template of generic rates and availability response, we recommend using tools such as personalized short video email messages, or customized proposals that speak to the client’s specific needs.
Speaking of the sales process, it has changed quite a bit in the last decade. How has technology played a role in these changes?
In the past, the person planning the group event or looking to secure a special corporate rate for their company reached out directly to three, maybe four hotels to get a proposal. They picked up the phone in the 90s and 00s, and in the 2010s they sent direct emails. Today, they go to specialized platforms or local tourism offices, therefore, one originator of business reaches out to 10 or more locations simultaneously. As a result, salespeople are chasing more leads with a lower possibility of converting any one of them.
They understand that when you make those emotional connections between your team and your guests or sales prospects, you will stand out and outperform your competition.
So what we must do is find a way to break through what is now a cold, generic digital conversation. Some ways to do this are:
- Use an app like Calendly to make it easy to schedule real conversations.
- Encourage video meetings and turn on your camera instead of making lame excuses such as “my camera’s not working today” like so many people do.
- Send short, personalized, video email messages, using apps like Vidyard and BombBomb.
- Just pick up the phone and call, even if just to leave a voicemail, your voice can make an impression.
As a result of chasing many more leads, salespeople today are in a reactive mode, living off of inbound and doing very little follow-up. And, if they do, it’s usually just one email. If they embrace their CRM platform, they can tenaciously follow up on each lead in a personalized way. The CRM can be used for entering contact information as well as details about conversations, copies of email exchanges, and for putting every lead on a lead stream. Then they can open that stream every day and reach out to people they spoke with previously by sending an email, text, or video – three different, alternating mediums instead of just email, email, voicemail, voicemail.
A pitfall many hotels are falling into is the indiscriminate use of automation. For example, when a lead comes in, a fully automated four-part drip campaign that is generic and used for all inquiries is set off. It’s about as exciting as getting a generic email birthday message from your dentist’s office.
Where do you see the future of the industry headed, in terms of technology usage? How can this humanist hospitality approach guide us?
We are at a crossroads in the lodging industry, and I believe the majority of companies will, unfortunately, go in the same direction, which is down the path of using technology to replace humans to cut costs, following a budget-cutting mentality that will end up in the commoditization of the lodging space. Everybody will be copycatting designs of hotel rooms, they will all resort to similar tech to use drip campaigns and automation, and the prices will also be the same due to advances in revenue management and pricing, causing the buying decision to be made based on price, be it for transient, group, or social bookings.
On the other hand will be the few lodging providers who understand that we are primarily an experience-based business, that human beings are social by nature, and that your people are your superpower and biggest opportunity to differentiate. They understand that when you make those emotional connections between your team and your guests or sales prospects, you will stand out and outperform your competition.