The UAE hospitality sector is expected to reach $7.6 billion by 2022, and with today’s high maintenance society, the saying ‘the customer is always right’ has never been truer. Forecasts from Oxford Economics indicate that the direct contribution of the hospitality industry on the GDP in the UAE will increase by an additional 72% by 2026, and as a result, related employment will grow by 16% to over 659,000. With such optimistic forecasts, clearly there are exciting career opportunities ahead in the region.
However, with technology making it increasingly easier and quicker to get things done, today’s customers have much lower patience levels and much higher expectations. For hospitality professionals in the UAE hoping to stay relevant in these evolving market conditions, industry-related skills and standards must be polished, updated and taken to a new level. It is also crucial that staff teams work together to create not only a good experience, but a memorable one that is worthy of a good online review, especially given that a staggering 97.7% of consumers read online reviews as part of their selection process.
Roles in hospitality are very rarely standard day jobs. Customers are looking to check-in, dine, commute and enquire around the clock and will expect consistent service levels regardless of the time. It’s also important to note that guests are now constantly tuned in to social media and are posting about their experiences in real time. As we have discussed above, online reviews are a very powerful tool in the selection process, and because businesses traditionally responded to negative reviews with compensation, customers are exaggerating negative reviews online. To be sure customer demands are responded to swiftly and effectively – before they have a chance to enter the online realm, a comprehensive and highly-trained team must always be available. For industry professionals, it is important that high service standards and commitment to customer satisfaction are observed regardless of the time of the shift and the activity levels at any time. If delays are expected, hospitality professionals should provide constant updates and reassurances to customers.
Bespoke experience creation
In today’s digital world, where personal boundaries have been distorted, customers like to be acknowledged on a personal level. Personalised services can be very simple to create, especially with the help of evolving technology, but can have lasting impacts on customers. Services can be personalised based on booking information with details such as names and number of guests. Names can also be used to personalise greeting notes in hotel rooms or to address guests throughout the experience. If children have been noted in the booking form, small gestures like pre-setting a child’s bed with age-appropriate toiletries or preparing activity packs can go a long way for the experience of the entire family. Services can also be customised based on the time of arrival or visit purpose. A businessman on an overnight trip may have very different needs from a newlywed couple on honeymoon, for example. To help create a thoughtful and tailored journey for guests, hospitality professionals should request basic information, such as guest ages and reason for visits, before their arrival and think of how they can add value to their experience in small but meaningful ways within their ability.
The UAE is known as a melting pot of cultures. There have been residents from all around the world since the establishment of the nation. While this presents great opportunities for exposure to different nationalities, cultures and customs, it can also pose a risk for the development of stereotypes. Adding to this is the content on mainstream media in recent years which has played a significant role in forming stereotypes on a global level. By consciously learning about stereotypes, why they exist and how they can influence behaviour, hospitality professionals can avoid any detrimental behaviour resulting from conscious or unconscious stereotyping. Staff in the industry must always remember that every customer is unique, regardless of their background, and to treat each experience objectively. That’s not to say certain well-known customs should be ignored. If customers are Muslim, for example, and clearly demonstrate religious practice through their dress code or other behaviour, it may be worth refraining from serving an alcoholic menu or pointing out the location of the on-premise bar.
Professionals in rapidly growing industries, such as the hospitality sector, must take human sociologies into account. As customers evolve and develop new demands, hospitality professionals must adapt to continually stay one step ahead. There’s always something to work on, especially in the hospitality sector, but fortunately for professionals in the industry, it can be very simple to truly stand out. All that is needed is a constant can-do attitude, a little background check, attention to details, and a smile.
Krish Seshadri recently joined Monster as CEO, APAC & Middle East, with over two decades of leadership experience in technology, digital & social media companies across the US/Silicon Valley, India and Asia. In his role at Monster, Seshadri is committed to driving the company’s philosophy of creating better opportunities for talent and bridging the talent gaps across the region.