Lisa is the resort manager at OBLU by Atmosphere at Helengeli. She has been working in the hotel industry for more than 20 years. Two years ago, she moved to the resort. It is a lovely property, very nature-connected. It is surrounded by lush nature and turquoise water, like an aquarium – a true tropical paradise. OBLU takes a unique approach to craft customer expereince and customer journeys.
| UL : First and foremost, what does customer experience mean to you, and why do you think it is important?
Customer experience is crucial because we can hugely impact peoples’ lives, even though we sometimes don’t recognize it. For the majority of our guests, this vacation is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. We have many honeymooners, but also anniversaries and similar. Considering their high expectations, they will keep those moments with them forever. They will talk about them with their friends and families back home. Everyone will ask ‘how was it,’ look at the pictures, and take part in their memory. In other words, it is in our power to make this a dream or a nightmare.
Customer Experience in this context is a matter of connecting with people. It is about the service itself that we provide; because the locations are amazing everywhere. When people go on vacation, they are relaxed and want to enjoy the time. They are open-minded, want new experiences – at the same time, it’s a matter of establishing a personal emotional connection to get into the person’s mindset. We want to understand where their expectations lie and make the experience even more memorable. Emotional intelligence is crucial, but lately, our impact here as hoteliers has been highly underestimated.
| UL : Where do you see the economic advantages of having a great customer experience?
The best advertisement for any property is word of mouth. Our guests will communicate with their close ones and share their experiences on social media – this type of marketing is priceless. Obviously, we need to have positive feedback to have returning guests. The personal recommendation is more valuable to us than having a loyalty program or such kind of sponsorship program. Our happy clients are our brand ambassadors and repeater guests. So financially, there is a significant return to the business.
| UL : In your opinion, what are the best methods to improve customer experience? Can you share any practical tools or techniques that you’ve had good experiences with?
It is the personal touch and the personal connection. Engaging in any kind of conversation, having a human interaction that technology cannot substitute. Filling out a form is important to the business, but it does not carry as much information as a facial expression. If we ask the guest for written feedback, they might say, ‘everything ok.’ But a trained professional can see from their face if something more is going on behind the scenes. We can perceive this as humans, and as professionals, we can investigate and ask questions. We understand where we failed, how to recover or wow the client. Technology today can do amazing things, but it cannot substitute for the human touch entirely.
| UL : How do you know when your customer experience needs to be improved? Or how do you tell that you’re succeeding with your customer experience
We do not do the classic paper survey. But we collect on a daily basis the guest feedback based on human interaction. All the departments have interactions with guests, and all positive, negative information that might be useful for the entire community is shared in a platform where everyone is aware. So no one is left behind.
Understanding customer satisfaction is a matter of sensations and feelings. Our job is mainly related to emotions, and it is difficult to hide or lie about emotions. You can understand and perceive anger, happiness, and joy through body language and facial and verbal expressions. Even when we have guests on the departure boat who are crying, it is the best reward for us. We know that we exceeded their expectations, and their vacation will be memorable.
| UL : Why do you care about customer loyalty? And how does the customer experience tie into customer loyalty?
Customer loyalty and loyalty programs can have a huge reward. Customers who come back to the property help build the future of the brand. The financial return is excellent. At the same time, a returning guest comes with higher expectations. Every time they want a little bit more. We have to increase the level of engagement every time. It is not an automatic thing, and we constantly have to invest in the customer.
| UL : What role does personalization play in customer experience and customer loyalty?
Customer loyalty plays a huge role for bigger realities and international platforms because there is so much exposure. It requires a lot of standardization, which has positive and negatives sides. For example, a hamburger that you can eat in New York or Hong Kong will be essentially the same. But this also means that you are missing out on localization and personalization. We are in a much smaller reality here. We have a lot more freedom to personalize the guest’s journey. We have standard procedures, but we also retain a wide range of freedom and action. We are not tied up. Our work is based on human interaction. Every guest has a unique journey, and we try to customize any special moment to make it really memorable. We try to understand what the guest might like the most. For example, if they are foodies, we can arrange a class with our executive chef, or if they love some unique dishes, we can even prepare the recipe for them and teach them how to prepare so they can bring real memories of where they have been back home. We try to customize as much as we can.
| UL : How do you use technology when it comes to managing and improving the customer experience?
We are the first property in the entire country to run the whole guest journey through a digital platform. It’s entirely paperless. We are green globe certified and pay extra attention to sustainability. Once guests make the booking, they receive a confirmation number with instructions to download our app. In the app, they have access to all resources. They can check-in and enter personal details that we need for legal procedures. But they can also search for activities and book them. Even before they set foot on our resort, they can start planning and managing their vacation. The app supports online payments. We even have a chat in the app, so clients can directly talk to our staff and solve any query. Instead of physically moving to the reception, they can get answers from the comfort of the pool lounge chair. With technology, we try to make their experience effortless and more accessible.
| UL : How do you differentiate yourself from other hotels and resorts?
We are a four-star resort. We are not in a luxury segment. Instead, we focus on the nature of the location. We have a lot of greenery, the marine life around us, and we try to be more sustainable. These days most resorts try to move towards luxury, but we are trying to go to the past and be more location-oriented, natural, and sustainable.
| UL : Final question. For the rest of 2021 and going into 2022, what will be the prominent trends driving customer experience in the hospitality industry?
Well, everyone is keen to go traveling – especially from Europe that has been closed up for a good 18 months. We are more than happy to take anyone who is willing to travel again for long hours. It will probably not go back to as it was before. But I think many have understood more about their priorities in life and the importance of a good balance between working hours and private life. So, here is where exactly they can recharge the batteries, have quality time and engage as a family.