Become your property’s chief customer officer

As one of the foremost minds on brand management and development, Robert A. McDonald, president and chief executive officer of Procter & Gamble, is one person to whom you should definitely pay attention and listen carefully. (Note: P&G has perennially been one of the world’s “Top 20” corporations, with a stellar record of earnings, customer and employee satisfaction.)

During a recent roundtable discussion in Toronto, Bob talked about “Customer Champions” and how top-tier managers fit into the concept of joint value creation (JVC). Although he’s not in the hospitality industry, there were nonetheless some key lessons for hotel GMs and owners.

Bob defines organizational JVC as the method by which you create value for your consumer. Your strategic planning must start by envisioning the specifics of who will be your customers and what success will look like, on top of the precise financial aspects, your commercial strategy and your channel focus.

Imagine your guests as strategic partners and not just transactional partners. Guests will be more willing to express their feelings when talking to a high-level manager, and this sincerity should be encouraged as a learning tool. In short, know your customers. True and lasting relationships are multi-dimensional and built on value, creative input and good ideas — never just monetary exchanges.

Particularly for top-tier managers, Bob discussed the critical nature of fostering connections between presidents and CEOs, ensuring better communication between organizations and stronger relationships that translate down the pyramid. Think about how this plays into your group business. Do you, as a GM, talk directly with the leaders of businesses interested in using your property for a conference? What role do you, as a GM, have in maintaining those relationships after a conference has completed? How do you follow up?

Part of being a Customer Champion is to enable your team leaders to communicate with outsiders and act with responsibility — the “flattening of the pyramid,” as it’s often called. In practice, this places the GM role into more of a “management by exception” style, freeing the GM to schedule additional meetings, attend industry association gatherings and build new connections. Critical to this style is that all top-tier managers fully utilize technology to stay connected, thereby enabling them to hastily respond when exceptions arise.

The discussion then segued from this topic of electronic reliance into social media’s role within JVC. Such digital technology enables your organization to touch and improve the lives of customers, but it doesn’t ensure it. You can only grow one-to-one relationships with social media by first adding value — the same as it has always been.