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What Makes You Different and Possibly Exceptional.
By John Hendrie
Thursday, 7th August 2014
Most of us will breeze through those 'Best of' lists, marveling at the choices, categories and finalists, however, we will pay attention when Travel & Leisure, the AMEX publication, compiles their lists and winners, we do learn from this resource.

The Editor-in-Chief, Nancy Novogrod, appeared on the “Morning Joe” MSNBC program in early July, 2014 with this years’ results.  Her assessment of what travelers and guests seek in an experience was instructional.  They have a sense of exploration, adventure and need authenticity.  They are looking for something not seen before, fresh, different.  She gave some examples from her lists.

Disney took the top prize of the Mega-ship Cruise category, with Ms. Novogrod noting the high level of service, excellent food, extensive activities and excursions. 

The winner in the Airline category was Virgin America, boasting leather seats, sexy lighting, a sense of fun and exploration and awesome snacks.  She pointed out that the legacy airlines like Delta are losing market share due to constrictions in their Frequent Flyer programs, fees for baggage and having to clean-up after yourself at the end of a flight. 

Triple Creek Ranch in Wyoming garnered a first place as it offers a high level of service and emphasis on nature.  Three of the Hawaiian islands were in the top ten for Island Destinations, due to island natural wonders andvariety of foods. Charleston, SC was one of the top cities – a charming destination, Southern Hospitality and tasty.

No doubt, owners and operators will digest the results and think about what they can do to create a better Guest Experience.  Most will see this exercise as a real stretch, thinking that anything they do will require a significant investment.  We have a lot of homogenized, cookie-cutter establishments out there, independent and flag – non-descript, boring, mere stopovers.  Why settle when you can be different?

You have three “champions” you can turn to for insight and inspiration.  Start with your Guest.  If you have tapped them for feedback regarding their stay with you, you have some real data at hand and opportunity to act and be innovative.  You also have your employee population, who wants you to succeed. 

They are clever, connected and creative, as well.  See what their thoughts might be as you frame your differentials.  Lastly, you have the community where your business resides.  Each community is unique and can offer quite an extension of your hospitality. 

Think in terms of sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touches.  What will tingle the senses?  Bring it all together (or, even just portions), and you just might have distinction (certainly potential) in the experiential marketplace!

John Hendrie is the author of the LRA blog, focusing on anything and everything about customer experience. LRA Worldwide is the leading global provider of Customer Experience Measurement services for multinational companies with complex customer interactions. For over 30 years, LRA’s innovative brand standards audits, quality assurance inspections, mystery shopping programs, research, and consulting services have helped ensure our clients deliver consistent, memorable, and differentiated experiences to their customers. Many of the world's preeminent global hospitality brands, as well as companies in the gaming, dining, healthcare, sports and entertainment, real estate, retail and travel industries choose LRA to help them measure and improve the customer experience. For more information, visit
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