New Consumer Profile for Hospitality and Healthcare - We Are What We Eat, Drink and Breathe.
By J. Ragsdale Hendrie, Hospitality Performance
Sunday, 3rd December 2006
We have the benefit of those high powered Consulting Groups - who can slice and dice any demographic for you and provide a suitable Consumer Profile for your Marketing dollars - sometimes resulting in "think tank" gazpacho.  And, we dutifully respond with thread count, curved shower rods and flat screens. Hospital rooms are a little more pragmatic. We sure are responsive.

Even a simple country boy from the hills of New Jersey can see beyond the amenity "smoke and mirrors" to understand that Hospitality has yet to focus upon the simple realities of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs (Management 101) with few of those basic needs yet to be fulfilled. A primer for this Theory is as follows:

Depicted as a Pyramid, levels are grouped together as deficiency needs, such as physiological, safety, love/belonging, and esteem, moving towards the top level, termed growth needs associated with psychological requirements, like self-actualization and self-transcendency. While deficiency needs must be met, growth needs are continually shaping behavior. The basic concept is that the higher needs in this hierarchy only come into focus once all the needs that are lower down in the pyramid are mainly or entirely satisfied.  Professor Maslow meet the "Green" Movement.   Might I present the VITA aspect of the Consumer for those of us in Lodgings, Condo/time shares, Medical Centers and Hospitals.

The Experience is about lifestyle, health, satisfaction and fulfillment, but none of these are valid without addressing even more basic needs: the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we consume – all delivered in a safe environment.  Shelter and clothing are not covered in this discourse.  Rather than lead the charge, we in Hospitality have allowed most everything to be legislated, and our Brands now scurry about to answer everything, and, therefore, they dilute any semblance of reliability.  Give me a level of comfort about the basics, which you can, and I am yours!

"Let air be free, where ere it be."  A pithy expression about such a profound substance.  Just imagine your visitor, choking through city smog to get to the airport, then enjoying recycled air on the plane.  We certainly hope they do not have flu symptoms, allergies or breathing concerns by the time they reach our venue.  We would need a quick "pick me up" at the local Oxygen Bar. 

In countries around the world, non-smoking initiatives and laws prevail.  We fought the good fight, believing that our consumer wanted that privilege, although common sense and medical science pretty well dismissed our position.  Finally, we began to get on board through the brave leadership of the flag companies.  Why now, some hotels offer oxygen as a room amenity along with chocolate on the bed pillows.  One would think that we could offer our guests clean air, allergy free and pathogen absent.  Sadly, not even our Health Care Centers guarantee that although they were smoke-free early on.  But, there are means.

Too bad we did not invest in bottled water companies years ago.  The water tap has become synonymous with suspicion and germs.  There are no more pitchers of water at our conference tables, and even dining we are offered a pricey bottled product.  Now, because water is actually pretty boring, we add coloring, fruity tastes and fizzle.  Lord, it is even hard to have a glass of whiskey, neat, because the dark liquors have lost their status to the exotic rums and elegant martinis.  Hard liquor drinkers have moved to wine.  Remember the hearty beers, now emasculated to the Lites.  Tastes may change, but water is still the base fluid, and we seek filtered, processed, bottled, untouched liquid, spring fed and mountain stream rippled.  Oh, to have some means to assuage the public about our water system and source, without watching Kevin Costner's Hollywood wretched warning, "Water World".  There are means.

Dining options abound, but the world faces obesity as an epidemic.  The emphasis in many restaurants is on fresh foods, locally grown with organic really coming into its own.  Nutritional information graces our fast foods packaging.  Dining is seldom leisurely, as we must rush off to the gym and spa appointment.  We are health conscious, but we rush versus savor.  You can help us eat nutritionally. In Health Care, you can also add the dimension of attractive dining, no matter the diet.  You have the means.

We certainly feel less secure and safe.  Many of us grew up with the Atomic peril at hand.  Our governments prepared and parried, and we had Star Wars and Mutually Agreed Destruction programs.  That landscape has changed dramatically.  Terrorism is very real and can be in the hands of a deranged villain with a simple vial.  Biological terrorism is the real scare.  We all need to be on alert.

At our homes we control the environment.  As we are attentive to our comfort and energy costs, our heat and A/C are regulated by us. We have dehumidifiers, dust catchers, even aroma controls.  Filter systems enhance the quality of our water.  We purchase carefully our foodstuffs, and, even though on a tight schedule, prepare our meals quickly but thoughtfully.  After 9/11, we have duct tape, flashlights, canned goods, blankets and maybe guns, along with a safe spot in the basement to outlast the conflagration.  So much to think about, and, then we travel, looking for a "home away from home".  The Havens we provide must be responsive.

The above is the heart of consumerism and the essence of the Guest Experience.  If I do not think your establishment cares about my VITA and basic needs, you will not have my business.  Throw at me your clever marketing slogans, as you should, but just imagine you business advantage if you could rightfully state that your Hospitality or Heath Care facility has quality standards for air, water and environment. What a message of Differentiation and Value.  We all have access to Environmental Engineering – their expertise and systems.  If you have made the effort, you would not only reach my body and heart but also my soul.  You would have sustained me.

Feed me well, nutritionally, exercise me, pamper and exfoliate me – this all good.  What is even better is give me clean air and water in a facility where I feel safe. This is the business direction of the future! This is the competitive edge you can take all the way to the bank!  Viva VITA!

The author believes that Remarkable Hospitality is the portal to the memorable Guest Experience. Green is good.  Seek solutions at:  www.hospitalityperformance.com
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