September 18, 2010 1 Comment
Prior to immersing myself in the many disciplines surrounding IT and computer networking, I was a business and organization consultant who earned most of a modest income assisting mid-market companies compete with market leaders. Most of my time, however, was invested with small and emerging companies and communities, with a particular interest in remote tourism.
Similar to my current role, I then collaborated with many professors and universities, including Cornell Hotel School and NAU, which was close to my home at the time. While some in technology may believe that the world of hospitality is low tech and therefore not challenging, the truth is that the travel industry was among the first to widely deploy main frames for high volume, large scale global networks with advanced algorithms to manage inventory, which has a shelf life of a single day in lodging, or in the case of airlines—a single flight.
Researchers and managers in tourism and hospitality also faced a range of human resource and environmental challenges long before other industries. For example, remote eco-tourism destinations not only must reach a global audience with a very small budget, but need to train entry level staff with advanced technology, multi-lingual cultures, and currency swings, among many other challenges. In fact the hospitality industry has been training and preparing entry level workers for other industries for centuries, with surprisingly advanced work in human resources, cultural management, and relationship marketing, which are all frankly more primitive in comparison across much of technology.
When my colleague Franz Dill (Kyield advisory board) posted a message on his blog about a video presentation on mapping remarkable relationships, I experienced a rather strong moment of serendipitous nostalgia. In the video clip, Julie Anixter shares a remarkable experience indeed with the Four Seasons Hotel in Washington D.C.
Julie’s presentation brought back a flood of memories from my consulting days, including a mutually beneficial relationship in the 1980s between our own small inn in the other Washington and their sister property in Seattle. Shortly after opening, we discovered that the concierge at the Four Seasons was referring guests to our inn who wanted to explore the Cascade Mountains. While the Four Seasons was priced much higher, with an investment that was more comparable to the entire village surrounding our inn, the values and product we both embraced were actually quite similar, which I later often referred to as stewards of the customer’s entire experience. This mutually beneficial relationship lasted until we sold our property.
About a decade later, just prior to opening our small tech incubator in the wilds of northern Arizona, NAU invited me to write an article in their journal: World’s Eye View on Hospitality Trends. In the proposed article, they challenged me to not only write an article describing the Marketing Wheel, but also to visually demonstrate the process and philosophy, with a particular emphasis on small business. As most reading this will no doubt be aware, small business has generally faced increasingly unjust and unfair conditions in the U.S. for decades. In fact due to regulatory, legislative, legal, economic, and scale complexities that are carefully managed by conflicted interests between Wall Street, Silicon Valley, and the Beltway, one of the few survival options left for small business has been to deliver exceptional service, creating the type of remarkable human relationships demonstrated in Julie’s video. While few can afford the time investment made in this case, the basic lesson of exceeding expectations and making a personal connection is much needed, particularly in a virtual world where relationships are often superficial at best.
So on this nostalgic journey to the past, I searched for the Marketing Wheel article, coming up empty, but I did find the graphic representation shared here, which I think reflects a philosophy much needed today in business, and particularly within the often toxic environment of enterprise software.
Much of the software industry has seemed to thrive off of relationships based on the unremarkable model of extortion through market power, leaving me wondering if this situation persists due to the absence of a Four Seasons culture in the marketplace? Lodging is after all an essential commodity that similarly thrives from the extortion model, until that is an exceptional experience comes to town, particularly one offering competitive pricing; at which time the customer’s entire experience changes dramatically. I wonder…..