INTERNATIONAL HOTEL BRAND MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES
Today, hotels are focusing on consistency and quality while offering guests the right price. This means that guest satisfaction and branding are the right tools to use since the products and services offered are unseen. Branding is used to promote quality by offering guests the information that they require while enticing them to use the products and services. It can be an important strategy for gaining a competitive advantage over the rest of the competitors. Hotels can maximize this strategy by offering a variety of brands for the same product while targeting different, markets. The brand value is determined by the level of awareness that customers have concerning a particular brand. This means that the quality of the products and services offered by a hotel is determined by the customer’s perception and the satisfaction obtained from the information provided. In hospitality, when customers are satisfied, they purchase more, become less price conscious and attract more customers by informing others. When this happens, a hotel gains a lot of customers and the revenue increases (O’Neill, 2004). This article will discuss on the various ways through which a hotel can gain a competitive advantage through branding. It will also provide insights for managers to apply in branding and customer satisfaction.
Hotel Brand Management in Relation Customer Satisfaction
The hotel industry has focused its attention on customer satisfaction and this has been used to measure the operational success. It has also been used to measure whether the branding strategies used are effective in increasing productivity in terms of revenue. Therefore, branding affects customer satisfaction directly and is used to increase the market share. When accessed from a corporate strategy point of view, brands that are well managed reflect an increase in market share while the results from service quality research indicate mixed results. This means that service quality can only be achieved when the guests have an opportunity to experience a hotel’s service while branding is open to a wider market. It reaches potential customers whose perception can only be obtained from the information that they get (Yap, 2006). This prompts hotel managers to concentrate more on market awareness and build their brands because customers are attracted by what they are told and not the experience. Some of the most established brands that are well known in the market always receive positive feedback from the guests simply because the customers already have a mind set that the products and services offered are excellent. Thus, a hotel can create customer confidence by focusing on extensive marketing to provide awareness in various markets. Newly established hotels have opted to franchise so as to market their products and services using the well known brands in the market. Managers should therefore focus on protecting their brands because this is what defines the quality of the products and services offered (Mattila & O’Neill, 2010).
Consumers perceive a high market share as signal indicating high quality and this serves to increase the demand in future. This explains why the market leaders use market share as the selling point to attract more customers. They use messages such as “we are the leading hotel chain in the world”. Such a message is perceived by customers to mean that all the other people go to that particular chain of hotel and therefore they have to go for the best by consuming its products and services. Perceived quality is linked to market share and the two concepts work together in increasing revenue. This implies that when guests visit the hotel for the first time and they are satisfied, the occupancy rates will go higher in the next visit because they influence others. The guests attracted by others through the word of mouth are more than those who are influenced by the services offered. Therefore product awareness is a strategy that gives a hotel competitive advantage and should be applied in any opportunity that the management gets (Krishnan, 1996). For instance, when guests visit the hotel they should be satisfied by delivering what is promised to encourage then to come back with others. Advertising is also a tool that scan be used to create product knowledge. However, this should be diversified to ensure that every targeted market is presented with adverts that best fit them. This will impress the customers especially travelers who love a particular product. Accessing their most preferred product in a foreign country serves to attract customers to remain loyal to a particular brand of hotel.
Franchise in brand development
Competitive advantage is also gained through branding by managing franchisees. Some hotels believe that their customers are not the guests who reside in their hotels but the franchisee. These are the primary customers who are monitored and managed to ensure that they don’t taint the image of that particular brand. They work at ensuring that the franchisees meet and exceed the customer expectations. This is because customers come into the hotel with a perception about the products and services they are likely to get based on the experience gained in a different hotel of the same chain. Management ensures that the standards used while serving customers are maintained and uniform in all the franchisees to help maintain the customer perception. When guests experience quality services while at different destinations, their loyalty to a given brand is maintained and they are likely to influence others to use the same brands. Thus a happy customer comes with others and doubles the service provider’s revenues (O’Neill, 2004). Experienced hotel customers have confirmed the issue of market share and branding through a research that was carried out on frequent guests. Frequent quests always influence relatives, friends and colleagues to visit their brands and experience the same products and services. This creates a chain which involves a wide network of individuals who get to know of the hotel brand through reference (Fung, 2010).
Building Customer loyalty
For a hotel to differentiate itself from the competitors it has to grow its brand and make known of its special services to the markets that it serves as well as the potential markets. This can only be achieved by conserving the market base that the hotel already has while seeking to expand into other markets (Pattni, 2006). This ensures that while the hotel diversifies to create new markets, the existing customers also serve to create awareness. To maintain the existing markets, the hotel is expected to offer more than the customer expects every time they visit the establishment. This will always encourage the customer to share the new discoveries with others. Unlike a situation where a customer gets a similar experience to the last one, the customer is encouraged to visit and discover the new addition in the former experience. This is what makes frequent customers seizes to factor in the prices but concentrate on the hospitality experience that is likely to be offered next time. To ensure that the customer is excited to re visit the hotel, the customer should be alerted on the new developments that he/she should expect. The issue of branding promotes this because the customer will feel like the hotel is providing all the information that they yearn to learn about the hotel. Keeping the customer informed creates a brand loyalty and serves to increase the market share (Petzer , Steyn & Mostert, 2008).
There is an intense competition from international hotels who are offering low priced products and services to attract consumers. Therefore, there is a need to gain a competitive advantage that will make customers overlook the low prices and go for the perceived quality. When consumers pay higher prices from the companies with an established brand name, they actually buy the positions of the minds of potential customers. Potential customers will be attracted by the preference shown by others and not the prices offered. They perceive the willingness to pay higher services as the quality attached to a given hotel brand (Keller, 1998). Therefore, awareness creates a reputation which is maintained by maintaining a good image and good guest relations. Building a brand is a gradual process which requires accuracy because a slight hick up may bring the whole organization down. What the customers perceive as the best aspect of any given brand is what the management should focus on improving to maintain and attract more guests. This can only be achieved by ensuring that the consumers remember what brand they used last. A well known brand can remain in a customer’s memory for a longer time as compared to a less common one. Awareness serves as a reminder to the customer that a particular brand exists and may attract them to discover the changes that may have occurred over time. Thus the customer should be aware of the expected changes for him/her to develop a perceived value through brand development (Kapferer, 2012).
Business to Business Branding
Business to business branding is a growing concept which helps in creating long lasting business relations. Given the nature of the hotel business, at times the hotel may be full and this requires that excess bookings be transferred to another hotel that is likely to offer similar services (Jones, 2001). This is a very important area that can be used by managers to sell their products. The choice of the hotel with which to share business must be made very carefully. A frequent customer may have a perceived value which is purely based on the brand knowledge and not the services offered. If such a customer is referred to another hotel, they assume that the other hotel is in the same level as the preferred brand. If the guest does not experience the same service as expected, then the perceived values decreases based on the assumption that the two establishments are at par. Therefore, when demand is excess, the choice of brand that is recommended to customers should be made carefully to ensure that the other hotel maintains the perceived value or even improves it. Subcontracting is a sensitive aspect which determines how the customer evaluates a brand. A poor service from a sub contractor may taint the hotel’s image and change the perceived value (Glynn & Woodside, 2009; Sigala & Jones, 2001).
Brand expression is linked to the business strategies in use. Brand managers usually overlook the influences on the brand as it gets its way to the consumers. It is important to have a good understanding of the brand so as to determine the kind of responses that it may receive from the market. Managers should view all the elements of expressing the brand and determine the one to use and emphasize while manifesting the brand to the consumers (Cai & Hobson, 2004). For instance, factors that influence the demand of a particular brand are location, a particular service lets say the quality of the accommodation or even the food offered. For a manager to choose the brands selling point, he should analyze the business strategies put in place to ensure that the selling point delivers what it promises to the consumers. Brand manifestations do not comprise merely of the advertising but the experience that consumers get while using the brand (Mattila, 2004). Therefore, before providing any enticing information to the consumers, the hotel must be in a position to meet and even exceed the consumer expectations. Delivering a promise puts a hotel ahead of the competitors, satisfies customers and translates to more business in future (Gelder, 2005).
Branding has become a marketing strategy which is used by hotels to increase their market share and remain a head of the competitors. Using the brand as a competitive advantage is influenced by the level of customer satisfaction and the perceived value created. Therefore, the task is to ensure that the information provided to the consumers is enticing to the customers and matches the experience that they get when they purchase the products and services. Business to business strategy also helps in building the perceived value hence subcontracting must be made very carefully. Another issue is delivering what is promised to the customer, this promotes the chances of the customer coming back with others. If the first experience is bad, the probability if coming back is low thus quality is important in the gradual development of market share. Brand expression and accurate product delivery is a good strategy for obtaining and maintaining a competitive advantage over the rest of the competitors.
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