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Role of Consumer Research Services in Hospitality Sector With its consumer orientation, the hospitality sector has large applications for consumer research services. Research is used to plan new ventures, test innovations and timely evaluation.
Consumer research has many applications in the hospitality sector from planning to evaluation. For the hospitality industry that is centered around the consumer, understanding the latter is not just important, it is essential. Yet, for many years its application in this sector in India was largely ignored or not realized. Most businesses in the industry relied on their own know-how of their consumers. Fortunately, the situation has changed rapidly over the years. With so many hospitality businesses going bust within a few years, it became essential to find every tool to survive. Consumer research services help businesses to not just stay afloat, but to do so with élan. Like other businesses, the hospitality sector has used consumer research to plan better, avoid risks and keep a competitive edge.
Planning the right venture In the late 80s in the US Holiday Corporation ended its collaboration with Residence Inn hotel chain, almost ending its involvement in the lodging market. But it later emerged with extended stay lodging suits that were designed meticulously for travelling executives. These were luxurious suits where travelling professionals and business people could stay for an extended period of time. Interestingly, this was not a shot in the dark by Holiday Corporation. Behind their remodelling was meticulously carried out research, one where they designed a careful tracking system. They used mail services to track traveling habits from a large consumer panel. These were stored and tabulated to understand what professionals are looking for. The result were these homely lodges with a cozy atmosphere. The corporation later successfully adapted the same model for their vacationing consumers. Here consumer research was used at the very beginning of a venture. The sample was carefully curated from traveling professionals to understand what they actually need. This was the basis for the entire design philosophy of the new lodges.
Testing innovations For any successful venture, every detail must matter and each change or inclusion must be considered carefully. Some of these are operational, while some are consumer-oriented. Since, these impact the user, consumer research services are often used to gauge the effect of any change. How does it add value to your service? How does it effect the consumer? What is the instant response? For example, a restaurant decided to introduce weekly menus. To test its possible success a test run was conducted for a month and its regulars were specially invited on different days. Consumer research later focused on their response. What was their immediate reaction to the change? Did they like the idea? Would they visit each week to try out a new menu or did they like the predictability of the old one? What was their favourite and which changes they disliked? Research revealed that while many regulars did not like the novel concept, there was a marked rise in interest with new consumers. Consequently, the restaurant decided to do one week of a different menu, keeping the usual menu for the rest of the month. The fixed menu kept its large number of regulars happy, while the weekly menu gave it a much needed innovative edge.
Improving services • Perhaps the most frequently used consumer research service in the hospitality industry is the evaluation of services. Today every half decent restaurant will hand you a score card to mark their performance. A professional researcher, though, will focus on more than just the promptness of your server. • Researchers use various tools to understand the service patterns, from possible delay stations to areas of improvement. Even established hotels and restaurants have found surprising elements in their service record — from an inefficient floor layout to cold toasts for breakfast!
Keeping the competitive edge The biggest problem ailing the hospitality sector today is the global recession. Fortunately, the tide is turning. But businesses must now pull up their socks to keep their competitive edge. The trick lies in meeting consumer expectations that they are not even aware of! But, how does one achieve that? How does one understand what the consumer really want? Consumer research services focus on just that. Researchers study the pattern of their stay, their lifestyle and aspirations. Understanding them is the only way to impress them. For hospitality giants from countries like UK and Singapore, local research services are really the only means of achieving this very critical element.