Consumers Act as WatchDogs for the Hotel Industry

The Cornell Center for Hospitality Research “High Tech, High Touch: Highlights from the 2016 Entrepreneurship Roundtable” cultivated key observations about technology and the hotel industry in its 2016 roundtable session.

“The modern era is all about authenticity.  You must deliver what you promise, ” said MIT’s Jeffrey Lipton.


Photo Credit: Larry Hall, President and CEO, Trillium Services Group at the Cornell Center for Hospitality Research, April 2016. Photo via Cornell University
Photo Credit: Larry Hall, President and CEO of Trillium Services Group, at the Cornell Center for Hospitality Research, April 2016. Photo via Cornell University.

“The cloud gives consumers a loud, amplified voice. Companies are held to a higher than ever level of morality and accountability as a result,” Larry Hall President and CEO of Trillium Services Group said.


Even negative, disastrous situations — like the Chipotle E. coli outbreak — provides opportunities if hotels are ready to engage with their customers. “While it may appear that there is no upside in this situation for the company, it served as an opportunity for Chipotle to connect with its customer base, and address the problem, building trust.” the authors of the report shared.

While some might argue that the market has a way of always bearing out what consumers will buy or what they will pay for, panelists seemed to say that consumers may be gaining the upper hand.

Take, for example, a recent Marriott situation, when the hotel curtailed hotpot access, thus requiring customers to subscribe to the hotel’s internet service. A PR firestorm forced the chain to reverse its policy and issue an apology.

The “Voice of the Crowd on the Cloud,” panelists stated that individual consumers unify, becoming “the crowd” in social media. The crowd then serves as social and environmental responsibility watchdogs who keep businesses accountable for their actions and decisions.

The panel also discussed the relevance and importance all hotels face regarding negative online reviews. “Dealing with negative reviews is a pressing issue, and one we dealt with at a previous company of ours. After each guest stayed, we would send out a typical survey with ratings from 1 to 5.  If they rated us a 4 or a 5, we would send them to TripAdvisor and if they rated us a 1-3, we would redirect to our own webpage to address the complaint. This was a new way we dealt with reviews and the paradox they can cause,” said Josh Ogle of The Original Agency.

More than two dozen industry leaders, along with researchers and students met for the second annual Technology Entrepreneurship Roundtable hosted by the Center for Hospitality Research at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration. The April 2016 event covered a range of discussions including cloud computing’s impact on consumers’ ability to influence brands, social media’s connectivity between businesses and their customers, the role of generational preferences, customizing technology, and the challenges of adapting to the constantly changing environment.

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