Friday, July 10, 2015

Before Adios, A Word About Engagement

Regular readers know that over the course of a year I manage to research and write one of these little essays every 1.4 days.

On average, it takes me four or five hours to research and write each one, which is about the amount of time Americans spend working and commuting each weekday.

It’s what I do in retirement; one of the things I enjoy for fun.

I take some extended breaks each year and one of them, give or take, will be over the next four weeks, as I do about this time each summer.

According to a Harris Poll, 90% of Americans take breaks this time of year, one-in-five over last week’s July 4th holiday.  Nearly a third of us (31%) take a plane and 75% of us use a car to travel.

One of ours will be in the Jeep and the other a cross-country flight.  Both will involve family in various parts of the country as will 46% of trips this summer.

Americans traveling this summer will, on average, travel 660 miles round trip.  Each of our trips will far exceed that.

Even though my career involved marketing destinations to potential visitors and then encouraging them to circulate as much as possible, it took the fun out of travel for me.

I’ve always been more of a homebody-lake-excursion person anyway, but in retirement I am now free to enjoy a trip without it feeling like work.

It is probably higher by now, but a 2012 survey found that 71% of travelers are attempting to make more environmentally-friendly choices when it comes to transportation, lodging and food sources.

While there are still some destinations and visitor features that hypocritically practice desecration marketing (such as using roadside billboards) while claiming be eco-friendly—a  few even featuring exhibitions about the environment—they are more noticeable now as exceptions.

I’ve had my eye on a UK company in particular that offers water management solutions and software to hotels and other customers called Waterscan.

The company has found that a hotel, for example, will typically use about 53 gallons of water per day for each occupied guest room.

That can be reduced 30% by harvesting rainwater which can be treated and fed back into the building for non-potable purposes such as irrigation, vehicle washing and flushing toilets.

The amount of water used can be further reduced another 40% by recycling gray water from showering and bathing.

This involves an ultra-filtration membrane system using three underground tanks.

One collects and treats the gray water and feeds it to a filtration tank while the third is a reservoir from which it is fed back into the hotel, again, for non-potable uses.

I suspect it could also be used to treat storm water.

This is especially efficient for hotels because there is an equilibrium of uses and a cost savings of 70% on water use.

For nearly a decade now, Gallup has studied what makes some customers engaged while others are indifferent or even actively disengaged such as being passive aggressive.

Fully engaged customers, researchers have found, are “emotionally attached and rationally loyal” as contrasted to those who are indifferent or neutral with a take it or leave it allegiance.

Activity disengaged customers are detached emotionally from a product or service and may become virulently antagonistic.

I believe those who actively seek out environmentally-friendly brands are likely to be fully engaged and it makes a big difference to the bottom line.

In visitor-related industries, for instance, Gallup found that fully engaged patrons of casual dining restaurants make 56% more visits per month than actively disengaged customers.

Even for fast food restaurants, it is 28% more visits per month.  In hotels, guests who are fully engaged spend 46% more per year than actively disengaged guests.

While many many brands hope to change consumer perceptions by “embarking on big traditional advertising and marketing campaigns,” even social media, according to Gallup has a great deal of influence on only 5% of purchasing decisions and no influence at all on 62%.

But it is the currency of actively disengaged consumers.   Fully engaged consumers are far more attracted by concerns that are aligned with their values.  Fully aligned brands also have double the “share of wallet.”

Communities, businesses and features such as museums, athletic teams and theaters should take note, especially those using desecration marketing such as billboards or those that flippantly cast aside sense of place seeking to be mainstream.

For hotels, as an example, only 28% of guests are fully engaged while 25% are actively disengaged.  The other 47% are indifferent.

Nearly half (45%) of economy hotels as well as 38% of those in midscale properties and 22% of those in upscale properties are actively disengaged.

Even in luxury properties where 38% of guest are fully engaged, 13% are actively disengaged.  Recently, the Ritz Carlton in Charlotte was called out for discrimination after it applied a special service charge during a tournament for a league of historically black colleges.

Some called it a “black tax.”  The hotel apologized and made a charitable contribution to the tournament when challenged.  But there, most likely the service charge was added because studies have shown that black people are notoriously poor tippers, even when holding constant for social economic factors.

While the hotel was probably trying to watch out for its service staff, many of whom were probably also minorities, it may have strayed from its values.

One way or the other, it will now have a lot of actively disengaged consumers over those dates next year.  There is only room for one person at a time to stand on principle.

It is clear that the road to differentiation and alignment begins with knowing who you are as a community, business or organization and then remaining true to that brand.  That doesn’t include paying huge subsidies to attract groups for whom that makes little or no difference.

Unfortunately, only 46% of managers and 37% of non-management employees strongly agree that they know what their organization, business or community stands for and what makes it different, or in other words, a staff that is aligned.

More on this when I get back but read Gallup’s State of the American Consumer.

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