Brand Strategy

Focus on the customer, not the crisis

What did Max Frisch say? “A crisis is a productive condition. All you have to do is take away the taste of disaster”. Last week, a hotel in Kandersteg gave an impressive demonstration of how this can be done.

The hotel industry has been in crisis for weeks. And hotels have shown great variation in how they are dealing with it. Last week I received three hotel newsletters, all referring to the Corona virus. One hotel has done an exemplary job of anticipating customer needs even in these difficult times.

The first newsletter came from the Bürgenstock and was explicitly addressed to the Swiss clientele. “Dear Swiss People, in the midst of all the health concerns, travel worries and attention to personal well-being, decide to rediscover Switzerland by exploring the country’s best destinations”. It was a rather odd way of approaching customers, since it was already known on the day the newsletter was sent out, 11 March, that the virus was not a foreign problem. The invitation to the Bürgenstock and two other hotels in Bern and Lausanne missed the mark. The second newsletter was sent out by the Hotel Panorama Ressort&Spa Feusisberg. The hotel assured us that it had immediately implemented the Federal Council’s requirements and that it had taken additional hygiene measures. In addition, the hotel at least made a concrete offer tailored to the situation: “If you are unsure about booking a relaxing wellness stay with us due to the extraordinary situation, we now offer the possibility to cancel all wellness bookings free of charge up to 1 day before arrival”.

The Waldhotel Doldenhorn in Kandersteg did the right thing. In his newsletter, hotel director René Maeder first drew attention to the difficult situation. Under the heading “Enjoyment and joie de vivre despite Corona”, he wrote: “We are suffering from considerable losses in turnover and cancellations. In order to keep our long-serving staff, we have put together some attractive offers. Thank you for your support. And then there were really customer-oriented offers. For example, “Travel without stress”: “Would you like to avoid trains and stations? Get on comfortably at home and get off directly at the hotel? For stays of four nights or more, we offer a pick-up and return service of up to three hours’ drive each way”. Or “temporary living”: “Is one of your rooms being renovated and do you need temporary accommodation? Overnight accommodation without room service and once weekly linen change at a special price”. And to fill more empty rooms, the hotel is now offering a “taster night for locals”; a night in the hotel like a tourist, at the special price of 99 francs.

Cynics might object: What is the point of such exercises if – as is currently the case in Basel – hotels are soon to close anyway? It makes a lot of sense, because when the crisis is over, customers will remember companies that were there for them even in the most difficult times. Hopefully, many other Swiss companies like the Waldhotel Doldenhorn will be able to maintain their customer focus during the crisis and continue to operate successfully under difficult circumstances. I wish them all the fighting spirit of Winston Churchill: “Never waste a good crisis”.

— Ralph Hermann / 16.3.2020