Mobile Services - Failure To Focus On Customer Needs Will Result In a "Miss"

I saw a story this morning on Mobile Commerce Daily: "Fontainbleau targets upscale, on-the-go consumers via mobile presence." I've been a guest at the hotel for the past day so I can't resist joining this conversation. I also happened to download this application while waiting in line for a smoothie at a restaurant yesterday -- between meetings, of course. Here's a quote from the article:

“Fontainebleau chose to launch this app to enhance the overall customer experience while giving them insight on the resort as well as the surrounding Miami Beach area,” said Philip Goldfarb, president and chief operating officer of Fontainebleau Miami Beach, Miami. “It is an extension of the brand’s commitment to providing its guests with the latest advances in the mobile marketplace.”

First, I'll offer -- I'm just a guest or customer here -- I haven't studied the business, but there are a few disconnects.  

Here's what is working well:

  • Fontainbleau does seem to have a tech-savvy customer base. As I walked through the pool area yesterday, I noticed quite a few iPads, Kindles, and smartphones -- guests definitely have their technology at the pool. And Wi-Fi works at the pool -- well done.
  • The application is promoted well. I noticed advertisements several places throughout the property. It uses a sweepstakes to promote the application with the prizes clearly listed.
  • Beautiful photographs -- this resort is amazing and is well represented by the media in the application.
  • There is a solid balance of content -- eat, shop, play, etc.
  • There was a lot of content re "what to do" nearby.

Here's feedback from "Julie the guest":

  • When I scanned the QR code, I was taken to a mobile Web page only PARTIALLY optimized for mobile. You've GOT TO BE KIDDING ME. I scrolled down the page to the link for the iPhone application . . . okay, again, NOT optimized for mobile. There was a tiny, tiny link on the page. I had to tap at it two to three times to get to the right page. No further comment necessary. I scanned a QR -- you know I'm coming from my phone when the request hits your server.
  • I felt like marketing and promotions dominated the application. I used the application for about 60 seconds before I turned it off and dismissed it. Once I dug deeper (after reading the article), I did find a few menus and open hours, but the information wasn't consistent for all of the restaurants -- some had menus, some didn't, for example. There are many elements here where we coach clients. First, mobile should be about convenient services for your customers -- first and foremost. If you don't create a service or a product that they find convenient and want to use, you won't have enough customers using it longer term to see the financial returns. Mobile can't just be about what digital assets you have ready to go. Mobile must fulfill customer needs.
  • One of my colleagues and I were having trouble navigating -- finding a reception and meeting room yesterday. So I decided to give the application another chance. After all, "help me navigate" is one of the top uses of mobile phones. Couldn't find a resort map -- not even a static one. That's a miss, from this customer's point-of-view. I need to find my way around.
  • Ordering food -- this is also something I want at a resort. Couldn't find. I did look for the towel locator . . . this sounded very cool, but I couldn't find it in the application.
  • "Shop online" -- when I clicked on this link, I was taken to a page that was essentially an "error" because I needed Adobe Flash -- so broken link, so to speak, inside the application (though I liked that I do this within the application and it's not pushing folks to the Web).

I think applications are great ideas for hotels and even more so for resorts. They take 30 seconds to download and if a guest will be at the resort for a couple of days, it's worthwhile. What I would offer to resorts is this:

  • Focus on customer needs. They need to navigate, eat (order food), check in, check out, know what services are available, etc. Make them the priority.
  • Prioritize on what makes sense in mobile. Mobile is about immediacy -- the value of information now. While bookings and reservations can help your ROI, mobile lends itself well to "during my stay" tasks/services. Mobile contributes to the entire customer journey from bookings through post-stay, but it is a question of priority and what information is presented to me when. What does this app want to be? If it wants to be my resort-guide, then let it be that. If it is going to be many things, then consider using my location (and you've asked for permission to use my location) to know when I am at the resort and prioritize the content around that context.
  • Be mobile-appropriate. If you are going to use mobile marketing, then have mobile-appropriate content and calls-to-action.
  • Balance the needs/objectives/goals of competing entities. Reservations has goals. The resort has goals. Marketing has goals. Certainly at the end of the day it's about great customer experiences and profitability. Mobile applications and services, though, shouldn't be disproportionately weighted to the first functional team out of the gate, so to speak, with an application. The needs of the guests should sit at the top of the list with the needs of the various elements of the organization balanced such as bookings versus on-site services.