Ulf Cato has had something of a meteoric career in the hotel industry. He has also been nominated as manager of the year in Sweden and won the “Hotel of the Year” award.
“My driving force is interaction with people. That’s why I made the move to hotels from restaurants. To be able to work with what I enjoy most on a bigger scale – customer interaction. And now I have all the muscles I need to do the job in a serious, strategic and well-packaged way.”
Knowing the customer
The hotel and tourism industry is being monitored with great interest by several other industries at present, especially e-commerce. The reason is the high proportion of bookings online and the continuous, direct feedback from customers via sources such as social channels and booking sites.
“Many people are keeping an eye on us to learn more about the customer journey. That’s great,” explains Ulf Cato.
According to Ulf Cato, a good, sustainable relationship is all about being receptive, present and always giving feedback.
“We must always have a high response rate and try to capture dissatisfied customers immediately. We must also take all feedback seriously and of course give our regular guests and returning guests that little bit extra.”
Loyal and returning guests
Essentially, hotels are an extremely simple phenomenon.
“We have guests who have to be here and guests who want to be here. And of course they fall into two totally different customer groups,” says Ulf Cato.
And the goal is always to achieve even more loyal and returning guests. He believes that the key to success is to create an ‘at home’ feeling.
“We know a lot about our customers. But we can always learn more.”
For the most loyal guests of all, the hotel organises evenings for regulars with the aim of getting to know one another better. It is all about identifying needs – both big and small.
“After all, the people in this group are the experts. They know better than anyone else what it’s like to stay with us. So they can help out with anything from which granola should be served at breakfast to dinner menus,” says Ulf Cato.
Dialogue is the key to everything
“We want to use the time and resources left over for a customer dialogue in order to be able to meet the customers where they are. One example might be to capture questions or dissatisfied customers on TripAdvisor or similar sites. Any time spent there is in an investment,” says Ulf Cato.
He is convinced that good experiences are the key to success.
“A visit to us must be as uncomplicated a journey as possible. We must put ourselves out for our guests as much as we can.”
But presence and customer dialogue cost money and resources. The answer to such an equation nowadays is usually digitalisation and automation.
“The same holds true for us. We must create the same or a better result, without affecting the guest’s experience,” says Ulf Cato.
Technology for a better experience
The aim is always to digitalise on the basis of the customer’s expectations.
“New technology must always enable a better customer journey and an even better experience,” says Ulf Cato.
In future he does not believe that the hotel will have a reception as it does today.
“If there’s one thing our customers don’t like, it’s waiting times. They want to check in immediately, ideally by phone.”
But that does not mean that a hotel visit will be more impersonal.
“We must be innovative and driving in the digitalisation of the hotel industry, but the focus is and always will be on doings things better for our guests.”
Ulf Cato believes that inviting people is easy. The hard work begins instead when guests arrive at the hotel.
“That’s when we must deliver what we’ve promised. And ideally a little bit more. A brand will quickly be ruined if you don’t deliver."
“Our success lies in the combination of thorough preparatory work, well-defined customer groups and good delivery. Put simply: a smooth customer journey.”