Fine-tune, Rethink, and Reset

In Make Yourself Clear, Reshan and I devoted a considerable amount of time to discussing what can go wrong when we offload to computers decisions that should be made by humans. And in today’s WITI, Colin Nagy serves up a prime example from the world of travel. Vaccinated travelers are desperate to return to their favorite destinations, and in some cases, prices are soaring and limits are being tested:

By letting the algorithm dictate with no human touch or no limitation on how high your rate can go in a market, the short-term economic gain can be offset by longer-term problems. While price gouging might feel good to companies that have been on life support for a year, there’s a danger that the consumer expectation will be so high when they are paying four to five times a normal rate, that it is nearly impossible to live up to that standard.

On top of this, we are in the middle of a major kick-start for many properties. From the look of my Linkedin feed and through informal conversations with general managers, there’s a hiring surge and a lot of latency with hospitality workers being plugged back in. Some staff, and years of institutional knowledge, are simply not going to return.

So there’s a potentially tough equation here: short-term thinking when it comes to goosing the rates at luxury properties, coupled with the lack of trained staff. It might feel good to fill the coffers, but if you can’t live up to the new price you’re charging, guests won’t come back.

As is typical in situations where people — or their machines — are behaving badly, there’s an opportunity that I’m hoping many organizations will consider. In our book, we encouraged, in situations like the one described above, “throwing a spanner . . . in order to welcome back into the fold human judgment.” Nagy puts it much more eloquently.

An owner of one of the world’s best luxury brands told me on background they are not trying to recoup all of their losses. Instead, they are trying to use this time to fine-tune, rethink, and reset their relationships with guests around the world while also nourishing a new guest base that they found during Covid. It is a refreshing bit of long-term thinking: doing the right thing for a brand, rather than just trying to catch up.

We’re entering an era where soul, values, and longer-term thinking will be prized by consumers, so brands should think twice before they gouge, as tempting as it may be.

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