Episode 61: Creating Great Experiences with Hard Rock’s Joe Bravo
To be relevant in business, it’s all about the customer experience. On this episode of Brandstorm, Dan and Nancy talk to a man who makes a living keeping people happy. Joe Bravo is the Bars and Entertainment Director at the Hard Rock Hotel in San Diego and is responsible for creating memorable experiences for guests.
About Joe Bravo
Prior to coming to San Diego a few months ago, Joe worked at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas, where he oversaw the iconic Rehab Beach Club. Joe started his career working at Studio 54 in Vegas at the height of the nightclub boom. He went on to work for Pure Management Group in Vegas and the MGM Grand in Detroit, before joining Hard Rock.
Creating a Memorable Experience
Every Hark Rock Hotel has its own personality. Las Vegas is a gunfight because of the extreme competition. There is literally gigantic entertainment on every corner. San Diego is more laid back; however, Joe is hoping to bring some of that high-octane entertainment to the city with beach parties, pool concerts and parties that encompass the entire hotel. According to Joe, creating a memorable experience starts with boots on the ground and hiring a great line level staff. It’s Hard Rock’s best recruitment tool, best advertising and best road to success. Second, that line level staff must be trained and given the knowledge to let guests know what’s going on at the property. There’s nothing more frustrating to Joe than creating these great experiences and not having the information channel down to the line level. If you don’t have a good line level staff, you will never be successful.
Hard Rock Hotel Customer Personas
Joe says Hard Rock is the fourth strongest brand in the world, especially in Europe. The organization has five types of customers: people who come to buy Hard Rock pins, t-shirts and other memorabilia; people who are loyal to the brand; people who remember the Hard Rock of their youth; people who recognize Hard Rock as a trendy brand that always has something going on; and more recently, people who enjoy the nightlife, pool concerts and parties. Joe is currently focusing on San Diego’s beach club, called Sunburn. Sunburn attracts 1,500 to 2,000 people every Saturday with a pool party featuring world-class DJs.
Those great experiences and parties at Hard Rock are typically initiated by internal staff, however sometimes they do get help from two companies in San Diego, called RMD and Party Naked. Joe says most events are planned four months in advance and start with determining what kind of guests they want to attract, then circling in on the talent and figuring out how to get people there.
Capturing Great Images
To capture the energy and excitement at Hard Rock events, Joe always has a great photographer onsite. When staged events are needed, they go for the best lighting, atmosphere and weather available. Nothing is ever contrived or overproduced. Images must look organic. Lastly, you have to have talent. You need the best people onboard planning and taking the images.
Customer feedback is Joe’s life’s blood. After all, people only remember the very special and bad experiences. Joe focuses on the bad experiences because it is his opportunity to turn a customer into a longtime fan. While the customer is not always right, you can never tell the customer he or she is wrong. The key is to pivot and turn a bad experience into a positive one. Ninety percent of all complaints are fixable and controllable, so this is the cornerstone of Joe’s management style. What frustrates him the most is not knowing about a problem until it’s too late to do anything. His mantra for room managers is too never let any complaint get off the deck. Deal with complaints in the rooms, because if they get to the front desk, it’s over. At Hard Rock, the mission is to have every guest leave with a great story to tell back home.
It has been said that 80 percent of CEOs believe they deliver a superior customer experience, but only 8 percent of customers agree. To combat this problem, Joe says upper management needs to spend more time on the floor engaging with guests and employees. Inspect what you expect is another Joe Bravo mantra.
Secret shopping, sometimes using outside services or planting friends on the property, is another way to find out if employees are following policies. However, employees can often sniff out a secret shopper, so it is still recommended for management to spend more time on the floor.
Taking the Good with the Bad
As you can imagine, Joe loves his job. Who wouldn’t enjoy making people happy, right? The hardest part of his job, though, is time management. Sometimes there is just not enough time in a day to plan, create and execute great experiences, while carrying on the day-to-day responsibilities. And when any event is over, Joe says its critical to be a “Monday morning quarterback” to determine what went well, what didn’t and how things can be improved. His staff typically meets four days after an event, so they have time to rest, digest what happened and come up with fresh ideas.
People want to be entertained and that can happen anywhere. Joe says people will flock to the out of the way and unexpected places if once they get there, they enjoy their experience. You just need to know and then deliver what people are looking for in any market. To quote the movie Field of Dreams, “if you build it, they will come.
Connect with Joe