In Newsletter #60: Think about creating an emotional connection with your guest at every touchpoint.
Last week, we had the pleasure of speaking at the Hotel Operations Conference in London, alongside some of the greatest UK hoteliers. It was refreshing to see the ambition and opportunity in the room. Candidly, I think it is fair to say that this year has not been kind to UK hoteliers. Despite eight years of unprecedented growth, the UK is facing GDPR regulation, wage inflation, and the looming Brexit, all of which will serve to increase costs and hit the bottom line. Yet there was a resilience, a desire, and a passion in the room that reminds me what a great industry we are in. From Beth Adams, Global Director of Dorchester Collection’s Academy, revealing amazing hotel education plans that would make any tech company culture proud, to Bespoke Hotels CEO Haydn Fentum revealing plans to expand their Gotham Hotel experiment in Manchester that has surprised beyond belief. Even the chain hotels’ panel was surprisingly positive about the OTAs, when pressed by their brilliant moderator Frank Croston of Hamilton Hotel Partners.
So, this week, we wanted to share with you a great piece of research commissioned by Sabre, asking hotel executives around the world about the challenges and opportunities in Guest Experience. I do encourage you to click into and download the report. In our next newsletter, we are very excited to be releasing an interview with one of our most innovative hotel chains around guest experience and this report from Sabre is a great piece to lay the groundwork for that interview.
To our beloved Concierge industry, thank you again for your incredible support. It is almost ten months since we had the opportunity to partner with and acquire GoConcierge, and believe me, there is some incredible work going on inside our walls, based on your feedback. We are excited to deliver the next frontier of concierge technology to the industry.
HITEC is a month away! If you are curious about it, call us. As sponsors, we would love to offer our hotel partners free tickets because it truly is a great showcase of the world’s best technology for hotels. And of course… we’d love to see you.
be OUR guest,
– Alex Shashou
Insights to Transforming Your Guest Experience
Thinking past specific solutions, like an app to skip lines at check-in, to the bigger picture (do you even need check-in?), to create an emotional connection with your guest at every touch point.
With so much focus today on giving more control to the guest via technology, we must never lose sight that at the end of the day, it is the emotional connection we make with guests that truly impacts their experiences. Consumer giants like Nike and Apple, and recent disruptors like Warby Parker and Glossier, have seen huge success in building brands that stand for something, rather than for simply selling stuff. They have built an emotional connection with their consumers by obsessing over their users’ experience across their entire customer journey. They have embraced technology at every touchpoint to create a seamless experience that doesn’t lose the human side of their business. For hotels to build these same connections, the industry must shift its thinking, moving away from siloed technology solutions to a more modern and open approach.
We loved Sabre’s latest report, which explores the challenges and trends facing hotel executives when it comes to guest experience strategy. With so much technology around us right now, the report concludes that the industry should adopt digital transformation to elevate the guest experience rather than to promote guest-centricity.
Although the terms guest experience and guest-centricity are often used interchangeably, there is a major difference, as Sabre points out, in the outcome of guest expectations. Customer-centricity is how brands interpret customer behaviors to direct engagement during the customer journey. This type of thinking is where hoteliers have spent a lot of money and found results to be sub-optimal. Think around how much time and effort the industry has spent on trying to increase the frequency of mobile check-in. Originally designed out of fear that guests hate waiting for their room, the adoption rate thus far does not point to this. On the other hand, guest experience is the actual physical, intellectual, and emotional state a customer goes through when interacting with a brand. Continuing with the check-in example, if guest experience was the primary lens, perhaps we might have found a much more human way to solve this issue, such as allowing a guest to finish their paperwork after seeing their room, or check-in from the restaurant if they are hungry. With a focus on guest experience, one starts to look at how a guest has multiple travel personas, depending on whether he or she is traveling with their family, without their family, for work, or for fun, etc.
Hotel executives looking to build an emotional connection with their guests can look across the entire journey to how all the different pieces connect. This means overcoming the common hurdles that so many hotel brands face today, including “legacy systems and technologies, silos, inadequate customer journeys, and outdated guest perspectives and UX.”
Outside of promoting the shift in mindset from guest centricity to guest experience, the research looks at the pressure of “Digital Darwinism,” which means that brands must evolve at the same pace as consumers. According to the report, this means investing in technologies that drive a “unified guest profile with centralized guest management, dynamic personalization at every step of the guest journey, and comprehensive guest insights.” It’s no coincidence that ALICE embodies all these elements in one cloud technology platform. It’s been our mission from the beginning to understand every touch point of the guest’s on-property experience.
To keep up with the pace of consumer expectations, we have to learn from other industries. Studying how our guests are at home, what they use on their phones, and how they choose to interact with services around them is paramount to understanding the impact of digital transformation and stay ahead of the curve of guest demands.
We talk a lot about this at ALICE, looking at how Airbnb creates a connection between its hosts and its guests, looking at how Domino’s pizza transformed itself through technology, figuring out how great companies build great culture and the impact it has on their brands. With our focus on how hotels deliver better service today, hotel communication is a perfect example of where legacy thinking and infrastructure have held back our industry. Technology decisions are made to meet the needs of a single department without the consideration of other departments. This mindset creates a snowball effect of independent silos that prevents integrated collaboration between departments, which leads to fractured guest experiences. The recently-published “Hospitality Communication Platform” whitepaper from HTNG (co-authored by ALICE’s CTO Dmitry Koltunov) dives deep into this problem. Working with executives from Hyatt, Hilton, Mandarin and Marriott, the HTNG workgroup proposes a new framework for a more connected communications platform for hospitality.
Communication is just one arena out of many that hoteliers can look to technology to improve. The main takeaway from the report is that we must not think of each of these opportunities in isolation, however, but instead consider the entire guest journey. In order for modern brands to be successful, they need to ask new questions and invest time in imprinting digital transformation into their hotel’s foundation for a better guest experience.
“In everything we do, we always ask ‘How does this benefit the guest?’, and digital transformation is the same. We want to keep the focus on the customer’s needs, not our needs.” - Josh Haddadi, Digital Solutions Manager at Outrigger Hotels and Resort.
THE ALICE TEAM RECOMMENDS
- 3 Benefits Of Incorporating Elements of Automation to Your Hotel Text Messaging Program - Hospitality Net
- An Inside Look at the Forbes Travel Guide - Skift
- Fix the TV in my Las Vegas hotel room? There's an app for that - Las Vegas Sun
- Hotel's technology now a factor in AAA ratings - Travel Weekly
- Google Duplex Puts AI Into a Social Uncanny Valley - Motherboard
- Marriott Experiments With Homesharing - Skift
- Google Maps Goes Beyond Directions - TechCrunch
- How Dorchester Collection Differentiates Itself Through a Combination of Big Data and Human Intervention - Harvard Business Review