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It's Time To Prioritize Hotel Staff Technology: Newsletter #23

In Newsletter #23: Time to prioritize hotel staff technology |  Messaging App Overview | Millennials and Loyalty | Use Guest Data Like Amazon. 


It has been over a week since we attended the Vendor Summit, but a big congrats to Rich Siegel and the team at Hospitality Upgrade. Their conference was brilliantly unique (not a hotel in sight to sell to) and we will be going back.

A significant amount has happened in the industry since our last newsletter. Since we don’t discuss the two biggest new items in our article highlights below, here’s some recommended reading:  

  • Starwood shareholders have approved the Marriott merger...link
  • Accor buys OneFineStay for $169M...“If you can’t beat them, join them” … link

Really love the articles below, especially the first. I read a fantastic deep dive by Lyle Worthington into UX (Focus on the X) recently. UX or User Experience is all about making your product extremely understandable and enjoyable for the user to engage with. Remember getting your first iPhone and opening up the instruction manual on how to use it? The answer is no. The phone’s UX was so brilliant no one needed a manual to become an expert. Hotel technology needs to follow Apple’s lead -- especially on the staff side. With such high employee turnover and switching between hotels, the cost of training is too high for us to ignore good UX in staff-dedicated products. (Here is a nice writeup on UX vs UI.)

Of the three pieces that follow, the first covers messaging platforms (with nice examples of hotels using each platform), the second is a study by PwC on brand loyalty and the third is an interesting look at guest data and its potential for Netflix- or Amazon-like recommendation systems.

Lastly, please join me in welcoming Michael Morris from Zillow and Jessica Kramer from TravelClick to the ALICE team!

- Alex Shashou


"If you look after your staff, they'll look after their customers."

- Richard Branson, quoted by Snapshot CEO Stefan Tweraser in "Behind the Curtain: Design Thinking in Hotel Technology." Hotel staff have traditionally been underserved by technology. 




It's Time To Prioritize the Hotel Staff Experience.      

Snapshot | Behind the Curtain: Design Thinking in Hotel Technology

Why it matters: When we started ALICE three years ago, we encountered the same lack of attention to hotel staff technology that Stefan Tweraser of Snapshot writes about here. It was no wonder we saw so much resistance to technology from hotels -- there were simply not enough quality choices, with simple user experience and reliable outcomes, on the market at the time. While technology has improved these past three years, it’s still the case that hotels continually invest far more in technology for their guests than for their staff. In an industry where labor costs can be as much as 33% of revenue and staff turnover as high as 31% (as Deloitte points out), we think there’s an argument to be made to turn this equation upside down and invest more heavily in your staff and the tools they use. Every minute one of your staff is spending trying to work around poor technology is a minute they could be spending maximizing your guest’s experience. Indeed, as Richard Branson says:  “If you look after your staff, they’ll look after your customers.”

So what can you do to rectify this? For starters, say yes to integrations that will save your employees time spent doing routine tasks that are performed hourly. Choose technologies that are simply to use and easy to train (this will speed up your existing workforce, as well as lower training costs for your incoming staff). Lastly, make sure the technology fits into your operations and not the other way round. Don’t buy technology for technology's sake. Do it to help your staff serve your guests better.  




How Hotels Are Using Messaging Apps   

Representasia | How the Travel Industry Is Using Messaging Apps 

Why it matters: We talk a lot about the rise of mobile messaging in hospitality - but for good reason. Not only is massaging a quickly growing global phenomenon (there were 1.4 billion global consumers of mobile messaging applications at the end of 2015; 2 billion users are predicted by 2018), but hotel brands large and small are adopting messaging tools at an impressive rate. Messaging represents a valuable opportunity for hospitality brands to connect with potential clients and guests before, during and after their stay. The rapid adoption of messaging tools is an encouraging sign hotels are moving to meet their guests where they are, rather than require guests to leave their tech at home (or have them defect to tech-forward hospitality brands like Airbnb).  

This article provides a helpful survey of the top 5 platforms being used in hospitality (Snapchat, WhatsApp, WeChat, Facebook Messenger and Slack), complete with real-life examples (and proof-points) from travel brands already actively using each.

Curious about using mobile messaging at your hotel? Get inspired by our infographic on innovative ways to use messaging with your guests.


Messaging Apps in Travel


Millennials and hotel loyalty programming.  

PwC | What's Driving Customer Loyalty for Today's Hotel Brands

Why it matters: Although this study by PwC centers on the big brands, anytime we see a study on guest behaviour we perk up, because behavior is a universal subject and many of the study’s takeaways for brands can also be applied to the boutique world.

In this report, PwC finds “millennials are not too different from other travellers” when it comes to the number of loyalty memberships they subscribe to. But let’s remember it costs nothing to sign up for a loyalty program. Despite the similarities in subscriber numbers, Millennials are in fact much less likely to actually use these programs. As the report shows, more than 50% of millennial loyalty program members surveyed failed to redeem points at all in the past year (compared to 39% for the “Other” age cohort).

Understanding the difference in preferences and values between Leisure and Business travellers is also extremely important for hotel loyalty programming. This study does a nice job highlighting some of these differences. As we find more business travellers extending their trips for personal pleasure, one wonders if these values cross over for that same individual...




Guest who ordered this item also ordered... 

Hotel Industry Magazine | The Devil Is In The Detail: Thoughts On Customer Preferences

Why it matters: This is another compelling article about the competitive advantage hotels can wield with guest data - this time in the form of guest preferences, which, when amassed digitally at both the individual level and at scale, can provide hotels with the insights for an exceptional - and defensible - guest experience.

One need only look to Amazon’s recommendation engine (and its utter domination of ecommerce) to see the power of combining myriad different digitally-expressed customer preferences, both implicit (browsing time) and explicit (purchases). With the intelligent synthesis of a number of simple elements -  what a user has bought in the past, which items they have in their virtual shopping cart, items they’ve rated and liked, and what other customers have viewed and purchased - Amazon is able to provide a customized browsing experience for returning customers, and market stronghold, that’s hard to rival.

Hotels are the repositories of a similar wealth of guest data, says Calum McIndoe of Infor Hospitality, and could curate a similarly compelling “for you” menu of stay options (and ample opportunity to upsell) - if such data were digitally recorded! McIndoe points to such diverse data as what a guest has reserved, bought, eaten, drank, played, toured, seen, requested, changed to, praised and complained about, both within the hotel and via openly available social media - all immensely valuable touch points that combine for the “hallmark of real competitive advantage.”