Positive surprises are the key to standing out, being remembered and gaining guest loyalty. Digitalisation offers new, additional ways to sound out guest preferences and tap into these. The crux of the matter? Only those who can cope with the flood of data will shine when it comes to service highlights 4.0.
text: Astrid Schwamberger
Just imagine: it’s a guest’s birthday and they get serenaded – by the hotel laundry staff! A married couple enjoyed this surprise on the island of Mauritius, as they popped into the laundry to hand in a polo shirt, and gave his room number. “We were shocked and really touched. They couldn’t have known that we were going to call in!” That was the response the husband of the birthday girl gave to consultant Sabine Hübner.
But, yes they could! “Each department in that hotel gets a guest birthday list for that day,” explains service expert Hübner. “It’s all the nicer when even the laundry employees react of their own accord, in such a nice way, and create a great memory for their guest.” She refers to wow experiences like this as “planned points that are thoroughly personal”. Behind this hides a well-maintained customer relationship management system and databases where preferences and key client data are documented.
Hübner has also identified two further strategies. On the one hand, there are still “planned points for all customers”, which are anchored in the customer points of contact and are designed to make many happy in one fell swoop. On the other, there are the “situational wows”. These come about whenever an open and creative corporate culture is fostered, where empathy is valued.
Of course, Hübner knows that by their very nature, “magic moments are generally unique”. However, their numbers can increase, if hosts make use of information about their guests which can be found in contact points online and on social media. An example from New Orleans shows how that might look. François-Xavier Reodo, an extremely active and well-connected Instagram user, posted the view from his room while on holiday in Mississippi. The cosmopolitan Frenchman entered the hotel name as the image location: the W New Orleans in the French Quarter. Shortly after, a company employee came across the post and sent Reodo an individual gift on the house – a coffee table book, with the highly appropriate title of “Rooms with a Vue”, together with a hand-written thank you note. The recipient was so pleased with his unexpected gift that he promptly informed his 1600 followers about it – resulting in free-of-charge PR.
This story is far from unique. At four sites, Starwood’s parent group Marriott has launched live-marketing teams, who do nothing other than follow all possible activities on social media channels, in real time. Their goal? To amaze customers on an individual level. This turns the tables when it comes to customer communication, says Matthew Glick, Senior Director of Global Creative and Content Marketing, at the launch of the London branch in summer 2016. “Instead of creating general content for thousands of guests, we filter out special moments that are relevant to thousands of guests, that can be shared, and we identify ways to create unforgettable shared experiences.”
While industry giants are already impressing their digitally-connected customers at enormous expense many companies are still dreaming of such levels of individualisation. According to a current international study by software manufacturer Sitecore, a large number of brands are not currently in a position to use customer data for targeted customer experience strategies. What’s more, just twelve percent of those surveyed have the option of collecting individual data at all, stated the study.
Nevertheless, service expert Hübner thinks the future looks bright. “Digitalisation helps us to better understand our customers and to pull exactly the right magic moments out of the bag to make them happy. If companies manage to create the perfect blend between the digital world and personal customer contact, then technical communication can really create excitement. Now that’s what I call service 4.0!”