GX Spotlight began with the mission to showcase inspiring hotels that are dedicated to creating unique guest experiences.
The first six months of the GX Spotlight experience showcased the ways in which various hotels have leveraged technology to achieve operational and guest experiential goals that would have been pipe dreams a decade or two ago.
The hotels that have been profiled by GX Spotlight in the last six months run the gamut in size, geographic location, company culture, price point and design. However, there are some philosophical characteristics every property shares: a markedly high level of service, personalized service for each guest, and clear strategy for technology.
In pursuit of providing guests an exceptional experience, the profiled hotels focus on several key strategic areas. First, staff are given wide autonomy in order to flexibly meet guests’ wants and needs. Second, these hotels take a mobile-first approach, meeting guests and potential guests where they are: on their phones. Third, they take full advantage of data and analytics tools. Fourth, they leverage the recent abundance of cloud-based PMS’s. Fifth, they explore how A.I. can aid them in their pursuit of exceptional hospitality.
The GX Spotlight team took a look back at each of these categories and how the hotels that have profiled so far are approaching them. You should be able to pull at least a few ideas for your own business.
One of the first characteristics noticed among the hotels profiled thus far: the amount of autonomy given to staff members. These hoteliers give their new staff members extensive training, which is followed by extensive autonomy. Rather than a paternalistic approach, managers treat the staff as team members all united toward a common goal: providing guests an excellent experience.
Look no further than citizenM hotels. This now much admired international group does not silo their staff into compartmentalized roles – there is no receptionist, concierge, or front desk manager, but multifaceted “ambassadors” who are trained in all the aforementioned skills, providing adaptability for whatever request a guest may present. Furthermore, staff are encouraged and enabled to provide “ROAKs” or Random Acts of Kindness, meant to wow guests and are given budgets to spend to accomplish these.
At ARRIVE, the US-based small group, staff also work in an interdisciplinary fashion, leveraging their mobile messaging technology to create a guest experience that can nimbly react to guests’ needs, even across multiple properties if needed.
Having a mobile-first guest experience is no longer a futurist fringe movement, but just plain common sense. Guests already operate much of their daily professional and private lives from their smartphones so meeting them where they already are provides a more friction-less, natural guest experience.
London’s Eccleston Square Hotel has a fully mobile offering, but they offer flexibility by letting guests choose how they’d like to interact with staff: WhatsApp, email, phone, or even through their in-room tablets and televisions. Their tablet app, Bowo, functions as a service catalogue and in-room concierge for guests, with features that let guests book restaurants, get local recommendations, and explore offers.
Dubai’s TI’ME Hotels uses a guest-facing, mobile check-in system to reduce wait times and free staff from the confines of the front desk. That way, they can interact with guests and process requests from anywhere in the hotel. As does Edwardian in the UK, leveraging mobile functionality to make the check-in process easier.
Data & Analytics
These days, it is near impossible to operate a hotel successfully without a deep understanding of the business’s many data inputs. Not only does the right data (meaning relevant, useful data) have to be collected, but it then must be analyzed and applied appropriately to strategic and operational decision-making.
At the Hotel Corallo Sorrento, the team runs individual A/B tests to improve guest experience, while also analyzing longer term trends to see what guests are talking about over a period of months. These inform everything from mattress purchases to large-scale investment decisions. And this hyper focus on both the little details and the big picture has enabled Hotel Corallo to increase ADR by 20%, overbooked at $600/ night and maintain a 95% positive online reputation. By closely monitoring their online reputation and reviews, they are able to understand macro trends and apply them on the immediate micro level, as needed.
CitizenM has all of their hotel systems connected through their own middleware, enabling data to flow in a uniform manner. They then created a dashboard that monitors all relevant and actionable data.
We may well be in the era of the Cloud-Based PMS. The flexibility and agility of cloud-based PMS’s mean hotels can operate at the speed with which guests expect, and can better understand and act on data, as emphasized above.
In 2018, Eccleston Square Hotel implemented a new cloud-based PMS, that was, in their own words, revolutionary in its flexibility, allowing them quick technological updates, increased connectivity, and overall improving the guest experience.
TI’ME’s cloud-based workplace and contact center automate many basic services (wake-up calls, reservation reminders) and provide guests real-time support over their preferred channel: phone, email, or web chat. This is not only more efficient but provides a more customized guest experience. And TI’ME staff can access the system on the mobile devices if needed. ARRIVE also uses a mobile PMS that lets its staff members manage the entire hotel from a tablet, and interact with guests wherever they happen to be.
While a newer technology in the hospitality world, one could argue that artificial intelligence is no longer on the fringes, as leading software and services leverage A.I. to solve previously impossible tasks. Today’s forward-thinking hotels are fully exploring the possibilities A.I. offers.
Eccleston Square Hotel has integrated a number of A.I. systems into their tech array with the goal of automating as much as possible of their business. As Eccleston founder Olivia Byrne notes, “A.I. used well can be as beneficial to the guest as to our team members.” The Eccleston team deploys A.I. bots to answer common requests or inquiries online, greatly reducing administrative demands. Their A.I. is connected with applications for guest information, revenue management, and entertainment, allowing all requests and guest data to be collected, organized, and available in one place.
Edwardian Hotels has gone so far as to develop their own virtual A.I. assistant, named Edward. Edward helps guests with online check-in, serves personalized questionnaires, and shares pre-arrival info with guests. This is certainly something we’ll be seeing more of in the future.
Where do we go from here?
All the hotels profiled in these first six months have their own methodologies for achieving an elevated guest experience. But the thing they have in common is a steadfast focus on better service, supported by technology. A clear strategy informs each of their missions.
In the next six months, we will certainly see a continuation of the above tech strategies in achieving an excellent guest experience, but we will also see new ingenious methods of using technology to achieve an excellent guest experience. Because ultimately, the tool is only as good as its operator.
Learn more about the GX Spotlight at gxspotlight.com and read the full profiles of these hotels.