Winning Strategies for Personalizing your Guest Experience

By Connie Rheams Global Business Development, Altiuspar | October 28, 2008

There is a lot of movement and focus towards personalizing your guest's experience in our industry today. What exactly is "personalization of the guest experience"? You could think of personalization as the next wave in product differentiation and creating and reinforcing guest loyalty. At the highest level, it has to do with delivering to all of our guests a more intimate stay, and on an individual level, delivering a unique service or product to each guest according to their preferences.

We have seen some great examples in the past of personalization at hotels for all customers. A great experience that I had recently was at the Four Seasons Hotel in Lisbon, Portugal. Upon arrival to the hotel, the porter identified who I was and from the time I got out of the car to standing in front of the elevators he knew exactly which room to take me to. The entire check-in process took place in my room. There was no stopping to stand in line at the front desk or to use a kiosk.

Kimpton Hotel Group also does a great job of delivering personalization. Think about the ability to have a goldfish in your room for the night or all the possibilities to include your own pet during your stay. Also, a favorite of mine is the special amenities and services for women. Both the Kimpton and Four Seasons examples are clearly delivering a more "intimate" experience.

Taking it to the Next Level

Now let's take this to the next level, to the individual. How can we offer personalization by guest? Let's look at an example outside of our industry, a consumer purchasing a Dell computer. Once the consumer chooses the physical size of the laptop, the outer case is the same. However, what goes inside, e.g. the memory, a CD/DVD drive, etc. is up to individual preferences. Also, what accessories the customer wants to go along with the computer can be customized. When you correlate that to a guest stay at a hotel, the guest is purchasing a stay in a room, which can vary according to size. The physical structure of the room stays consistent but what can change is what is in the room and all the other "offerings" during the stay.

Now at what point do hoteliers offer personalization and finally how do they go about delivering unique personalization by guest? In our industry, we have traditionally waited until the guest arrives to the hotel and then began offering some choices. I would argue that this must now start at the point you become engaged with the potential guest. Customers are used to having control and flexibility in most of their retail purchases and the ability to have that for travel will increasingly become important. Additionally, personalization should be used as a differentiator in the sales process.

Coming up in February 2018...

Social Media: Engagement is Key

There are currently 2.3 billion active users of social media networks and savvy hotel operators have incorporated social media into their marketing mix. There are a few Goliath channels on which one must have a presence (Facebook & Twitter) but there are also several newer upstart channels (Instagram, Snapchat &WeChat, for example) that merit consideration. With its 1.86 billion users, Facebook is a dominant platform where operators can drive brand awareness, facilitate bookings, offer incentives and collect sought-after reviews. Twitter's 284 million users generate 500 million tweets per day, and operators can use its platform for lead generation, building loyalty, and guest interaction. Instagram was originally a small photo-sharing site but it has blown up into a massive photo and video channel. The site can be used to post photos of the hotel property, as well as creating Instagram Stories - personal videos that disappear from the channel after 24 hours. In this regard, Instagram and Snapchat are now in direct competition. WeChat is a Chinese company whose aim is to be the App for Everything - instant messaging, social media, shopping and payment services - all in a single platform. In addition to these channels, blogging continues to be a popular method to establish leadership, enhance reputations, and engage with customers in a direct and personal way. The key to effective use of all social media is to find out where your customers are and then, to the fullest extent possible, engage with them on a personal level. This engagement is what creates a personal connection and sustains brand loyalty. The February Hotel Business Review will explore these issues and examine how some hotels are successfully integrating social media into their operations.