Winning Strategies for Personalizing your Guest Experience
By Connie Rheams Global Business Development, Altiuspar | October 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.