GX Spotlight began with the mission to showcase inspiring hotels that are dedicated to creating unique guest experiences.

What we’re especially impressed by in our first six months is how these hotels have leveraged technology to achieve operational and guest experiential goals that would have been pipe dreams a decade or two ago.

The hotels we’ve profiled in the last six months run the gamut in size, geographic location, company culture, price point, and design. We have, however, noticed 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 hotels we’ve profiled 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.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these categories and at how the hotels we’ve profiled so far are approaching them. We think you’ll be able to pull at least a few ideas for your own business.

Lateral/Holistic Service

One of the first characteristics we noticed among the hotels profiled so far is the amount of autonomy given to staffmembers. 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. 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.

At the Hollywood Roosevelt in Los Angeles, staff are encouraged to resolve guest issues in-person, with the objective of making a positive, memorable experience, often followed up with a note and a small treat from the manager to add an extra touch.

And at Italy’s Hotel Corallo Sorrento, staff focus on addressing immediate issues while also routing feedback into an internal system that tracks how long term improvements can be made operationally, ensuring that as much useful data is collected
as possible.

Mobile-First

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 frictionless, 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.

ARRIVE communicates with guests over a mobile text messaging platform, even integrating with their CRM, and maintaining a full-time texter on-staff to manage the nuance of text message-based communication.

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.

citizenM is now famous for its mobile-first approach. They pioneered the mobile self-check-in, with touchscreen kiosks in their lobbies. Guests can also use their app to check in and out, make reservations, and even access their room and control various room settings.

Another hotel that offers a similar mobile check-in/out service to guests is the Hollywood Roosevelt. After implementing this offering, they’ve observed an increased level of guest satisfaction and engagement on property.

Data & Analytics

These days, it’s 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.

TI’ME Hotels records data from numerous touch points along the guest journey to inform a myriad of technological platforms, including behavioral alerting systems, CRM and loyalty systems, instant surveys, and other related reporting.

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.

Cloud-Based PMS

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.

A.I.

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 we’ve 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’ll certainly see a continuation of the above tech strategies in achieving an excellent guest experience, but we’ll also certainly see new ingenious methods of using technology to achieve an excellent guest experience. Because ultimately, the tool is only as good as its operator.

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