Cultivating loyal guests in hospitality takes organisational alignment around your core purpose, mission brand and service delivery. Here's how to...
How hotels can own their guest experience
How the hotel sector can find the right balance between in-house ownership and third-party applications to deliver exceptional guest experiences.
Off-the-shelf digital software or products are great for solving a particular problem, but they often aren’t fit for purpose when it comes to delivering seamless experiences for guests.
In fact, truly differentiated and first-class experiences simply can’t be purchased off the shelf. There’s too much involved and nuance is key to standing out.
To deliver the kinds of experiences guests crave and keep them coming back, you need ownership of your core digital estate in order to develop some key elements yourself.
You should only leverage third-party tools and applications when they fit with your overarching strategy, solve a particular challenge, and integrate effectively with the backbone of your critical services and infrastructure.
Your customers’ hearts and minds won't be won with the same experiences they get elsewhere. You need customer-centric approaches that utilise integrated systems, share data, and embrace test-and-learn experimentation to deliver real memories.
Leveraging your rich customer data in your data-led backbone to create personalised experiences makes your customers feel safe and welcome in what for many remain worrying times.
The role of digital in guest experiences
The pandemic accelerated the adoption of digital technology and has forever shifted how consumers experience and interact with people, places and brands.
In hospitality, where service is everything, social distancing, hygiene regimes and data sharing will remain necessary for the foreseeable future. It means a fine balance must be struck between reassuring guests and ‘wow’ing them.
To deliver on these twin demands of service reassurance and service excitement, operators must deliver a seamless experience across platforms, use contactless technology wherever possible, and provide the highest level of transparency and flexibility for guests and employees.
When to outsource and when to integrate
So how do you do it? With so much to think about, the temptation to deploy off-the-shelf software to solve a particular challenge is strong.
But this quickly leads to a complex landscape of disconnected third-party applications.
When this is no longer sustainable, businesses may attempt to migrate to a centralised solution offering most of the required functionality in a single, large software platform.
The migration is expensive and difficult. The use of a single platform means that features work well together and offer a reasonable though a very inflexible and costly way to enhance customer experience.
To break free of these two rather sub-optimal setups and build in that critical flexibility you need to respond to customer expectations, you really need an API driven, functional core system supporting the key capabilities needed for a great customer experience.
With this central nervous system in place, you can then outsource and integrate commodity capabilities to third parties (payments, CRM, identity management) and focus your efforts on service design and creating seamless moments.
Shift control of the more critical parts of your operation away from third parties and work to improve them continuously without the associated ripple effects across your technology estate.
Ownership of a direct to consumer platform
For many, the idea of taking greater control of their core digital platform will feel daunting and like an unnecessary burden. But in reality, it is the exact opposite: it is what all organisations need to do in this digital product world.
In our new CEO’s recent call to arms, David Wynn explains how all organisations are now digital product businesses, offering digital products and services to market and therefore the mentality must shift to embrace this way of thinking.
We have moved through the ‘digital as a novelty’ and ‘digital as an advantage’ stages of our evolution and it is now incumbent upon us to move into a digital-native operating model.
Alongside this critical need to elevate technological maturity, there exists the threat of digital aggregators using their agility and customer-centricity to take ownership of customer demand - and by extension, margin.
Generally, operators who depend upon high volume, and frequent customer visits have succumbed to the value of the on-tap customer demand these platforms provide.
The problem with these platforms is that you don’t have full visibility over the customer experience.
Now is the time to invest and take back control with a combination of service, brand and offering - almost always underpinned by a loyalty programme.
Delivering a first-class loyalty programme
Customers are extremely sensitive around expenditure at the moment and are becoming increasingly selective about how they spend their money and what they spend it on.
This uncertainty is a reminder that customers hold the power and highlights the value that a great loyalty programme can bring.
To enable one requires a carefully considered and tailored approach to your Direct to Consumer (D2C) model and in-house ownership of the platform to deliver it.
When successful, these approaches accrue many benefits in loyalty, margin protection, flexibility, customer insights and the ability to engage customers beyond your four walls with personalised marketing and communications.
Find out more: See how we enhanced Nando's digital rewards programme
Want to discuss your digital maturity?
If you’re thinking about taking back control of your core digital estate, make sure you register for one of our workshops with our experts. Book your space now and take advantage of the opportunity to discuss your plans and get feedback and guidance on your next steps.