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Guest amenities


For many hotels, a personal touch can still be achieved without human contact.


That said, Carpintero doesn’t feel the human touch has been entirely mechanised. In fact, he feels that guests’ appetite for a personalised service has continued unabated. “The guest is still looking for a friendly face to deliver that welcoming experience, so our people are properly trained to offer our signature ‘yes I can’ service,” he says. “Yes, there is a mask and sometimes a screen, but there is a smiley face behind it offering all the support and service they need.”


Closeness, from afar Whether the human side of the equation can really thrive at the moment is debatable. But there is another aspect of personalisation that the pandemic has not impacted. Over the past decade or so, hotels have been on a mission to harness the data at their disposal and use it to generate meaningful insights about their visitors. As the thinking goes – if you understand your guests’ behaviour and preferences, you can give them exactly the experience they’re looking for. Rohit Chadra, CMO of Netherlands-based hotel chain citizenM, thinks this aspect of personalisation has actually been enhanced by Covid-19. “Through the pandemic, the industry appears to finally have switched on to the fact that technology is an enabler, not a detractor, of improved service,” he says. “It has woken up to the need to develop deeper levels of automation in support of genuine human connections and explore how to reduce payroll without impacting service levels.” For Chadra, personalisation means building genuine human connection – being able to touch people emotionally through a deeper understanding of their needs. “It’s also a question of how to do this with the multifaceted consumer,” he says. “What are their specific needs in any given time and place, and how can we deliver them? This can be done both in the digital and the physical world.” Carpintero, however, believes the hotel industry has


fallen behind other sectors in terms of its approach to analytics and automation. Often, back office systems


Hotel Management International / www.hmi-online.com


work in silos and fail to communicate with each other – which might mean, for instance, that the system fails to identify you as the same person who booked a different reservation last month. “This looks trivial but it’s extremely difficult to get right, and all the hotel companies are investing a lot of money to make sure they can recognise you,” he says. “If we can do that, then we can offer a targeted service with exactly what guests are looking for.” RHG is in the process of migrating its core IT


infrastructure to a unified platform called EMMA (‘every moment matters’), which will eliminate the need for multiple parallel systems. This means it will know exactly who the guest is, even if they’re booking through a different channel or are coming to a hotel in different circumstances. The hotel group is also building a customer engagement platform – an AI-powered platform incorporating chatbot technology and machine learning – to identify the guest between one touchpoint and the next. The idea is to anticipate their needs and deliver them from an operational perspective. “Yes, we can target a customer, but who’s going to be


receiving that message in the hotel?” Carpintero asks. “How can we make sure the team knows you want to have a bottle of champagne ready when you travel with your wife? How can we ensure they are anticipating your arrival and can book you a taxi from the airport? In the past, colleagues at the hotel would simply approach you with a phone call, but this is no longer sustainable, so we need to use technology.” Chadha agrees that personalisation starts with that


simple act of recognising the guest, whether via digital means or in person. citizenM has been renowned as a tech-oriented company since it launched in the midst of the last financial crisis, and a tech-savvy approach to these problems is second nature. “We use technology to remove friction and manage processes that free our staff to be able to connect with guests,” says Chadha. “citizenM has doubled down on this in the pandemic to


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Radisson


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