Is Personalisation Dead in Hospitality?

14th January 2020

If reports are to be believed, a personalised service in hotels could soon be the thing of the past, but is this the right direction of travel?

In this post we are going to take a look at how guests expect to feel special in their stay, brand loyalty, how technology plays it part and why hotels should think twice before considering generalisation.

Read on to find out more.

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Is personalisation a Key Part of the Hotel Experience?

It’s 2020 and here we are discussing personalisation. Something that’s been with us in hotels for a long time.

The question is, have we ever got it right? Have we been doing it wrong for so long that it doesn’t matter anymore? As part of Digital with Simone Puorto on FunnelTV, we recently discussed “Is Personalisation Dead in Hospitality”. A section of the discussion is on the Hospitality tech Vlog by HotelTCS below.

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So, according to a report by Gartner, 80% of marketers will stop investing in personalisation by 2025. This is primarily due to a lack of return on investment. How will this affect hotels?

Downward trend graph - The way personalised service in hotels has been heading!

What is personalised service in hotels?

The personalised experience has long been part of any hotel stay. “Welcome back” at the front desk, “Greetings Mr Harrison” on the TV, a room near the lift (Ok elevator, I’m British you know).

These are all things we have taken benefits from, and all examples of personalisation. So, if these things add to the experience, why are hotels not seeing the ROI?

The Difficulty of Data

When we are talking about personalised service in hotels, the first thing we have to consider is data.

Data security is critically important. Whatever part of the world you reside in there are rules around how data should be handled and extracted, and quite rightly so.

Simone hits on this point in the video, that there are many challenges involved with extracting data from a system and securing it during the extraction and transfer. So much so, we end up with a culture of not allowing data out of systems. We have started to create silos.

Padlock - Silos and locked down ecosystems prevented personalised service in hotels

Personalised Service Driven by Expectation

By 2020 personalisation has become commonplace. In fact, for many years now a personal experience, especially in hospitality, is the norm. Brands have built loyalty schemes purely to capture data to enable a unique experience that would keep guests coming back.

As a guest, we expect this. We expect it so much we are no longer wowed by it.

Our name on the TV? Big deal. The concierge answering the phone with “Good evening Mr Harrison”, so what? Always sparkling water in my room instead of still? of course!

This normalisation and expectation leaves the average guest needing more to be wowed.

Now, this is not to say they wouldn’t notice if it was taken away. They would. It’s more to say that these things are the starting point, ground level if you will.

Taking a personalised service to a new level is what makes us feel special, and why wouldn’t hotels want this for their guests? We need to develop a personalised service in hotels and go big if we want to make a statement.

Mihai hit’s on this point in the video, “People want to feel special, and you can’t generalise someone and make them feel special”. How very true. Many of us want that rock star experience, even if it is only for a minute.

A flaming guitar - The rock star experience is part of personalised service in hotels.

Personalisation from a New Generation

Before you get worried that this is yet another post about Millennials and Gen Z, I can assure you it’s not.

No, now there is a new generation of software providers. New services. New cultures. Those who are ‘open to being open’ – My favourite phrase.

These solution providers are not necessarily providing software that is revolutionary in itself (for the most part). It is more about the way they choose to deliver the solution.

Software as a Service (SaaS), cloud software etc have all been with us for some time. Any new solution brought to market will be developed on a service model, this is expected. The winning formula is that these companies are open to being open.

An open door. Being open to being open is a big part of personalised service in hotels.

Eating Serial for Breakfast

It’s not that long ago that I was designing solutions for hotels that interfaced with the on-premise property management system (PMS) via Serial. The on-premise PMS being a server in the basement.

We kept it this way as we had our own silo. All the data on a physical box under lock and key. Safe and secure. Except we soon learned that this wasn’t entirely true, it just seemed like it was.

Over the years these solutions migrated to cloud hosting and service-based models, but still, there was a reluctance to allow anything friendly in or out. This could easily lead to the feeling that personalisation is dead in hospitality.

While this slow adoption occurred, our new generation came to the market. Small, hidden and fighting, but there.

While they struggled to make major inroads with the big chains, they found success in other areas. This drove the adoption of the being open to being open mindset.

Suddenly companies did not have to wait 6 months and spend upwards of $20,000 USD for an interface to a PMS.

Through solution-wide adoption of open API’s and strict adherence to local data protection rules, it was finally a time to ditch the silos.

So, Personalisation in Hospitality is Dead then?

Well, it certainly looked like it was dying, but in my opinion, no.

As I said above, personalisation can bring the rock star experience. The rock star experience that keeps bringing people back. While this might not work in every area of life, this is a winner for hotels. This is why hotels continue to invest in loyalty programmes.

Far be it from being completely out of hotels by 2025, I see the next 5 years as key. 5 years to move from the average personalised experience to one that really is key.

In a more open world, your stay and preference data can be used to create the ultimate stay. An ultimate stay that you want again, and again, and again.

View the HotelTCS VLOG post covering this here.

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