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How Smart Hotels Are Trying to Understand the New Silent Traveler

Jul 17, 2014 7:00 am

Skift Take

The silent traveler is both a challenge and an exciting opportunity.

— Jason Clampet

Report: Social Media Customer Service in the Travel Industry


Last week, we released our new report, “The Rise of the Silent Traveler: Reaching Out to the Mobile-First Travel Consumer” on the new generation of mobile first consumers, and how travel brands need to understand their needs.

Below is a short extract. Get the full report to understand this new trend.

If one asks leaders in the hotel industry, the silent traveler represents an opportunity of the kind that hospitality hasn’t seen in decades.

“Because of connectivity levels, because of the adoption of the smartphone, because of the data that is available — and people’s willingness to share data,” said Chris Silcock, senior vice president of Commercial Services at Hilton Worldwide, “we, right now, have the opportunity to reimagine the hospitality experience, combining the physical and the digital.”

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Just two years into a series of new digital and mobile programs, Silcock said Hilton Worldwide’s customer service is indeed addressing elements of the demographic our silent-traveler model represents. Hilton Worlwide is well aware of the consumer that prefers search and/or prefers social media when it comes to in-destination decisions.

Consider what its product Hilton Suggests does in this space. Launched in 2012, the company’s social-media based service not only allows a mobile-equipped customer to ask questions — for example, what should they do in an area they’re visiting (3) — but, according to Silcock, it also allows Hilton to proactively scan social chatter for problems that might arise at one of the brand’s properties. These brand listeners are especially looking for the kind of challenges that the silent traveler might not bring directly to Hilton’s staff.

“Our team was monitoring, and they actually heard from somebody who was in their room, in one of our hotels, who’d shared socially that they had an issue with their air conditioning,” Silcock said. “They didn’t call the front desk. They didn’t talk to the hotel. But we heard them through our Hilton Suggests service and that team engaged — and we went to that customer in the hotel to resolve that problem.

“This highlighted for us how customers are changing,” he continued. “Even if they’re in the hotel, they won’t necessarily always speak to the hotel.”

A new survey by Egencia posed the following question to more than 200 business travelers: how did they value certain in-person assistance at a hotel? What follows is how respondents ranked different kinds of services, in terms of whether a direct face-to-face interaction was deemed important. Based on a minimum score of one and a maximum of five, the mean scores and rankings of services show the relative significance of several types of in-person interaction.

At Marriott, changes are also under way. Anecdotally speaking, since launching its mobile check-in app, in August 2013, said Matthew Carroll, vice president of Global Brand Management for the company, front-desk interactions are shifting. It is a scenario that Delta employees might well recognize.

“As we see our hotels spend less time having to physically check our guests into a room, or physically check them out, it’s freeing up our hosts to take care of customers better, and to deal with more complicated service issues,” Carroll said.

As for who’s making the switch to mobile, Carroll said the demographics, in part, manifest two ways.

“We’re seeing it with Gen X and Y, broadly, and then we’re also seeing it with our frequent business travelers,” he said. “Their ability to be able to go to their device first is very powerful for them.”

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