Skift Take

Hyper-personalization may be all the rage, but so is respecting the customer's data. Hilton wants to be on the right side of that fine line.

Many travelers crave personalization in their accommodations, but naturally that kind of service requires the traveler to give up some data — otherwise, the hotel doesn’t know to set the room at exactly 71 degrees. Some customers are willing to play ball in exchange for these perks, but many are nervous about companies misusing their data, invading their privacy, or even exposing them to risk.

“If we are going to use their information, it is only with their strict consent,” said Chris Silcock, Hilton’s executive vice president and chief commercial officer, at the inaugural Skift Tech Forum Tuesday in Santa Clara, California. “We’re fortunate that we have that legacy of trust.”

Customers aren’t afraid to share their feelings when a company breaks that trust, according to Silcock. To that end, he’s concentrating on using tech and data to improve serious problem areas like check-in friction, as opposed to offering gimmicky extras that don’t truly enhance the guest experience.

For example, a connected room can be a great thing, but in a more basic sense, providing the exact room a customer wants, in the exact part of the hotel they prefer, and having it ready exactly on time is a meaningful achievement.

“Our relentless focus for some time has been on the experience,” said Silcock, who said that customers should be able to engage in personalization to the degree they wish. “That may mean personalization, that may mean ease of use … but ultimately it has to feel different.”

In addition, there are some areas of the customer experience in which tech can only go so far before old-fashioned, face-to-face customer service must kick in.

About the ongoing evolution of a legacy brand like Hilton, Silcock said, “We see ourselves as a 100-year-old startup.” Many longstanding brands struggle to keep up with the times, but no one can afford to dispense with innovation, whether it’s making digital keys standard or finding new ways to convince the traveler to stop clicking around and book direct.

But Hilton does have limits on branching out.

“We wouldn’t buy a technology company, but we certainly buy technology,” said Silcock.

Tags: hilton, personalization, skift tech forum, stf2018

Photo credit: Skift Founder and CEO Rafat Ali, left, interviews Hilton Chief Commercial Officer Chris Silcock Tuesday at Skift Tech Forum. Skift

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