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Hundreds of the travel industry’s most technology-savvy executives will gather for our second Skift Tech Forum in San Francisco on June 27. It will take place at the Fairmont San Francisco Hotel and explore key trends and disruptions that impact revenue and drive the e-commerce and technology strategies that power retailing, distribution, and merchandising decisions in travel. Expect insightful conversations from a broad range of speakers, including CEOs and top executives from Alaska Airlines, Amadeus, Expedia, Google, Uber, Marriott, Carnival, Shiji, and Oracle.
Technology has greatly streamlined the travel industry, but in some instances, tech really alienates people. Our phones are bursting with apps that allow travelers to get inspired, book hotels, discover activities, and move around without ever speaking to another person. But that’s not the only way to travel.
Jessie Burgess, chief information officer at G6 Hospitality, the management company of Motel 6, is especially interested in using tech to improve the guest experience, not just removing friction and generally assisting in customer service, but fostering the human-to-human connection.
Personalization, the holy grail for all travel companies, is also key here. Burgess wants to build tech platforms that are as flexible as possible, to keep delivering what guests want in more precise ways. The company aims to be continually adaptable to how people search, how they want to receive their information, what exactly they want to be offered.
Burgess will speak on June 27 at Skift Tech Forum in San Francisco.
Skift Editor’s Note: This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Skift: What kinds of disruptive technologies do you have your eye on right now, for the near term?
Jessie Burgess: In the near term I would say the disruptive pieces are probably more closely related to technologies that can help to personalize the customer’s, or in our case, the guest’s experience. So these are things like artificial intelligence, machine learning, some of the things on the back end that help to shape what that experience is like when that customer is shopping, when they are looking at and considering our product, when they’re booking, all the way through to their stay.
Skift: Can you tell me more about what you’re doing with artificial intelligence right now?
Burgess: One of the things that we have been looking at and utilizing is artificial intelligence in our call center environment. A great example of that is when guests are calling to book, we use artificial intelligence to make sure that we are pairing up the guest with the call center agent who gives a better experience to that guest, and ultimately returns guests who enjoy that experience and book.
More often it’s better for our agents and their experience as well when it comes to how they work and interact with our guests. Artificial intelligence is something that is utilized in that scenario in a way that is seamless by the way, to our guests, seamless to our agents, and it just works in the background, and we’re able to run it in a way that we can do real testing to see the direct benefits. And that’s been beneficial to us. And that’s just one example of the different touch points where artificial intelligence can come into play in a way that’s much more seamless to the user, but ultimately providing that better human experience, which is ultimately the business that we’re in.
Skift: You mentioned personalization. What can other chief information officers like yourself do to keep up with the ever-changing desires of guests?
Burgess: I think the key is in building flexible platforms. So if you think about it, in the past when someone for instance built their digital web platform, they had to build it by a certain framework that was very structured and didn’t allow for adaptability.
Something that we pay very close attention to: As we’re building platforms now and as we’re looking to build tomorrow’s platform, we want to have the flexibility to adapt to the user’s more individual preference. That could be a preference in how information is presented to them. That could be a preference in how they like to search. That could be a preference in the type of things they want to see, that are familiar to interact with, on any of our digital platforms. That could be a website or a mobile app. So what we should all be looking at, and what we’re trying to pay close attention to, is: How can we build in the flexibility that helps to give a more personalized experience to each one of our customers?