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In recent years, travel companies have made great strides at providing “hyper-personalization” and improved customer experiences, agreed two panelists at the Skift Global Forum 2019. Now, hospitality companies need to go further to win over the mercurial consumer of the future, said Alex Ahluwalia, senior vice president, global operations, Marriott International, and Dyllis Hesse, managing director, client account lead, Accenture.
“I started my career in retail — in Selfridges in London — so I know first-hand what consumers want at every interaction and at every moment,” Hesse said. “But the consumers of 2019 are different. The online experiences — whether from Netflix, Amazon, Stitch Fix — this curated content is what they expect in physical outlets, whether retail or hotels.”
Both panelists agreed that the next wave of innovation in hospitality will concern the “associate experience,” or the way that front desk staff, restaurant employees, customer service agents, and others are empowered to better anticipate and deliver on guest requests.
For Marriott, the solution was “Empower: Guest Experiences,” a tech platform developed in partnership with Accenture that “unlocks the power of personalization” across the entire portfolio of more than 7,000 hotels globally “to create wow moments for our customers,” Ahluwalia said.
The platform allows Marriott to plan for guest stays ahead of arrival, while on property, and after every trip, which deepens the brand’s connection with its guests — particularly those enrolled in the Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program, Ahluwalia said. “We’re leveraging technology to empower our associates and allows our customers to have a continuous conversation with us,” he added.
For Accenture, a key component of the collaboration was putting power into the hands of front-line associates. “We really wanted to create a deeper personalization not just ‘I’d like foam pillows’ but things like ‘Have there been any requests for a specific room, for example?’ Hesse said. “The associates can see that, prepare for the guests, and proactively initiate service requests before guests even arrive.”
Since deploying the platform, “we’ve seen a lot more robust pre-arrival activities, response time has gotten better, and we’re executing in our hotels at a higher level,” Ahluwalia said. “All this translates into a better experience” for both guests and associates alike.
For the complete conversation, watch the full video of the session, Empowering People to Supercharge the Guest Experience, held during the Skift Global Forum 2019.