Skift Take

Personalization is a buzzy word on many hoteliers' lips. But only a handful of operators, brands, and agencies, such as Rosewood, Virgin, The Nines, and Muzéo, seem to be truly learning how to deliver individualized service.

Rosewood Hotel Group has long had a cadre of butlers, concierges, and housekeepers to cater to guests. Some high-value guests have seen their initials printed on pillowcases. Other repeat guests discover that — if they like whole fruit — apples will be waiting in their guestroom.

But during the pandemic’s peak, Rosewood increased its investments to track customer preferences, including hiring a customer relationship management team to take customization to the next level.

“This team of experts helps us build out what this [personalization] can look like at scale and continue our philosophy of ‘relationship hospitality’ that keeps a guest within our network,” said Caroline MacDonald, the company’s senior vice president of operations for the Americas.

Rosewood’s platform can now better source customer-volunteered information, using notes from previous stays, pre-arrival communications with hospitality staff, and data-based inferences. That means a customer’s preference for Earl Grey will result staff placing the right teabags placed in the guestroom. And as for those apples, travelers may find a few varieties in the bowl as well as a card.

“Small moments like that that make the impression, not the obvious stuff,” MacDonald said, alluding to some brands’ penchant for digging through guests’ social media accounts. “Combing through that Instagram feed to find personal pictures to frame sometimes feels too forced for me.”

MacDonald’s team isn’t alone in reevaluating or amplifying its approach with technology or staffing. A survey across industries by Zendesk and Enterprise Strategy Group found that hundreds of executives now review performance signals related to customer experience daily.

A customer experience focus led The Nines in Portland, Oregon, to hire a staff calligraphist to create custom notes and cards for each guestroom as personalized welcome gifts for those who opt into its sustainability program.

“Personalization and customization are pivotal in attracting guests, particularly now — and particularly in the luxury space,” said Kasey Conner, the hotel’s director of sales and marketing.

Whether guests are charmed by such efforts or find them too Big Brother is popular fodder for hospitality review sites. Yet the debate hasn’t stopped experimentation.

A case in point: Virgin Hotels promises that the more information guests share for its The Know loyalty program, the better the deals it will offer them. Deals including member-only rates and personalized pampering, like putting a customer’s favorite alcoholic beverage in the guestroom refrigerator.

The Know got a boost when it was included in Virgin’s mobile concierge app Lucy last year. The app connects the profiles of loyalty members with the booking platform to offer a “streamlined and personalized” guest experience, said Virgin Hotels chief marketing officer Doug Carrillo. That includes setting the desired room temperature or preferred lighting level.

People are excited to get back to travel, but they are nervous and want it all to be seamless,” said Steve Jermanok, co-founder of boutique travel agency ActiveTravels. “Personalization is one key way for hotels to differentiate themselves from the Airbnbs out there.”

And the ultimate guest room personalization may come courtesy of design firm Muzéo and interior designer Maud Bury, who were nominated for a Worldwide Hospitality Award late last year. Their modular Murphy Bed My Room Concept is focused on flexibility to convert a room for sleeping, dining, or working.

The concept also features touchpads connected to wall screens that enable guests to choose different works of art they would like to see in their room.

“True hotel luxury means choosing what my hotel room looks and feels like,” Bury said. “It means a hotel room where I feel at home — or stimulated by a very different environment.”


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Tags: future of lodging, hospitality, hotels, personalization, rosewood hotel group, rosewood hotels

Photo credit: The initials of a guest at the Rosewood Hotel monogrammed on the pillowcase. Source: Amber Gibson (Instagram: @inbedwithamber) Amber Gibson / Instagram

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