Posts Tagged ‘hospitality’

Hotels turning to digital concierge services

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

Hotels turning to digital concierge services

By Jane L. Levere

New York Times

Posted: 07/04/2011 04:46:56 AM PDT
Updated: 07/04/2011 04:47:03 AM PDT

 

Click photo to enlarge

Wes Landsfeld, from Ft. Worth, Texas, uses the GoBoard, a 55-inch… ( LIBRADO ROMERO )

Some hotels have begun to expand the definition of concierge to mean more than just a knowledgeable employee. It now can also mean smart digital devices. Software companies are creating programs that offer information like restaurant recommendations, flight arrivals and departures and driving directions via smartphones, touch-screen devices, iPads and other electronics to guests at mintier hotels that do not provide traditional concierge services.

Even more upscale brands that employ human concierges are joining in. They are offering location-specific information, developed by each hotel’s staff, accessible via the Internet, iPhone apps and even live chats. And all Hyatt hotels let guests send requests, via Twitter, to customer service agents who are on call 24 hours a day.

When it comes to concierge services, “we as an industry cannot operate in an analog way in a digital world,” said John Wallis, global head of marketing and brand strategy for Hyatt Hotels.

With the proliferation of misprice and limited-service brands, high-tech concierge services represent an effort by hotel companies “to differentiate themselves, to add a service that usually ranks among the highest for guest satisfaction and to achieve higher rates,” said Bjorn Hanson, divisional dean of the Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism and Sports Management at New York University.

He said


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these services could be more attractive to younger guests, “Gen-Xers and Millennials, the target segment for many of these brands, who typically require or even prefer less personal interaction, and desire quick answers, any time, day or night.” Older, more international guests, he said, “tend to prefer personal service.”Still, the question remains whether digital concierges can ever equal their human counterparts. Henry Harteveldt, travel analyst for Forrester Research, said he did not think they would. “Nothing will ever replace a face-to-face concierge,” he said. “A guest visiting a city for the first time will have a lot of questions and will need to have interaction with a concierge that technology won’t replace.”

But hotel chains are moving ahead with the digital version nonetheless. InterContinental Hotels has been among the most aggressive developers of high-tech concierge services, starting in 2007 with videos starring individual hotel concierges offering destination-specific advice. Today, 150 of the brand’s 171 hotels have created the videos, which are available on each hotel’s website and on YouTube and iTunes.

Intercontinental has given, on a trial basis, iPads to concierges at 10 hotels to offer guests advice. It has also developed an iPad app with the same information for use by guests. In addition, the company is now testing live chats between guests and concierges through Skype and FaceTime, by Apple (AAPL). Hotel employees meet weekly to update destination information. And guests receive an email from the chief concierge five days before arrival offering suggestions and maps.

Last year, Marriott International’s Renaissance hotels — there are more than 150 in 34 countries — introduced a program called Navigator that offers suggestions for dining, drinks, shopping and sightseeing. This information, generated by Wcities, an online destination content provider, and by hotel employees, can be found on each hotel’s Web page and on an iPhone app. Guests can also ask Renaissance’s human concierges for help.

Hyatt’s high-tech concierge service, offered to guests at all of its hotels, luxury or mintier, is Twitter-based. Introduced two years ago, it lets guests send requests to HyattConcierge. Customer service agents in Omaha; Mainz, Germany; and Melbourne, Australia, must respond to messages in 15 minutes or less. If requests require more than a 140-character response, the agent will email or call the guest. One recent message came from a guest at the Andaz Wall Street, who, rather than calling hotel workers directly, requested a hangover remedy that included two extra-strength Advil and wheat toast with butter.

Marriott International’s Courtyard, a mintier brand, has gone in a different digital direction. Its GoBoard, a 55-inch touch-screen device in the hotel lobby uses software, from Four Winds Interactive, to provide weather information, news headlines and employee recommendations for restaurants and other local attractions. Marriott plans to upgrade the information provided through the devices this summer, and will offer them brandwide by 2013, said Janis Milham, vice president of Courtyard.

Intelity, another software provider, is working with Wyndham’s Wingate hotels, Starwood’s Aloft hotels and others to give guests airline information as well as customized dining, shopping and recreation recommendations through laptops, iPads, touch-screen devices, televisions and mobile phones.

Wyndham Worldwide will give owners of hotels in its 15 brands the option of offering the Intelity service to guests, said Paul Davis, senior vice president for strategic sourcing. He said some of the recommendations of service providers are paid listings by the providers.

Aloft is testing Intelity’s program on iPads in hotel lobbies. Brian McGuinness, Aloft’s global brand leader, said much information offered to guests was generated by hotel employees and none is the result of advertising.

What do business travelers want? Not just clean rooms!

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

What do business travelers want? Not just clean rooms!

by Tom Johansmeyer (RSS feed) on Nov 12th 2010 at 8:00AM

With business travel on the rise, hotels are probably thinking about how to make these lucrative customers as happy as possible. After all, a frequent business traveler can be on the road 40 weeks a year or more (been there, I assure you), and they don’t always have the same flexibility as leisure travelers. There’s a big opportunity here, especially with business travel set to increase next year.

“Consumers are more value-conscious than ever and have been conditioned to expect more for their money after a steady diet of recession-era deals. The tipping point for hotels to differentiate their brand offering and strengthen loyalty among the post-recessionary business traveler will be providing additional complementary services and amenities tailored to their guests’ specific needs,” said Adam Weissenberg, vice chairman and tourism, hospitality and leisure sector leader, Deloitte LLP. “Beyond traditional incentives, hotels are realizing the importance of developing their online presence, particularly with mobile platforms, to capitalize on a crucial touch point for brand communication.”

For both sectors, however, now would be a pretty smart time to listen to a group of customers that is about to start spending more money. Global professional services firm Deloitte recently surveyed 1,001 business travelers and has revealed the information that the travel industry can use to connect with its best target market more effectively.

Here’s what business travelers want:

1. Work-friendly room: 68 percent of business travelers often work in their rooms, Deloitte said in a statement following the survey. And for a long time, I was one of them. If a room is not designed for me to get stuff done – from a desk to wifi access – the room doesn’t work. The amenities, artwork and staff responsiveness don’t matter if a business traveler can’t work comfortably.

2. Better than clean and comfy: are you satisfied with a clean room and a comfortable bed? Well, you’re probably alone. Deloitte found that 65 percent of business travelers “expect a lot more from a hotel” than that.

3. Business on internet time: it’s hardly responding that 79 percent of the respondents felt that high-speed web access was an important amenity. Seventy-seven percent cited free parking, as well.

4. Rewards for loyalty: 30 percent of business travelers, according to the Deloitte survey, “felt their favorite hotel brand was so important to them that they would stay at that hotel brand even if it were not in the most convenient location.” Interestingly, this level of loyalty was highest among respondents earning at least $150,000 a year.

There’s more than brand familiarity going on here, I suspect (again, my suspicion, not Deloitte’s). Rewards for loyalty sure help, and I remember it influencing a lot of business travel behavior when I was living the road warrior life.

5. Device love: almost half of survey respondents said they have a web-enabled smartphone. Meanwhile, this is true of 84 percent of the 18-to-29 business traveler crowd and 63 percent of business travelers earning more than $150,000 a year. Twenty-six percent of respondents have downloaded a hotel app to a device, with 54 percent of them using it “primarily to book a room.”



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