Having been around the technology space for over 20 years in various industries, and new in my role as Chief Commercial Officer at Avvio, I wanted to share some early thoughts on how technology and the hospitality industry can learn from each other.
Culture is king
Regardless of their size, what makes a great SaaS (software as a service) company is being obsessed with customer success, which starts with building a vibrant winning culture.
Consider Salesforce, they’re a great example as they’ve built a culture around their ‘Ohana’; incorporating Salesforce employees, customers and partners as one extended family who are bound together, committed and responsible for each other. Its weaved into the company’s foundations through doing business the right way and always giving back to the communities they serve.
The hospitality sector is incredible at serving the needs of their guests – technology bridges the gap even further to deliver experiences that exceed expectations and offers a perfect chance to extend their own culture beyond the walls of the property.
Be obsessed with customer success
SaaS companies are providing exactly what the name suggests – a service. A world where you have to make customers successful in order to thrive – the bad old days of selling perpetual licenses for huge amounts of money, and not caring if your customers are successful are behind us. Hotels are also seeing a world where their guests are king; spoilt for choice with a huge range of products available and a vast array of ways to find your property.
Hotels are constantly adapting to the major OTA’s (online travel agents) with demands for specific terms and commission payments, when a hotel’s direct digital experience is within reach and will allow you to get to know your customers and manage your own brand success. Extending a hospitality platform powered by AI (artificial intelligence,) is a game changer. Each guest will now have their own tailored experience – think the Netflix experience for hotels, personalised and specific.
I’m fortunate to have had great opportunities in building communities from the ground up. To build an army of loyal fans and when you occasionally spot a detractor, to move mountains in order to make them successful. Hotels have been doing this for years but the game has changed. Certain communities don’t think the same way in terms of loyalty. To give you an example; I’ve remained totally loyal to an airline (that will remain anonymous!) and now because I was flying less frequently with them, I get kicked out of the top tier of their loyalty program. That doesn’t drive me to remain loyal – it encourages me to think outside of that brand.
Rooms are moving to experiences and experiences are a tough nut to crack for some hotels. Enter stage left Airbnb and suddenly someone else is taking a bite of your lunch – or maybe a new channel opportunity has just been created? Open technology ecosystems/interconnectivity of services, which makes adjacent serving applications work together seamlessly, will allow hotels to make quick, cost-effective decisions when new opportunities arise and feed new entrants to your community.
Remember, I want to be served
Once you have built a community, they need feeding. New technologies, product innovation, customer choice and a huge range of properties mean hotels need to fight for your booking and convert you to a guest, let alone a loyal guest. If I travel to New York and stay in a particular hotel, I’m fairly sure the next time I go I’ll stay somewhere else – and for many reasons. The first is that the loyalty programs haven’t provided that much for me, and secondly I want to see other properties and create new personal experiences so I can feed that to my own community of family and friends etc. It’s a fickle world out there!
Service also goes beyond the booking, often months ahead of a customer’s actual stay. Think “concierge as a service,” where the old days of incredibly knowledgeable people servicing the front lobby are now utilised in a different way and possibly by other communities. Nowadays it’s all in the palm of your hand way ahead of stepping inside the property. Restaurants, bars, theatres, cinemas, even a helicopter ride over the Hudson could all have a place being serviced directly through the hotel digitally and importantly at the right time, through channels that your customers choose. That’s a big undertaking but your customers are worth it.
Brands including hotels are shifting to a push model, rather than pull. The retail sector has been doing this for years – look at how Lego’s design community let you be part of their product innovation and design sets. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos famously expressed;
“ A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is but what consumers tell each other it is.”
I’ve just come back from the UKHospitality Conference where I learned from our industry colleagues that the hospitality sector is an incredible space with many of its own challenges and incredible opportunity. The UK hospitality sector alone is the third largest employment sector, way above financial services, and has 3.2 million people employed directly with a further 2.8m indirectly. It creates 1 in 8 jobs and is 17% of the total UK job market. Hospitality generated £130bn per annum in turnover and produced c.£39bn in tax receipts and counted for over 70% of inbound tourism spend.
Technology is empowering some seismic changes for good and I am proud to be at the heart of the action.
More about Michael
I’m part of the exec team and board member of Avvio, the world’s leading SaaS booking platform for hotels and serviced apartments providers, which is powered by artificial intelligence (AI). I love building communities and scaling companies whilst empowering the smaller guys to think BIG and punch above. It’s a big wide world out there, made smaller through innovation and technology. Follow Michael on Twitter.