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It is a challenge to provide personalised customer experience at a large scale for most companies, but specifically in the hospitality industry, when sometimes the first interaction of the guest with the hotel is after the arrival.

How has hospitality industry bounced back from the pandemic? What are the learnings when it comes to customer experience?

The industry is coming back at very different speed levels depending on the geographical area we are looking at. Within the geographical area I overlook (EMEA), Russia and UAE were already in c.60% occupancy levels months ago. Now we observe a positive trend, reaching c.50% occupancy in the UK. On the other hand, rest of continental Europe is still very low with few exceptions related to key leisure locations. Right now all of us are hesitant due to the Delta variant and how this would affect the business pipeline we had for Q4 before new variant exploded. We are confident that the vaccination rhythm and the ability to live with the virus would help us to go back to normality as planned.

In terms of customer experience, I think that the most interesting learning is that customers are ready to understand significant service level restrictions due to the pandemic. The way we have reduced the contact, the glass screens and other self-protection elements have made the face-to-face experience quite different from before. Also, the reduce of brand standards (specially in breakfast) has been seen as a necessity and not as a way to cut service. In this regard, removing so many contact points (collaterals, amenities, etc) have made us re-think what is core to the customer experience and what is really appreciated by the customers. I definitely think that contactless experience is here to stay, as well as chatbots. This will shape the way our teams have to face service delivery and client expectations.

What are the best omnichannels to reach different generations of customers?

I believe mobile without doubt. Mobile phone is now heavily used by almost any generation. Also, in our daily lives, retail, entertainment and other relevant industries are moving their efforts to enhance mobile experience. From RHG we are working on securing a seamless experience throughout the customer journey from booking to stay. We are launching a new technology program called “Radisson +” that considers the whole guest experience, giving the customer the possibility to engage with us (and vice versa) at all phases of the journey. We are also working on the “other side” of the service: we are equipping our teams with mobile phones and software to be able to engage much faster and incorporate a new way of working. In this way, for instance, any RHG guest will be able to reach out to the hotel explaining that the flight is delayed and our team members would be able to offer him a late night dinner if the restaurant is closed or to arrange any other service upon arrival. For these reasons, we believe mobile shall be the most relevant channel to focus and the link to the rest (telephone, direct, etc).

How to leverage data to create personalised customer journey that exceeds the expectations of your customers?

Personalised experience is something that everyone mentions, but few or none are able to provide at a large scale. Of course, in my industry, there are boutique hotels that provide an outstanding and curated personalised experience, but always restricted to a very small business and reduced amount of guests. The real challenge that every industry has is to scale customer experience.

In this regard, there are some homework to do before being ready to “personalised” every guest experience. The first thing you need to do is industrialise your service to secure that the critical aspects that you want to happen to every guest are carried forward. For that, technology, automation and a good IT infrastructure is critical. Very simple example: if I want to reach every customer right after the Check in to see if the room is ok or if they have detected any issue to fix it asap, I can rely on every of my thousands of employees in Front Office to do it (at a hight cost) or I can support them by using technology (chatbots) that standardises this service. There are thousands examples like this basic one.

Then, once you have reached the perfect communication within departments, you have to improve the tools that the guest has at hand to reach you and you are able to monitor closely the delivery times, etc, then the personalisation is possible. To be honest, our industry has a serious problem to be able to personalise at a big scale and the problem is mostly related to the poor integration between the traditional Central Reservation Systems (CRS), Property Management Systems (PMS) and each company’s CRM. It may appear simple in other industries, but we struggle to identify the final guest/persona in a reservation depending on the booking channel: you may come as a congress attendee to our hotels and because your name is in a rooming list, we have few ways to identify you with your guest profile and to personalise your stay. Likewise, you may come in a multiple room reservation that a friend of yours have done in an OTA and your name appears as guest in one of the rooms or not even that. By the time you are in the hotel, it is too late for us to “personalise” your stay. Lately, the industry faces big challenges with the customer preferences and where to host it. As I said above, we as hotel industry live in a dual environment where PMS and CRM are not well interrelated. From RHG we took a bold and risky decision to move everything: CRS, PMS and CRM to the same platform as we want to step-change the way we recognise our guests and we are able to anticipate their needs.

To sum up, we must remember that, although it is true that technology is essential to scale and improve customer experience, we are a people’s business and our team members’ smile and service attitude are always the most effective way to make your experience remarkable. From RHG we want to merge the best of the two worlds: personal devotion to service of our team members and the necessary technology to help them boost quality and satisfaction.

Gonzalo will also be joining our 12th Annual Customer Experience Management Summit in October, where he will share his views on Making Your Customer Experience Consistent by deploying the right technology enablers into your operations ecosystem and advancing into service industrialisation

Gonzalo CARPINTERO currently serves as Senior Vice President Operations & Head Business Transformation at Radisson Hotel Group EMEA, reporting to the Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer and the Executive Committee of the Company. As part of his role, he oversees more than 300 hotels operating under different business modalities and +10 key transformational projects in close coordination with their IT organisation. His main role is to lead the transformation of the Radisson Hotel Group’s Operating Model, aiming to convert the RHG into the top hotel operator in the markets where it is present. His areas of responsibility include multinational team management, strategic guidelines setting, incorporating innovation to the “core” business and fostering best practice sharing across properties and geographies. Prior to joining Radisson Hotel Group, he served in a number of positions at NH Hotel Group, where he was engaged in business transformation, business development and asset management. Before NH, he worked as M&A Associate for PwC and Consultant for Deloitte at Madrid. The combination of several roles related to Commercial, Expansion and Operations, has allowed him to develop a wide perspective of the hospitality business as well as a multinational comprehension of the different challenges affecting several geographies, cultural environments and markets.

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