For nearly a year OpenWays, a technology company has been promoting mobile-based front desk bypass solutions and turning heads within the hospitality industry. All of the major players have been experimenting. The OpenWays solution allows guests to check-in remotely and use their Smartphone as a room key, thereby by-passing the Front Desk.
As covered in USA Today and the Wall Street Journal among others, IHG is the first to make a public splash with pilots at Holiday Inn & Suites Chicago O’Hare Rosemont and the Holiday Inn Express Houston Downtown. Using technology to kick your image up a notch is clever. Focused on Building Customer Loyalty, IHG garnered 2nd place on the 2010 Information Week 500 roster.
It will take alot more than remote check-in, smartphone key entry and splashy headlines to convince me that bypassing the Front Desk is about extraordinary personalized service. For one, I am passionate about feeling welcomed by a person and value charming and friendly interaction at arrival. Even more so, if I am warriorr-on-the-road-weary. After all, Spirit to Serve is Marriott's cultural mantra. How do you do that with a Smartphone? Intuitively, it's a disconnect, IMO.
Rather than be first, Marriott is spending time to get-it-right. Kudos, Marriott. For a sneak peek at what's in the pipeline to deliver extraordinary personalized service, point your browser to The new VIP hotel experience
Above: The many faces of Marriott's Spirit to Serve
I enjoy technology to ease the pain of management and to remove all redundent efforts and smooth that process. But the greatest joy I receive at every hotel is what you mentioned: For one, I am passionate about feeling welcomed by a person and value charming and friendly interaction at arrival.
I would expect every time I am greeted to be given a warm welcome and identified for who I am at every Marriott. To me, that beats ANY technology that circumvents the simple pleasures of life.
"I would expect every time I am greeted to be given a warm welcome and identified for who I am at every Marriott. To me, that beats ANY technology that circumvents the simple pleasures of life."
Exactly. That's not to say there are Elite guest benefits to a self-check-in process that relies upon a mobile-based solution.
In retailing (Home Depot), wholesaling (BJ's Wholesale Club) and supermarkets (Stop and Shop) for example, there are self check-out lanes, even express self-check-out lanes. Here, technology is used to increase shopping convenience. As sophisticated as the technology is, there are still situations (produce w/o bar codes, manufacturer coupons) where cashier assistance may be required.
In a hospitality setting where Marriott is hosting a convention, trade-show or conference, an Elite Express Check-In Desk in conjunction with an option for mobile self-check-in merits consideration. Given the investment, perhaps it's positioned as a privilege on a complimentary basis at full service properties only as Platinum Premier Express and offered for an optional fee for other Elite tiers.
Along these lines, Platinum Premier Express automatically gives Elite member access via a Smartphone to Concierge with a clear cap on number of guests. Let's say you are the CFO of a multibillion dollar company attending a conference and would like to invite 3 guests to the Concierge Lounge. You alert the Front Desk in advance and the 'key' sent to your SmartPhone is programmed accordingly.
Rather than technology for technology's sake, what's important to me is that Marriott leverage technology to realize the 'Spirit of Service' and deliver an extraordinary personalized experience during my stay.
"CRM is the name of the game, If I can feel welcomed even without a gift or perk, then the associate had done his or her job well."
Based upon back-to-back check-ins at Marriott Vacation Clubs in Orlando last month, it's evident that the Front Desk has access to a surprising amount of information. The welcome experience exceeded expectations suggesting that Marriott does an excellent job at Customer Relationship Management (CRM).
Is a gift or perk needed? The 500 Marriott Rewards Arrival Gift is part of recognizing the Elite member status. A complimentary bottle of wine, fresh fruit/nuts, a tote bag or a blanket (Ritz) are unexpected which extend the welcome and hospitality to my wife and family/guests to enjoy too. Yes - I expect the associate(s) to perform their job(s). The unexpected is what makes it an extraordinary personalized experience that stimulates the loyalty relationship.