I recently met with an executive at a leading hotel marketing group. A legend in the industry, he has spent more than 30 years working in hotels. He genuinely loves hospitality and is a stickler for great service. He told me that he is apprehensive about all the new technology coming out because he fears it will make the staff in a hotel obsolete. He said, "I worry about what will happen when people can just check in online and open their door with a bar code that is emailed to them. How will we be able to differentiate on service?"
As much as I love technology, I can see where he is coming from. A few nights ago night I stayed at the Elysian in Chicago and from the moment I pulled in, I was met with smiles and staff that couldn't do enough to make my 12 hours with them special. My name was passed from one staff member to the next so every conversation was personal. Upon checkout, when I expressed concern about making my flight, a front desk manager told me that they would love to have me stay with them another night. I genuinely believed him. And that's when it hit me. Encouraging staff to connect with guests is the most important thing a hotel can do. I will overlook a lot of imperfections if a staff member exceeds my expectations or makes my stay memorable.
And, as I explained to the executive, technology can play a roll. I showed him examples of hotels that were using Facebook and Twitter as an e-conierge and, as a result, surprising and delighting guests. One of my friends recently had a terrible experience with a large luxury brand and as soon as he tweeted about it, he was contacted and told that the situation would be handled immediately. He then tweeted how impressed he was with the brand. He was willing to forgive, and even promote the brand, because of how the situation was handled when he returned home.
What do you think? Can Facebook and Twitter help drive connections between guests and hotels? Will hotels be able to differentiate in this way?