Hotels are no longer just a place for a good night’s sleep – in the experience economy, travellers are collecting rich and authentic experiences like a commodity – and hotels need to look beyond the confines of their bricks and mortar property, to understand the larger role they can play in the guest’s trip.
The magic maker
The concierge has transformed from being the ‘keeper of the keys’ (in the Middle Ages), to being the one who made restaurant bookings and collected dry cleaning, to a central role as an ‘Experience Curator’, ‘Delight Composer’ and ‘Courage Giver’. The magic happens, where the concierge can choreograph these new responsibilities – ever so discretely – with the intention of sending guests home with stories to tell.
As an Experience Curator, they will effortlessly curate personalised experiences for guests on request.
A guest approaches the concierge with an idea of the type of experience they are looking for. “I have 4 hours, and I’m interested in art and architecture, where would you suggest I go?” On-the-spot, the concierge can use technology to input the guests’ interests and apply the time constraint. The experience planner will pull in live weather conditions (it’s a cold rainy day today). The output, is a curated 4-hour itinerary visiting the art gallery and the library, a suggestion for lunch that gives them a great view of the city skyline, and a covered alleyway known for its street art.
As a Delight Composer, thought will be given to how the concierge can be empowered to create moments of delight. These are acts of thoughtfulness and responsiveness that provide opportunities for deeper engagement with a guest.
Housekeeping notice you are consuming the local produce that has been stocked in your mini bar. The next day, a note appears in the mini bar, displaying a trail you can follow to visit the makers of the produce. From the bakery who supplies the cookies, to the rooftop beekeeper who makes the honey, and the café that roasts the coffee beans.
As a Courage Giver, the reimagined concierge will play an important role in encouraging independent exploration. A guest could sit by on the sidelines and watch a destination unfold in front of them, or they could dive in, peel back the layers of this place, and seek unique moments of discovery. Being somewhere unfamiliar though, lack of confidence is often a barrier to exploration.
Guests will treat their hotel as their ‘safe place’, somewhere they can retreat for familiarity, security and comfort. Most hotels are well versed to fulfil this need – cosy inviting foyers, cheerful hotel staff, quite spaces – but often miss a greater opportunity posed.
For the traveller that is faced with stepping across the threshold of the revolving lobby door, into the open, they need to feel supported in this independent voyage of discovery – I would go as far to say it is a hotel’s obligation to support this, and make a guest feel at ease.
A guest standing in the lobby is about to venture out. They are approached by concierge, who hand them a printed itinerary. The hotel already knows that you are a foodie. The guest looks down to notice that he is holding a morning walking itinerary stopping at a local fresh food market and hole-in-the wall noodle shop. As the guest walks towards the door, a notification pops up on their mobile. It’s a message from the concierge with a link to the interactive offline guide, so that they can always see where they are. On closer look, the guests also noticed that there are 3 local tips about how to order, and the etiquette around eating noodles the right way – because they know this can be intimidating.
With the support of an interactive mobile itinerary, the concierge has removed the barrier to exploration, and given them an invitation to make their own discoveries.
Where tech and human meet
In a world where robo butlers, self check-in, and contactless room entry are touted as the future of the hotel industry, some common sense needs to be applied to ensure that the experience doesn’t become transactional and disconnected. Yes, guests are looking for the convenience of technology – and it should be present when needed – but they will still crave the personal touch moments.
Technology should be considered as a tool for enabling better customer service and empowering the concierge, but not replacing it.
In an ideal world, a concierge would use data to personalise, human interaction to deliver, and technology to support.
Let’s look at Amy. She is staying for 3 days for business (but she has 24 hours free time). It is the first time she has visited this city, and she likes to keep fit and eat healthy. (These details were pulled from the reservation process, and previous stay data).
On check-in, concierge presents Amy with a printed itinerary. A morning bike trail that takes her through local parklands (that are popular with runners and bikes), a hole in the wall coffee shop (where you can watch them roasting the beans), along the river (where she can get glimpses of historic buildings), and finally to a great little café serving healthy breakfasts. When Amy gets to her room, she gets out her mobile to connect it to wifi. When she enters her room number to join the wifi, the personalised itinerary she had just received pops up with a message from concierge for her to save to her mobile and follow when she’s out and about exploring on her own. 2 days later, when she’s ready to, she takes one of the hotels bikes and goes off exploring, with the reassurance of the digital concierge in her pocket.
It is undeniable that personalisation is at the core of building deeper relationships with guests. When integrated seamlessly with technology, has the power to turn a trip, into the stories, moments and memories that guests will never forget.
See how Alpaca is helping hotels and accommodation suppliers add value to their guest interactions through tools for a personalised digital concierge.
Written by Zoe Manderson