The word “personalisation” carries many connotations. Perhaps it’s a monogram or engraving to signify ownership of an object. Or maybe it’s home décor; but what may not have made your list of highly personalised experiences is a hotel room – or even a hotel stay. Especially now that the hospitality industry’s newest, most popular mission is to provide the unique guest experience.

From a historical perspective, hotels have a checkered past as far as “unique” goes. Hospitality Executive at EOH Infor Service Services, Rentia Austin, says: “Standardised expectations don’t particularly appeal to younger post-millennial travellers. They look for more experiential travel, especially for leisure purposes. The rise of private providers, such as Airbnb, speaks to the demand for out-of-the-ordinary travel experiences.”

Image: Cape Town Launch – Sanjana Ramphal (Subject Matter Expert – Hospitality, EOH Infor Services) & Rentia Austin (Hospitality Executive, EOH Infor Services)

There is a very significant difference in the twenty-first century version of non-standardised accommodation: the game changer is the technology of sharing. In the past, it generally wasn’t practical to get insights, references and reviews before you committed to your stay. Today, it’s hard to imagine that you could find fifty square feet of accommodation that hasn’t been photographed, shared, blogged, rated and reviewed in a myriad of online outlets. It’s the age of social media, so there is no excuse for the traveler not to be forewarned and forearmed.

Austin however adds: “Personalisation extends beyond unconventional accommodation by individualising communication with travelers, understanding both who they are and why they travel. It is how major chains could conceivably combat the competitive threat posed by every apartment building ever constructed”.

Armed with something as easily acquired as a postal code, marketing geniuses can assemble what can be a likely description of the traveler in question. Austin believes: “It’s a good start when a hotel chain sees each guest as an individual rather than a demographic group member”. But true personalisation demands more than guest preference retention. Remembering a room type preference is nothing more than table stakes in a competitive market. One very important differentiator that adds value and deepens customer insight is to understand the reason that the guest is in house – be it business, leisure or conference participation.

Having a sense of a trip’s justification allows the hotelier to cater to a particular guest’s travel “persona”. Consider the business persona: as a demographic group, business travelers may be more inclined to concern themselves with loyalty point earning opportunities but less inclined toward inclusive meals or services, since their bill is a reimbursable business expense. Business people are more likely to take advantage of express check-in and checkout services, and less likely to seek extensive assistance or guidance from the front desk. Applying travel personas is an important preference differentiator that helps tailor a stay and enhance the guest experience. Another favorite way to court guest favor is to integrate social interests into travel opportunities.

In a rapidly evolving technological landscape, let’s not lose sight of the original mission. When you think about the word “personalisation” what should first come to mind is “you”. Systems and programmes that enable guest recognition, tailor offers, and speak to the guest of extraordinary experiences provide the differentiation that separates the good from the outstanding. Thankfully, technologies are available that provide the tools to better know, understand and recognise guests, their needs and their desires.

Austin concludes: “In the chain hotel’s world of highly standardised options, it is customer relationship management software that provides the best competitive advantage in a marketplace that values the unique above all else. The best approach for a personalisation programme that brings hotel guests into sharper focus, improves the customer relationship, enhances revenue and results in more rewarding guest experiences is always a ‘you first’ proposition”.

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