In my previous job I had to travel to Bangalore often, and every time I had to stay back for a night, I had a choice of over 100 hotels. Yet, I found myself staying at the same hotel each time. They were not a favorite among my colleagues. Their rooms are old fashioned, the gym was just functional, and overall they were a little dated as compared to the newer one’s right next door. Besides the loyalty points, I continued to stay a Taj Vivanta in MG Road for a very simple reason – an outstanding customer experience! Since I shifted job, I don’t travel to Bangalore that often now. Yet the experience that I received during my earlier stays has left a lasting memory in my mind, I always relate Taj Hotel to great customer experience. The experience I am talking about were not technology or data driven, it was people driven.
My biggest motivation to go back to Taj Vivanta was their valet manager. This guy knew me by my first name, knew where I work, the length of my stay and even knew where my Bangalore office is located. My frequency of travel wasn’t very high, at the most once a month if not twice every quarter. Every time he saw me, he struck a conversation, checked if my travel and stay have been comfortable and if there is something he could do for me. I don’t know if he had an elephant’s memory or the hotel fed him with the right data every hour, but as a customer, I often felt embarrassed at them being so nice to me. True to Taj Hotel’s high focus on customer care, most of their staff is well trained – he could have been replaced by an equally well-trained staff but again, it wasn’t about technology only.
We live in a world that is powered by big data. With the right technology, any hotel can replicate it. How many hotels are able to do it today? Matters related to customer experience and building loyalty are often easier said than done. One reason could be the way they approach the problem. Most businesses fail desperately short of customer’s expectation because of they over-dependence on technology. Customer experience and loyalty are not something you can buy or influence purely based on technology. If it were that easy what is stopping the rest of the industry from implementing the best customer experience solution in the hotel industry? Even if they did, it would only end up commoditizing the experience. When everything else remains the same, price becomes the sole factor for loyalty and that would be highly unsustainable.
Personalization is they key, but that is not something done using an algorithm that sends automated emails with a <FName> formula. If personalization was purely technology driven, we question our customer’s intelligence. Any smart customer will be able to differentiate something that is coming from a CPU to something that is coming from the heart. Consistent customer experience needs to be more contextual & humanized than what a robot can deliver.
Until unless we move to the world that is yet limited to movies like iRobot, where robots practically run everything, the last mile will need a human interface to make an impact. What if hotel replaces the valet manager with a robot? I am dead sure the robot will know more about me than this gentleman but I will be so aware of it being a machine and would never relate to it they way i related to the valet manager who made me a loyal Taj customer.