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Ambassadorship is the Tech-Driven Authentically Local

Ambassadorship is the Tech-Driven Authentically Local

 

Ambassadorship is the Tech-Driven Authentically Local

By Larry Mogelonsky, MBA, P. Eng. (www.hotelmogel.com)

As travel returns following vaccine-driven customer confidence, it’s important that hotels align their brand visions for the decade before we’re all too deep in the weeds of servicing onsite guests. One trend throughout the 2010s was the drive for delivering a ‘locally authentic’ experience and this will definitely reemerge for the 2020s, but successful properties will be those that take it a full step further.

In the previous decade, being authentic meant, in broad terms, welcoming guests and enriching their journeys by offering their new perspectives of the local culture, cuisine and heritage. Through the use of the time-honored term of ‘ambassadorship’, hotels must now explore how they can become true hosts to a city or area for incoming travelers – those people who may be venturing off their home bases for the first time in upwards of two years.

Whereas authentically local would inscribe the choices of what to put on the restaurant menu, what products to source at the spa and how to theme the lobby furnishings, becoming an ambassador also pertains to service in terms of knowing how adventurous each guest’s taste buds are or what spa treatment to recommend based on their other travel activities and when to offer said treatments. Rather than passively offering guests a glimpse into what makes the area special, ambassadorship requires more an active role in personalizing the experience.

For the post-pandemic travel landscape, ambassadorship also equals peace of mind because guests will feel reassured that their specific requests are being handled. As a simple leisure scenario, picture yourself going on an international vacation with your loved one for the first time since the virus struck. You have all the new airport procedures to content with. You’ve been wearing a mask for hours on end, which is inherently uncomfortable. And now you’re in a foreign city and country and don’t know what attractions and stores have reopened or what the local safety guidelines are, on top of a myriad of other questions that would require some digging online. Instead, wouldn’t it be great to know that your host hotel has your back the whole way?

In the past, luxury brands have provided this kind of omniscience by deploying an army of staffers, but this model won’t jive in the post-pandemic, hyper-labor-efficient market conditions. Still, many would decry that their properties are already excelling at this through high-touch personalization with a backbone of disparate SaaS applications supporting a largely 20th century method of servicing guests.

The difference in 2021 and beyond is that ambassadorship must be natively tech-driven and funneled through a skeleton crew of adept, thoroughly knowledgeable personnel. Moreover, hotels must be proactive in the prearrival stage to ensure incoming guests have everything that they need and to make arrangements on their behalf. This sets the pace for a great onsite experience in lieu of the outdated ‘reactive’ process of waiting for guests to reach out to you with their inquiries.

Done right, hotels can utilize integrated platforms and build a versatile CRM to connect the entire guest journey that also offers a clear counterargument to the largely self-serve nature of home sharing accommodation providers such as Airbnb. In this sense, we can use the success of home sharing as both an example of what to emulate and where hotels need to be in order to survive well in the future.

Let’s break this down to see how ambassadorship represents the new full-service model:

  1. Home sharing platforms offer a direct, two-way messaging service with the accommodation host, and hotels must do the same. Brands should be using a chatbot to immediately respond to the simpler questions –which represent the majority of inquiries – then bouncing the more complex ones onto your front desk or concierge. Ditto for the voice channel where booking engines are available 24/7 and so too must your intake team be ready at all hours in order to win the business.
  • Speaking of booking engines, these should no longer be only for rooms, particularly if we want to continue to push guests towards our websites from the OTAs. Customers should be able to plan their entire trip itinerary from these portals, starting with dining reservations and spa appointments through to arrival amenities and perhaps a few ‘surprise and delight’ freebies such as their preferred, complimentary welcome refreshment or departure gift. With so much confusion about what’s open and what’s not, being an ambassador means guiding guests through this uncertainty as early in the customer journey as possible.
  • Physically getting to an accommodation booked through a home sharing platform is mostly a laissez faire ordeal. So, why can’t hotels offer bespoke, point-to-point guidance on transportation to and from the rail station or airport, as well as recommendations on how to get to the city or region? As a guest’s perception of your arrival experience can depend on the agony of how one arrives at the hotel, why leave this to chance? Besides better integrations to flight trackers so that you know exactly when your guests are expected to arrive, such innovations as autonomous vehicles are just around the corner, which could drastically bring down the costs of shuttle services. Grandiose for now, perhaps a present-day possibility would be a flight tracker integration so that you know when guests are expected to arrive and can be ready with a warm welcome.
  • The future of travel will be more purpose driven. Namely, with so many anxiety-riddled barriers following COVID-19, guests will want to maximize their time while aboard. Planning a guest’s itinerary or making local recommendations has traditionally fallen under the purview of the concierge, but the time is right for building a ‘pick your own adventure’ program of bundled, turnkey half-day and full-day activities. This will require deeper integrations with third-party operators as well as a rethink of what onsite or offsite services are most meaningful for guests based upon their given travel purpose. For instance, a late-afternoon, post-meeting relaxation package with a whiskey tasting, revitalizing nosh and back massage will have vastly different appeal from a daylong sightseeing tour that includes timed entrances to exclusive local events.
  • The post-stay relationship is where home sharing hosts are weakest. The platform does the brunt of this, focusing more on exploring new destinations rather than return visits. For hotels, traditionally the last interaction between guest and staff was often a checkout at the front desk where the final bill was confirmed, representing an emotionless, transactional touchpoint. Now with contactless checkout, hotels can transform this into a meaningful ‘thank you’ gesture followed by a series of one-to-one messages based upon what a guest utilized while onsite. With a fully integrated CRM, this messaging can be sentient insofar as knowing when to push for additional sales and when to simply keep past guests up to date on the latest happenings.

There are many other ways you can build upon this concept of being an ambassador to your guests in order to drive brand reputation, awareness and, ultimately, revenues. The key is to think about not just what amenities you offer to augment the onsite experience (as supported by your tech stack), but also how you can help guests throughout the entire purchasing pathway. Be proactive instead of reactive. Do that and you may find yourself rapidly becoming the brand of choice for the next cohort of travelers.

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Larry Mogelonsky
About Larry Mogelsonsky

One of the world’s most published writers in hospitality, Larry Mogelonsky is the principal of Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited, a Toronto-based consulting practice. His experience encompasses hotel properties around the world, both branded and independent, and ranging from luxury and boutique to select-service. Larry is also on several boards for companies focused on hotel technology. His work includes five books “Are You an Ostrich or a Llama?” (2012), “Llamas Rule” (2013), “Hotel Llama” (2015), “The Llama is Inn” (2017) and “The Hotel Mogel” (2018). You can reach Larry at larry@hotelmogel.com to discuss hotel business challenges or to book speaking engagements.

 

 

Media Contact:

Larry Mogelonsky

HotelMogel Consulting Limited

Email: larry@hotelmogel.com

 

Website: http://hotelmogel.com/

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