When new technology takes hold of an industry, opening up the playing field to new types of businesses, it’s usually considered a win for the consumer. However, the downside can be a fragmented landscape, with no consistency as to what consumers can expect. It may be that most people have decided they no longer need things like bathtubs, or +300 cable TV channels, but when all standard amenities are thrown up in the air, who’s to know what we can still expect from a hotel? This is even more true for today’s luxury hotel experience, where the price and the guest expectations are highest.

In this confusing and noisy marketplace, reliable, consistent standards for what distinguishes luxury hotels have never been more important. Forbes Travel Guide (who have recently recognized Local Measure as their Brand Official Social Media Intelligence Provider) have been independently rating high-end hotels since 1958 based on 900 objective standards. The standards place an emphasis on service, because how you’re made to feel at a hotel is what defines luxury.

To determine which hotels are worthy of Forbes Travel Guide’s  coveted 5-star rating, inspectors look for things like whether they were immediately greeted curbside on arrival, if thoughtful touches were made (like placing a microfiber cloth on the dresser next to a pair of sunglasses), and whether the hotel remembered your preferred room temperature from your last visit. It’s a challenge for any ratings company, as well hotels, to recognize the balance between simply ticking pre-set boxes, with providing an individualized experience to guests.

Renowned hotelier, Frank Reichenbach, who led Marco Polo Ortigas Manila to its first Forbes 5-star rating, is quoted explaining his approach to achieving a 5-star standard, “Look at your customer. The better you know your customer, the better you personalize your service, the more you wow. It is only when you truly know who your customer is can you truly anticipate their needs … You can’t have a cookie cutter reply or note to everybody.”

     “Look at your customer. The better you know your customer, the better you personalize your service, the more you wow. It is only when you truly know who your customer is can you truly anticipate their needs … You can’t have a cookie cutter reply or note to everybody.’’ Renowned hotelier, Frank Reichenbach                                                      

White-glove service for a digital age

Hotels that embrace innovation know how to modernize service standards so that they remain relevant in the digital age. It’s not simply about staying ‘with it’ or attracting millennials, it’s about recognizing how guests’ habits and preferences have changed and the business value of making the right digital investments to address and serve those changes.

If standard guest expectations now include free Wi-Fi, the ability to stream one’s own content, and receive real-time responses to online conversations; hoteliers need to ask, what would a 5-star digital experience look like within that context?

As with traditional standards, digital standards can be broken out into hotel amenities, such as voice assistants (Amazon Echo), keyless entry, or temperature control via the hotel app; and service standards – recognizing the guest’s online presence, listening to their stated preferences, hobbies and habits while acting upon them, engaging in conversation when mentioned, and showing appreciation for their sharing of photos on social media.

That being said, digital technology should not be viewed strictly as a whole new set of criteria that must be met, it’s also a way to make old processes more efficient. When a guest isn’t in their room, how long would it take you to find them in person and deliver a message? With the proliferation of smartphones and social media, you have an instant connection, and can relay messages back to appropriate staff members immediately.

Delivering a high level of personalized service cost-effectively is an ongoing challenge for hotels, yet through digital analytics there is an opportunity to create unique guest experiences at scale – an achievement that might have been impossible through traditional means alone.

It’s by evolving service standards, and the means to achieving these standards, that hotels can continue to offer true 5-star service in a way that resonates with guests.