In a recent webinar hosted by the Cornell School of Hotel Administration, Dean Kate Walsh facilitated a lively discussion about ‘Innovating for a Post Pandemic Future’ with Ian Schrager, founder of The Ian Schrager Company, Pasquale DeMaio, GM of Amazon Connect and Bill Patterson, EVP of Salesforce.
From technology to automation, customer data and privacy, these industry leaders shared their thoughts on the future of our hospitality industry and how hotels can work towards a customer-focused future. The discussion was fueled with passion and excitement and can be watched in full here.
As an overview, we’ve summed up our key takeaways with these three points:
1. Beyond safety, brands must engineer comfort and hyper-convenience
Hotels must demonstrate safety if they hope to re-win the trust of their customers. But the key is to be transparent, not clinical. The opportunity exists to build a human connection into the guest experience, create comfort and hyper-convenience, and all the while maintain a service-driven mindset.
As Bill Patterson suggests, the innovation potential exists in ‘removing friction for the customer’. Engineer comfort by engineering-out the complexity. Make the guest experience easy and enjoyable for your customers - show them you’re making an effort to understand and deliver on their needs.
2. It’s not about managing properties, it’s about managing guest experiences
Pandemic or not, customer experience has and always will be critical for the hospitality industry. But if hotels, once dominated by legacy systems, can embrace the potential of new technology, exciting CX opportunities will arise.
What has historically been a highly transactional industry, now has the opportunity to be led by curated guest experiences and personalized service. Using customer data the right way will be the superpower that hotels need to understand patterns, recognize changes in patterns, preempt customer needs, scale customer service and deliver something unexpected.
3. Technology must work for the customer and the user
In looking at other industries, Ian shared a great analogy of new technology being implemented in hospitals to improve operational systems. The experts thought they had created something innovative, but in reality, it wasn’t responsive to the way doctors worked. It added time, rather than saved time. It created frustration and simply wasn’t used.
New technology will only be successful if it aids the worker, complements human behavior, and ultimately improves the customer experience. It must make staff more productive and it must deliver better customer service. As Pasquale notes, most frontline staff want to do a great job - ‘they want to help customers’. Empower them with the right technology and they’ll do just that. So when determining the best technology for your business - work out what the customer actually wants, what your employees need and what has the potential to make an impact beyond the safety measures of today’s pandemic.
"As long as there's life, there will be travel." [ Ian Schrager ]
The overall message was unanimous - people are at the heart of hospitality. Finding the right balance between humans and technology is what has the potential to create a special experience.
As for tomorrow’s hospitality leaders, the panel suggested three key qualities - empathy, curiosity and a drive for innovation.
The good news is, our hospitality industry will survive. And it will thrive again too. In Ian’s parting words ‘As long as there’s life, there will be travel’.