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HITEC Houston 2018: Building Trust with Guests is the Key to Creating a Competitive Advantage



As I was sitting in HITEC Houston opening keynote, surrounded by many of the world’s hospitality technology leaders listening to futurist Mike Walsh I couldn’t help but think, What a wonderful way to open a technology conference!
 
An important point Walsh made was this: “The future advantage is focus on the people part, not the technology part." As we know, in the hospitality industry it is all about people, the guests.
 
And for guests it is ultimately about trust.
 
First we decide to trust, then we decide about an organization’s capabilities. Without trust there is no sale, no reservation, no stay, no return stay, and no recommendation. When organizations focus on building and protecting trust it becomes a competitive differentiator and it pays off on the bottom line.
 
During HITEC I looked at topics and technologies from the perspective of building trust with guests. I spoke to hoteliers and the companies servicing hotels. Several trends and topics arose including: personalization, AI, machine learning, security, data and privacy, facial recognition, dashboard, analytics, single pane of glass, data minimization, seamless, frictionless experiences and predicting guests needs.
 
Michael Gray, NEC senior practice manager of hospitality, said, “NEC is helping solve one of the hotel's (and guests) most frustrating parts of the ‘frictionless’ experience by authenticating the guest via facial recognition.”
 
The idea of creating a frictionless experience came up in several discussions. Paul Steedman, vice president of corporate systems and delivery, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts said, “We want to be seamless but not frictionless. I don’t think we trust machines yet. Great customer service through human interaction will never be replaced. Finding ways to connect humans should be the focus of hospitality companies, not finding ways to remove them.”
 

 In-room tablets can enable connections, communications and empower guests. There were a few in-room tablet companies exhibiting, however only one spoke of empowering and empathizing with guests. Crave Interactive, compliments “seamless” by enabling timely and dynamic up-to-date communication and empowering guests to make requests, place orders and control the TV, air conditioning and lights. Chief Commercial Officer Tim Butterworth said, “We transform how hoteliers communicate with their guests and we improve by listening to their guests.” 
 
Listening with empathy builds trust.
 
Securing guest data was discussed at length. Steedman said, “First we keep guests safe and secure ... we take pride in protecting peoples’ privacy and discretion. Acting in the guests’ best interests by managing and protecting their data is a specific trust building initiative.”
 
Several hoteliers discussed securing data and the introduction of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). One company that focuses on privacy management is One Trust. Chris Keaton, account executive for One Trust, said, “GDPR is the compelling event, while privacy is the long-term trend.”
 
During a super session the panellists were asked, “What is the most important issue?” Citizens Hotel Chief Information Officer Nick Price said, “We are responsible for the health and safety of our employees and our guests on our networks.” This is another example of a trust building policy.
 
Building trust with guests starts with having a culture of trust inside the organization. Everyone from the back office IT personnel to engineering, housekeeping and the front line employees are critical to the guest experience and critical to the protecting the trust the hotel has with the guest.
 
Few exhibitors focused on the important role that hotel staff play in building a culture of trust. However, CEO of PurpleCloud Technologies Adria Bagdonavicius said, "We empower employees to be their best so that the hotel’s guests feel the best.” PurpleCloud’s system called Cielo streams real-time hotel operations data, while collecting data to create trend reports for regarding operations. One of Cielo’s features is a staff satisfaction survey, which enables hoteliers to address staff feedback. 

At the end of the day, the technology needs to do what it says it is going to do. Reliability builds trust. Cox Hospitality Network services many of North America’s largest hotels and casino resorts and arenas. Cox Business/Hospitality Networks Senior Director Lisa Majdi said, “It’s about consistent, reliable networks and service. Every time.”
 
 
Every guest wants what the hotelier promises to deliver. Ruckus Vice President of Global Hospitality Larry Birnbaum said, “We help enable brand promise, whether it is great IOT, door locks, Internet or TV, we enable it.”
 
Ultimately hoteliers are looking for trusted advisors.  As many hoteliers shared with me, they want to work with companies and professionals who offer expertise and advice they can trust.
About The Author
Natalie Doyle Oldfield
President
Success Through Trust Inc.


Natalie Doyle Oldfield is the president of Success Through Trust Inc. She is also a team member of DANNI Enterprises. Her areas of expertise include customer experience, building customer trust and loyalty.

 
Comments
Nimesh
Great Article.
6/27/2018 5:38:55 PM

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