Opinion.

Concierge services will change beyond recognition

David Vismans, Chief Product Officer at Booking.com, explains why technology holds the key to helping hotels and other properties create the ultimate personalised guest experience

by David Vismans, Chief Product Officer, Booking.com

Topic: Guest experience Innovation

Click. Takeaway

David on…

His biggest lesson
If you always focus on customers then the right things will happen. Especially in the long term. When in doubt or when you’re lost, focusing on customers is what will help you out. Did I make this decision in the benefit of customers or did I make it in the benefit of the company?

Biggest industry change he’s seen
We’re starting to see an evolution in how the traditional pure market players operate, with more than just a room being offered, but other services on top of this. Typically it’s the accommodation providers that are going to be pulling in the other services. It’s not the rental car companies that are going to be booking hotels, it’s the other way around.

The Property Management System industry has been growing at a rapid pace ever since the first hotel reservation system was created back in 1947 – a machine that could instantly confirm a guest’s stay.

These days being able to manage bookings and monitor rates are just a couple of the basic functions hotels and other properties expect of a PMS. With the emergence of the attractions and activities sector, some systems now have the capability to upsell services like restaurants, days out, golf bookings and much more. But it’s no secret that it’s a complex world, with many different providers and tools, often operating at varying levels of efficiency. It’s fair to say that it can be a headache for hoteliers.

If you couple this with the fact that technology-wise the attractions and activities space is still in its infancy, answering the question of how to give guests the best experience possible and create a way of working that drives loyalty isn’t exactly an easy feat.

There is a sea change in personalising services for guests and customers. It’s something we’ve been thinking about a lot about at Booking.com, particularly with our recent acquisition of experiences booking-software provider, FareHarbor.

Take the role of the concierge as a concrete example. This could be transformed forever with software like FareHarbour, which acts as a concierge style tool, allowing hotels and other accommodations to sell attractions and activities to guests. We’re going to be doing a lot of experimentation in the coming months on this.

Changing face of the concierge

Traditionally, the concierge was always a person who helped guests with booking tours, restaurants or theatre tickets. This person probably had their preferences on where to send you because they made more money off the Madame Tussauds ticket, or by sending you to SeaWorld – essentially optimising for revenue.

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But what if it was the norm to optimise for a broad selection of things that were completely relevant to guests, based on their preferences? A truly personalised experienced. If we know you don’t travel with kids because you travel mostly as a couple and you always go to major European destinations, and we see that you’re using attractions, why not present you with those options relevant to you.

Working together

Make no mistake, we’re entering a new era. Big players like American Express acquiring travel AI start-up Mezi, and even beyond the industry with organisations like Choice launching a concierge style tool that switches users to the best energy deal, really showcases where we’re heading.

Over the years Booking.com has also worked closely with the industry to innovate and get rid of friction wherever we can. With our Pulse app, for example, we aim to help businesses manage their property on the go and we’re hungry to keep on listening and improving. We also know there are limitations to tools like this when there is a layer in between, such as channel managers and PMS systems.

But companies’ motivations for wanting to provide services are also evolving. If you look at FareHarbour, for example, its business model is an interesting one. They get a share of every ticket that gets sold online. Whereas typically, software providers charge a monthly licence fee and this means the interests of the business and the software provider for the business are not properly aligned. But when the provider gets paid as a share of the revenue they generate, they are incentivised to build the technology in a way that gets the maximum out of the business – everybody wins.

The possibilities are endless, with us all working together to create a joined up experience that puts the customer at the centre.

David will be speaking at Click. 2018 in September. Secure your tickets now

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David Vismans is Chief Product Officer at Booking.com

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