By David Goldstone, President, The Americas – DigiValet

What was the experience of staying at hotels twenty or thirty years ago?

In most cases, it was a pretty straightforward affair.

One checked into a property, entered the room. If all went well, the TV worked, you maybe had HBO and everything was clean and the room features and amenities were as promised.

If it was the late 1990s and you were a savvy business traveler, you looked for a connection for the modem for your computer, plugged it in and you were hopefully on your way.

(Most often, those modem connections did not actually work and rarely got you dialed up quickly and effectively).

If you were a luxury traveler staying at a top tier property, you paid for an additional suite of services: a well – appointed lobby bar, valet parking, a fine dining restaurant, perhaps a spa onsite.

As they have always been, hoteliers were adept at creating great experiences – but guest services were fairly well standardized and their scope was entirely within the control of the hotel owner and manager.

The New Reality

Welcome to the 21st century.

Today’s travelers are sophisticated, tech savvy and are accustomed to being in full control of their stay, and experience. They have been conditioned by an “on-demand” marketplace to see a hotel visit as part of an immersive travel experience that begins with booking and continues through multiple engagements and touch points.

Airbnb and other “shared economy” businesses are changing the travel landscape. Travel providers who wish to deliver personalized, truly local experiences for guests are taking note and starting to deliver such services.

Although it may sound counterintuitive, to satisfy today’s guests, it must be made clear, that it is the guest – not the hotel – who controls the experience.

Do you want streaming videos in your hotel room from your own device?

We’ve got that.

Prefer to watch your own personal content, but on the TV in the room?

We can do that too.

How about ordering tickets for tomorrow night’s show from your bedside having the tickets in your e-wallet in seconds and in the next click, scheduling room service for delivery in less than 30 minutes?

We’ve got it covered.

What this really means is that emphasis has shifted – a memorable guest experience is no longer about what the hotel provides to guests . . . it’s about the kinds of tools the hotel provides to enable guests to create their own stay, preferences and desires their way.

Introducing the “Shared” Hotel Room

As I noted in another article, in a way the hotel room no longer belongs to the hotel –

it belongs to the guest . . . at least for the duration of his or her stay.

It’s incumbent on us to deliver on guest expectations each and every time they enter the property.

While this places new burdens on hotel owners and managers, but it also creates new opportunities.

The technology needs are great. Ideally, one implements a strong backbone of integrated hotel systems that tie seamlessly together – including the CRM, PMS, request management systems, guest feedback systems and in-room devices that control everything from lights to thermostats, television sets, smart showers and door locks.

Absent a totally integrated system, owners are left piecing together individual technology components – a costly, complicated process.

But technology is moving much too fast for any single solution that originates outside the guest room to fully keep pace with the changing tastes of consumers as they evolve within the room during their stay.

That’s why at DigiValet, we return to the guest room as the core of the guest experience.

We believe that every important feature in a guest room can be connected via a single point of contact, with the guest in charge of the experience.

Using an iPad placed in their rooms, or via their own personal device, guests can now stream their own video content; order room service at any time without picking up the phone; turn off the lights, set their own wake up experience, change their room temperature, tune to their favorite TV channel– all from a single device, from the comfort of their bed, and all with one touch of a screen.

The promise is for a totally seamless guest experience, delivered on demand – but there is also great upside for the hotel.

A platform such as DigiValet’s not only enables seamless service delivery, but also tightens the guest’s connection to the hotel's staff, while simultaneously enabling hotel operations to learn and act on guest preferences. Luxury today is about personalization and no one does it better than DigiValet.

Guest requests can be acted on in real time, and going forward, they can be anticipated: The hotel has the ability to capture preferences and retrieve them for later use, making them actionable for a future visit, which will help enhance the guest visit upon their return. Which equates to increased loyalty.

By deploying DigiValet, hotel staff will have the ability to do their jobs better, faster and with greater direct impact on the guest experience. This means big leaps in guest satisfaction and the hotels ROI.

TripAdvisor reviews from properties that use the DigiValet system bear this out – in many cases evidencing a stunning uptick in reviews for high end properties.

Seizing the Day

To be sure, it’s no longer your “daddy’s” hotel.

The distance between the on property experience of the 1980s or 1990s and today is widening exponentially with each passing year.

This has significant implications for how you spend on technology and where you invest in the guest experience.

We must face the fact that to a great extent, the manner in which guest demands are evolving have little or nothing to do with what you learned in Hotel Management 101.

The good news is, we now have the tools and understanding to seize the moment, and allow the hotel to profit from what has become a totally shared hotel experience.

Carpe diem.