Providing the Desired Guest Experience Essential
With today’s always connected and ever-evolving consumer, the ability to adapt and respond quickly is a key driver of success. We are focused on creating solutions that give InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) employees in 4,600 hotels across 100 countries access to our rich business and consumer information, so they can make informed decisions more quickly. This empowers our employees to meet more guests’ needs in real time, which is a critical component that will drive our success. In a large business environment, enterprise grade tools that deliver this capability virtually, and in a secure format, will be a big step in enhancing the guest experience, loyalty and revenue.
Challenges in System Performance and Information Security There are two key areas that keep me up at night—system performance and information security. IHG supports over 157 million guest nights annually. For a business that is meeting consumer needs 24-hours a day, we require systems that perform optimally to manage our high transaction environment. Solutions that address true protection and full redundancy of all our operating systems xare available, but the industry needs scalable, affordable solutions. And like many other businesses, the value of resilient, self-resolving systems, able to pro-actively detect and address security threats is critical to protecting privacy, credit card data, etc. This is key to building trust and loyalty with our guests and ultimately driving our business.
Future Success lies with the Brands themselves
IHG recently published a report called ‘Creating Moments of Trust– the key to building successful brand relationships in the Kinship Economy’. The research tells us that future success lies in brands simultaneously managing three macro trends: globalization, localization and personalization and their collision through technology enabled personalization. This collision is shaping the guest experience with technology based self-service complimented by personalized support when needed. Our ability to provide this desired guest experience is a key driver for our growth. We’re meeting these needs through IHG’s promise of free internet for all IHG Rewards Club members; “greener” hotel rooms through the IHG Green Engage online system; enhanced mobile booking apps that provide personalized offers; and mobile check-in through IHG’s new Anywhere Check In solution piloted by select Crowne Plaza hotels in the U.S.
CIOs should be Commercially Savvy
My personal journey has spanned both “sides of the house”. I started my career in technology at NASA, IBM and Disney, and my career path at IHG has evolved from eCommerce to Chief Marketing Officer and now CIO. Today’s CIOs must be more commercially savvy to ensure technology solutions drive maximum business value. As a former CMO, that’s been the biggest benefit— seeing technology as a true differentiator for how we do business. It impacts every part of the guest journey from pre-stay research and planning to efficient journey to the hotel and check in, and the overall stay and post-stay experiences. It builds guest loyalty and preference for our nine hotel brands, drives our performance, and creates a more efficient business environment for our employees, hotel owners and operators, globally.
Lessons Learned as CIO
The convergence of technology and marketing is driving the solution to quickly address evolving consumer demands, blurring the traditional roles of CMO and CIO. To remain relevant, organizations must look at how marketing can leverage technology to deliver on the consumer experience through innovation. Capitalizing on strong domain expertise, rich business relationships, and smart delivery directly influences commercial outcomes.
As a leader, I’ve also seen the direct relationship between “winning” and culture. IHG is a service business delivered through our people. In today’s “war for talent” in technology and the hospitality industry, leaders need to focus not only on IQ but EQ (Emotional Quotient) to inspire and increase engagement. Everyone within the organization desires to understand how their success contributes to the bigger picture. Delivering on this culture of inspiration is critical to attracting, retaining and motivating talent.