It is More About the Last Mile

Loren Gray, Founder, Hospitality Digital Marketing
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Loren Gray, Founder, Hospitality Digital Marketing

Loren Gray, Founder, Hospitality Digital Marketing

I am often asked at conferences, round tables, think tanks, panels, and general C-suite discussions, “What keeps you up at night?” Whether intended as a topic starter, workflow catalyst or consensus builder, I have always felt it a negative way to express insight to what’s happing in our remarkable world of hospitality. We don’t ask our teams to wake up each day with dread and apprehension as to the perils of their career path, so why are we so drawn to ‘over use’ this conversation starter? So why approach success with apprehension. Yes, problem solving is a part of success, but at times it’s not a problem that creates success, just look at smartphones we didn’t even know we needed one till Steve Jobs showed us why.

Can we not, with possible better results, invert the question to, "what gets you up in the morning?" After all its not with foreboding we tackle a problem, but with the excitement in its potential solution. To that end we are in an amazing time of convergence, with solutions unthinkable, even undreamable just 20 years ago. We have never been closer to realizing the ability to provide true one to one guest service, or to define direct communication with our guests, insuring we create as relevant of an experience to their expectations as possible, the true 'heart of the servant' inspiration to many in the industry. What a time to be in the hospitality industry, with the majority of Americans preferring experiences to that of possessions.

We're just not quite there yet. In truth this Pandora's Box of solutions and potentials is cluttering the path to real potential; it has created the 'Paradox of Choice'2 From Artificial Intelligence to Blockchain, Voice Commands to Virtual Reality, as well as Augmented Reality and 'Big Data'. We are all familiar with these current 'Buzz Words'. But to what end? Have we as an industry truly succumbed to a 'shinny object' strategy, voracious in our appetite to acquire an advantage with the 'next thing’ rather than the boring 'old' basics?

In this same world of new and emerging technology have been great developments in data acquisition, data management, time-saving automations and with all it, the ability to accelerate guest services and their potential satisfaction levels. We're able now more than ever to define our optimum guest and roadmap a method of communication and engagement, only to have it horribly collapse with systems both legacy and new, that do not communicate with each other. We have burdened our teams with unwieldy resources that stack potential solution onto solution with no collaboration to streamline their use, all the while making us feel as if we are providing the tools necessary to their success. When in fact, we have created a time consuming fractured methodology often cluttering their ability to do their core responsibilities.

  My perspective is that we as an industry are not the creators of our own solutions, instead we tend to be the buyers of them.   

With our industries eagerness to bring itself into current times we have put to many 'toll booths' on the road to success, paying others to provide solution services to us, and to that end we have not completed the 'last mile' of connectivity.

My perspective is that we as an industry are not the creators of our own solutions, instead we tend to be the buyers of them. Unwilling to invest in the cost of self-solution development. Complacent in the belief that what is provided will be adaptive, expandable and kept competitive at pace with the alternatives it was compared with a purchase. But the price includes a hidden expectation of complacency that builds dependency based on proprietary fences.

I also feel we follow the leader too much, which does not foster the competition of true innovation, but rather the creation of an eco-system that is self-replicating. When the predominant three questions asked in a boardroom when evaluating a product are limited to: 1) Who else is using it? 2) How much does it cost? and 3) How much revenue will it generate? We miss the more relevant concerns of solution provider, product enhancement, and most importantly guest experience improvement, which can be followed by, 'integration capability, best of breed, and usability by the team that is responsible'.

To step away from generalities, not everyone sees the shininess of every new thing as a needed item. Some are deeply entrenched in legacy methods, slow if not rigid to accept new things and adapt. Confidence in the foundations of location’ and 'good product’ creates good customers. For them all of this expansion of possibilities is rejected or at the very least resisted. For them they are the other end of the pendulum swing, and to that end the fastest diminishing voice to compare opinions with. Some to be said in truth, do not know how to step out of their role and title to ask about what is not known, all the while perhaps wishing to understand if given the opportunity of impunity.

So that leaves the adaptive, cautious adopters of products and platforms that get tested, collaborated, integrated and connected, chosen through the lens of guest experience, team usability and streamlining functionality.

When we can connect the method to identify, acquire, service, satisfy and repeat guest engagement with permission-based data on systems that seamlessly communicate with each other invisible to the users and beneficiaries of its use, we will have truly completed 'the last mile' of connectivity. It is what gets me up in the morning.

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