You will probably have heard much talk lately about the “customer experience”. Companies continually refer to this term in their communication campaigns, media, advertising, forums, corporate documents, etc. It seems that it is not enough to have satisfied customers, but customers who have had a good experience as well, and therefore experience goes beyond satisfaction and the quality of a product or service. But what is meant by customer experience? Surely you can find many definitions, but I especially like the following: “It is the perception left in someone’s mind after a series of interactions with a product, a service, a brand or a company.” In any case, despite the multiple definitions, all agree on one thing: to talk about user experience is to talk about emotions.
From there, as you can imagine there is an exciting world opening up for companies, especially for marketing departments in search of techniques and strategies to excite customers. However, in my role as IT Manager of Les Roches Marbella, I am going to focus on giving some hints of how IT departments can also help improve the customer experience. Being more specific, and for obvious reasons, I shall refer in particular to the world of Hospitality.
I begin with the final conclusion. The weight of technology in the customer experience is huge. In fact, some of the terms commonly used in this field, known as UX (User eXperience), is practically associated with the technological world. Today, CIOs (Chief Information Officers) of Hospitality are lucky enough to have access to an incredible selection of market solutions and technological components to choose from that compliment or highlight a total impact on the customer experience. Technological rooms, robotic assistants, the internet of things, permanent connection to social networks, and personalized services on mobile devices, are some of those elements that are revolutionizing the hotel industry.
At the same time, the speed with which technology advances lately, also becomes a weakness. Consider how technologies have evolved hotels in the last century through a couple of simple examples. In the early 70s it was rare to find a hotel that had a fax machine. There could be no better experience for a guest than to be able to receive documents when he/she was on a business trip outside the office. Today, what hotel uses the fax as a service to their customers? Another example, WiFi. In the early years of the twenty-first century, the WiFi was a differential value, even despite its high cost. Today, no one can think of a hotel that does not have WiFi, and even more, that this is not free. That is why companies, and particularly the CIOs of them, have to be constantly on alert to adopt the latest technology trends. On the one hand this is necessary to continue to surprise the customer, and on the other, to make a difference, especially in a highly competitive hotel environment.
I have recently had access to the results of a survey conducted last year amongst CIOs from relevant Hospitality companies (large hotels and chains) worldwide, and it called my attention to some indicators.
The first is the investment allocation. The results are shown below:
As you can see, the customer experience is at the “top”, particularly in the second place, under the improvements in financial performance. This, in my opinion, is a result of the severe economic crisis we have been through, which has forced companies, especially in such a competitive sector like hoteling, to seek new ways to maximize (at least maintain) its profits.
The second deals with the reasons leading CIOs to invest in new technology. These were the results:
In this case, it is clearly customer experience at number 1 ranking.
The third, and last, involves technological areas that companies will invest in over the coming months. These were the results:
In the latter case, although the customer experience is not listed as an item as such, the number one is mobility, which as you can imagine, has a resounding impact on the experience.
Finally, I think it has been proven the conclusion I anticipated at the beginning of this article: you cannot understand the customer experience without technology. That is why, rather than “experience”, should be called “IT-xperience”.
Here is the link to the survey, for those who are interested in reading the full report: http://www.hospitalityupgrade.com/_files/_pdf/HospitalityUpgrade_HP_CIOSurvey2015.pdf