Trailblazer webinar review: Human vs digital concierge

UK: The second webinar in the Boutique Hotel Trailblazer series explores the ways that technology is fundamentally changing the customer and operator experience.

Hosted by BHN news editor Eloise Hanson, the webinar contributors included:

  • Jannes Soerensen, general manager, The Beaumont
  • Rogier Braakman, managing director, Penta Hotels
  • Jeremy Atlan, co-founder and business development, Wishbox
  • Jen Wong, CEO, LaaSie.AI
  • Julie Grieve, founder and CEO, Criton


Following introductions, Hanson kicked off the webinar asking Soerensen how the role of the concierge was being amplified. He responded: “A concierge before had a black book and contacts and recommendations. I think today, anything that a client can receive through digital he doesn’t need the concierge for. If there’s something a concierge offers more and more it’s time and access. How can we save our clients time, and how can we provide access to things people can’t access digitally.”

Responding to a question about where demand comes from, Grieve noted that four to five star resorts, independent hotels and serviced apartments are most likely to engage with these technologies. She said: “they come to us because they struggle to get the technology into their guest’s hands but are interested in how they can sell more to their guests and drive incremental guest spends. They’re also concerned about experience, and how it fits within the luxury experience.”

Atlan, speaking on the experience of other asset classes, said: “They were initially interested in just pure operational technological solutions, like checking in the guests, signing contracts, and payment processing, but once they started working with these tools, they found new opportunities. They have full control of the guest communication journey, from the moment he books until he checks out, to provide absolutely customised service for guests before they even arrive at the property.”

Describing the balance between high tech and high touch, Braakman said: “In the near future Human interaction is the new luxury. Meeting people has become a luxury during COVID, and part of why you go to a hotel is to meet new people. I visited one of our hotels last week and when you’re there you see interaction is something we need to work on. I love digital but when I’m in a hotel, I become more aware of how important it is that a digital experience doesn’t supersede the physical one.”

Grieve further added on this point: “Just because you think that the ultimate guest journey is all people doesn’t mean that’s what your customers want. There should be blend and should be choice- these [phones] are so much part of our life now that this hand-off between device and person. And I say all the time- nobody skips into a hotel desperate to speak to a receptionist.”

Hanson then asked Wong how hotels can leverage AI to build loyalty. She said: “Using AI technology to personalise at the individual level is important to bridge this gap and meet customer expectations of today. Let’s say a guest named Amy, based in New York, is browsing one of Jannes’ properties looking for somewhere to stay in December for two adults and two kids. During that journey, you surprise her with personalised rewards – an uber credit, a Sephora discount, or even a ticket for a hop-on/hop-off bus her family will enjoy.

“The AI is learning with every one of these interactions and every one of her selections, and actually getting Amy to make that booking.”

Trust is especially important when considering personalisation and luxury. Soerensen noted that human connection, in the form of a concierge is able to provide that trust and provide tailored and curated services for guests. “That deep connection that only a human to human can make will always beat technology. You might not have all information at hand, you might not be as quick, but you will always be sincere and tailored to the individual need,” he said.

You can watch a full recorded stream of the webinar here.

The next Trailblazer webinar, titled “Design Reimagined, Hotel Space Repurposed” will take place on Monday, October 5. Joining Hanson in the discussion will be:

• Jacques-Olivier Chauvin, Fauchon Hospitality

• Paul Barrasford, Colliers International

• Ron Swidler, The Gettys Group

• Samantha Trinder, Bingham Riverhouse

Click here to register.

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