Luxury Hotels Using Technology to be Intuitive about Their Customers

Preferences it's all about knowing and adjusting to the preferences of their guests.

When regulars like Laurence Wiener check into the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in New York, they get more than a smile from the concierge and a mint on their pillow. Wiener's hotel room “knows” exactly how warm. It welcomes him with a personal message on his television. It even loads his most frequently dialed numbers onto the phone.

And the bellhop did not have to do a thing.

At the Mandarin and other high-end hotels, new computer systems which connect individual rooms to network servers can now keep track of guests' preferences and change the room conditions automatically.

These “smart” systems can learn whether a frequent guest likes the lights dimmed, the curtains closed or the room toasty warm. They can also personalize the electronics in the room so that the music of John Coltrane, for instance, greets jazz buffs when they enter their rooms. Meanwhile, sensors in refrigerators alert maids when the minibar is running low on Coca-Cola.

In the old days hotels relied on their staff to remember and make these adjustments to their customers experiences. People are a critical aspect of these smart hotels:

Smart networks rely largely on a user's preferences that hotels gather in various ways. Some guests, for example, fill out questionnaires before they arrive. At the Mandarin, housekeepers, bellboys and waiters took note of Wiener's preferences and updated the digital profile that the hotel keeps for each customer. Wiener, an anesthesiologist from Philadelphia, has stayed at the Mandarin 45 times the past two years when he was supervising the construction of his apartment in New York.

Trusted relationships are at the core here. Guests/customers need to trust a hotel to accept and benefit from these personalization systems. If you believe the motives of a hotel are to truly serve you better you are more willing to be open about personal preferences and information. If customers are concerned about the use of that information all the tech in the world will only scare off customers.

How is your business balancing the need to respond to customer preferences and assure them you can be trusted knowing their birthday and all that can be intuited from their purchase history.

International Herald Tribune: In 'smart' hotel rooms everything is just right

Hotel Forcasts the Weather
Find What Touches Customers

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November 17, 2005 in award winning newsletter, Blog Outsourcing, blog publish, Brand enhancement, build credibility, Business newsletter, Travel, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

I'm Curious...So I'm Asking

Recently, I have been in meetings and conferences and have seen lots of different solutions to how people manage all the stuff they carry around. So, I am curious...

Feel free to leave a comment with more details if you're so inclined.

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November 10, 2005 in Blog Outsourcing, Blogging Tools, Building Customer Community, Current Affairs, Travel, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Newsletter Reader Maps with Frappr

Frappr-1Here's a nice tool for mapping customers, readers, vendor locations, retailers, etc. Frappr is a free tool that let's users set up groups and members can add themselves quickly and easily.

If you are publishing a blog or a e-newsletter consider setting up a map of your own and asking your readers to add themselves and give you a shout out on this google maps based tool. Very fun.

To see just how easy and fun this is click over and add yourself to the new map of BeConnected readers.

Why map your readers? Next time you travel to St. Louis, San Francisco or Sandusky you'll know you have friends there that might buy you a beer. They might also prove to be excellent local resources.

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October 25, 2005 in award winning design, award winning magazine, award winning newsletter, Award winning publications, Blog Outsourcing, blog publish, Blogging Tools, Blogs, build credibility, Building B2B Relationships, Building Customer Intuition, bulk email marketing, Business Marketing, Business newsletter, Business publications, Business relationships, CMO, Travel, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Personal R&D: Reading and Discovery

Your plane was just delayed and now you have 30 minutes on your hands. What to do?

Sure you could get a coffee, browse a bookstore, watch Hurricane news on the overhead monitors or....

You can deliver as much value to your network as you possibly can. Open your email address book. Scan the list and look for connections waiting to be made. Who should be introduced. What news stories, magazine articles or blog posts have you read recently that should be forwarded to someone in your network. Don't just tickle people for the sake of keeping the relationship live. Always deliver value to the relationship. Build the understanding in your contact's mind that communication from you whether it's a meeting, email or phone call will always be worth their time.

How can you constantly be ready with something for everyone? Well, you can't. Not everyone all the time but you can be ready for the right people at the right time.

The key is managing your personal R&D. In this case reading and discovery.

Read Strategically - Let your reading list grow out of your relationship network. When considering what to read consider who you know who is reading this same thing. Scan the desks, coffee tables, bookcases, carry-on bags, purses, briefcases, etc. of your coworkers, customers, prospects, competitors, etc. Discovering what someone is reading will give you clues to how they think and thus how you can work with them and add value to their lives.

For example: You're on a flight and you meet an executive across the aisle. She's in an industry you don't know a lot about. You sense there is an opportunity to follow-up and open a sales conversation with her. You notice a copy of a trade journal tucked into her laptop bag. After the flight find and read that trade journal so that your follow-up communications can include discussions of issues relevant to her business. She will feel that you value the information she values. It's a good first step to building a relationship.

Discovery - Cultivate your curiosity. Develop your power of observation. Make a game of it. Pretend you are an intelligence officer and practice noticing everything in your environment. Look for connections, patterns and cause and effect relationships. Watch human behavior. Notice advertising. Study new products when you come across them. Meet new people. All these things will develop your social skills and help you understand differences in how people behave and react to what you say and do. Most importantly actively noticing, observing and analyzing your environment and the people around you will help to make and keep you interesting. You'll always have insightful stories, humorous anecdotes and fresh ideas to share with the people you know and those you meet.

For example: You're in sales and marketing for a software company. On the subway ride to the meeting you notice just how many people have white wires running out of their ears. iPod listeners. When walking through a customer's office you notice that many of the young staffers are listening to iPods. In conversation with your contact you learn about half a dozen training needs the company has that surround your products. On the way back to your office an iPod ad reminds you of the article you read last night about podcasting. The light bulb goes on! The next day you propose a series of podcasts addressing the training issues you learned about the day before.

It's obvious that people are drawn to those who they know are interesting, funny and insightful. It's more important than ever to be that person. Being knowledgeable is the baseline. Being entertaining, insightful and helpful is more important than ever.

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September 21, 2005 in audio publication, award winning magazine, award winning newsletter, Blog Outsourcing, blog publish, Books, Brand enhancement, Building Customer Community, Business newsletter, Travel | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

NYT:A $79.95 Opportunity to Breeze Through Security

Incentives are at work to streamline the security screening for frequent travelers:

If Mr. Brill gets his way (and he usually does), his company's Clear Registered Traveler Program could soon have many members paying $79.95 each year to obtain an identity card that allows them to pass through airport checkpoints without being treated like a prisoner being hustled to the cellblock.

New business is seeing revenue in helping people get through the security at airports. Let the gaming of the system begin. The critics, not just the privacy activists, are making good points also:

Not all frequent travelers like the idea. David J. Silbey, a history professor who travels frequently, said that expediting the journey comfortably for the most frequent, and therefore most influential, travelers could “reduce pressure significantly” to enact necessary changes in standard airport security.

This is similar to what has happened with the terminal experience where airlines have learned that they can build special treatment pens for their frequent/good customers and let everyone else languish with an ever decreasing quality of experience in the terminal. They would charge for chairs if they could.

If you are a frequent yet un privileged traveler how do you feel when airlines cater to their “Platinum” members at the expense of everyone else? Does it encourage you to upgrade into the club or does it just add resentment to the travel experience?

NYT:A $79.95 Opportunity to Breeze Through Security

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September 14, 2005 in award winning newsletter, Award winning publications, Brand enhancement, Current Affairs, Travel | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Money Saving Last Minute Travel Booking

As gas prices continue to go up and the effects ripple through travel related businesses we will probably see even more of these kinds of pricing anomalies. I would suggest experimenting when booking last minute travel as the bundling agreements of travel aggregators may do nice things for you also.

I recently made a one-night trip from Houston to Chicago with very little notice. I managed to save almost $200 off of the lowest-price plane ticket by adding a hotel room at a Super 8 outside of Gary, IN, which I didn’t use.
A quick look at Travelocity shows me that it was no fluke- for brief trips with very little notice, it’s much cheaper to book a flight to Chicago if you book a room at a Super 8 at the same time. At the time that I originally wrote this post, Delta would sell a flight from Houston to Chicago for $616 without a hotel room, $340 with. If I needed to leave tomorrow, I could buy a ticket on American for $606 without a hotel room, or $350 with.

It used to be that one would book a cheaper round trip ticket when you only needed a one way ticket but now there are other options for getting a deal. Good tip.

Crooked Timber on Last Minute Travel Booking

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August 31, 2005 in Building Customer Community, Travel, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Weekend Travel Report

I am happy to report that I had a remarkably smooth time traveling this weekend. The airport check-in kiosks worked great. Flights were on time. Airport transfer worked fine. There's really no story. That's a good thing because we all know how wrong it can go.

We did see a bit of a story. A young couple sitting across the aisle from us were leaving on their honeymoon. The bride requested hot tea which somehow ended up spilled in the groom's lap. I didn't see it happen so I don't know who exactly is responsible. He did head off to the lavatory to check out the burn. he returned a few minutes later with a bag of ice. The honeymoon is maybe not a good time for a scalding burn in one's lap.

Would it be so hard to come up with some sort of spill proof cup for hot liquids on airplanes?

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August 28, 2005 in Food and Drink, Travel | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

I'm in For it Today

I am headed to the airport later today for a quick weekend getaway to attend a wedding. The airport goal, as always, is to deal with as few humans as possible. I'll be using ATMs, Kiosks and any other automated system I can find. It's not that I don't like interacting with people, I really do. The reality is that it's a lot faster to move through people-less. People are busy answering questions and handling customer problems. They often don't have the time or interest to deal with the routine traveller. Some are better than others but overall I have found that the kiosks and automated systems work faster on average provided you have learned to use them properly. A few minutes learning a new system can save a lot of time in the future. It's the same reason I always prefer the self checkout systems where available.

Are any of your customers struggling to use your automated systems? From your website to your telephone system automation is pervasive in today's business environment. An FAQ about your automated systems would make a great content item for an email newsletter.

On Monday I'll let you know how things went.

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August 26, 2005 in award winning newsletter, Blog Outsourcing, blog publish, Blogs, Building Customer Community, Building Customer Intuition, bulk email marketing, business magazine, Business Marketing, Business newsletter, Business publications, Business relationships, CMO, company blog, Current Affairs, Travel, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Parking Hacks

LifeHacker has a short list of ways to keep track of your car in large parking lots.

Write down the location in your datebook. If you carry around a calendar on your person, mark down which row and level you parked on in the corner of today’s entry. This is a great way to keep track of your car on a day-to-day basis.
Snap a picture. Carrying a cameraphone? Shoot a picture of the “You Parked in Row 5 of the Bluebird Level”-type sign nearest your car.
Note the landmarks. No signs? Look where you are in relationship to the major landmarks around you. For example, are you about 2/3rds of the way down the row that starts with the T in Target? Let the landmarks be your guide.
Tell a friend. When you involve other people, chances increase that one of you will remember where you parked the car.
Tag your car. It may be dorky. It may be something your Dad would do, but adding a unique-looking ornament to the top of your antenna can help you pick your car out of a sea of vehicles. My dad uses an old yellow tennis ball.
Unlock and relock. Got a keyless remote? Go ahead and press the lock/unlock button a few times. Your car should beep at you when you lock it.
Use GPS. Have you ever visited the Renaissance Festival with its converted fields and acres of cars and no signage whatsoever? Thats when a GPS unit really comes in handy. Just “mark” your location when you get out of the car and follow the little arrow back when you’re ready to leave. Sure, you have to carry around a several-ounce special-purpose gadget, but consider the convenience, not to mention the geek factor!

I'd add to the list:

Call Your Voicemail. If you work in a large building with a large lot get in the habit of calling your own voicemail and leaving location clues on your voicemail for review before you leave at the end of the day.
Open your remote trunk/tailgate. If your car is so equipped pop your remote trunk/tailgate release as a visual signal device. Works great in airport lots.
Post It Flags. I once visited an office on a high floor with a view of the parking lot from their reception area. On the window were colored post-it flags that literally pointed to individual cars. Each employee had their own flag color and each day they moved the flag to point to where they had parked that day. On the way out of the office a glance out the window reminded them where they parked.

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August 19, 2005 in Building Customer Community, Travel, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Todd Smart: Marketers Need to Segment and Customize Newsletters

Direct Marketing reports on Todd's recent talk at the ExactTarget eMarketing Excellence Summit in New York. Todd is “on tour” bringing BeTuitive's insight to cities across the country with ExactTarget this summer. Click here for more information about the ExactTarget eMarketing Excellence Summit.

“When we segment lists and do hundreds of versions,” the response rate is double or triple what it would be otherwise, Smart said. In fact, BeTuitive has one client that wants more than 2,000 versions of its newsletter sent each time.

DM News on Todd Smart

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August 10, 2005 in award winning newsletter, blog publish, Blogs, Brand enhancement, Building B2B Relationships, Building Customer Community, Building Customer Intuition, bulk email marketing, business credibility, Business editorial, business magazine, Business Marketing, Business newsletter, Business publications, Business relationships, CMO, company blog, Current Affairs, Travel, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack