A few months ago on this blog I posed the question, “Is ‘Personalization’ the Next Big Trend in Hotels?”
The blog post laid out the vision of Starwood Hotels CEO Frits van Passchen that emerging technology would soon allow hotels to know in advance what their guests are looking for and like — much as Amazon.com, Facebook, and, as I recently wrote about, Pandora, the internet music service, know about their customers through mining their vast data banks.
It turns out that several luxury hotels are already using social media to do just that.
According to the Toronto Globe and Mail, hotels in the Loews chain are checking out the Facebook pages of future arrivals to add those little personal touches to their rooms that will be memorable enough to keep them coming back. For example, one Loews Vanderbilt (Tennessee) customer found a framed photo of her two children waiting for her on her nightstand when she arrived at her hotel room. The hotel staff had gotten the photo off her Facebook page and replicated it for framing. The customer was reported to have been very pleased.
“Social media is a great tool for us to personalize their experience and make them feel special during their stay,” Loews spokeswoman Christina VerHeul told the Globe and Mail. The hotel had left a birthday cake in the room of another arriving guest after finding her birth date via social media, VerHeul added.
In another case, the Carlyle Hotel in New York City had furnished the beds of children in one arriving family with pillows bearing their initials. The father in the same family, who suffers from allergies, was offered a humidifier when he checked into the Breakers Palm Beach — all based on information in the public domain.
The general consensus among hoteliers seems to be that customers like it and won’t feel spied upon because, after all, the information is already posted on Facebook or other social media.
Meanwhile, luxury hotels are also hiring people to scour TripAdvisor, Travelocity and other online review sites to uncover any negative customer comments (surveys have shown that around 90 percent of Internet users read and are influenced by such reviews when they travel). The Globe and Mail reports that the Four Seasons chain has a “24/7 monitoring system” and that its hotels are given no more than four hours to respond to any complaints.
I’m not sure where all this personalization is leading, but it seems that it may be impossible to remain anonymous if one wants to maintain his or her privacy while traveling. (Baby boomers, I suspect, may be more concerned about privacy rights than younger generations, since we grew up before the dawn of social media.) And that may be the point where clever marketing has overstepped its bounds.
I do know that I would rather have a hotel bed with a nice firm mattress than a birthday cake waiting for me, especially if it’s a birthday I’d just as soon forget. Too often, I find, the beds are too soft for my comfort.
But here’s a plan: I’ll post my mattress preferences on Facebook, and that should take care of the problem.
You can read the original Globe and Mail piece here.