Hilton Worldwide has put digital technology, specifically mobile devices, top of its loyalty program agenda in order to provide enhanced customer service.
Over the past seven years it has invested more than $500-million on technology upgrades across its 4,000 properties that include 11 Hilton brands in more than 80 countries.
This year has seen Hilton’s HHonors members receive the benefits of mobile-enabled check-in and room selection whereby using their mobile devices, tablets and computers they can check-in and choose their exact room from digital floor plans.
Next year, the hotel giant plans to take mobile into the guest’s hotel room and bypass the front desk by offering mobile key entry. In this case smartphones will replace traditional card keys and unlock guestroom doors.
Geraldine Calpin, senior vice president & global head of digital, and Bill Murphy, CIO, for Hilton Worldwide, spoke to Hospitality Technology about Hilton’s future plans for mobile devices, something they are calling “the remote control to the world.”
Geraldine Calpin, explained: “We started with this because our digital agenda isn’t about going from left to right, but about right to left — in other words, what do we think the customer wants or needs, or will need in the future, that we don’t have today. We know airlines have offered seat maps for some time and the vast majority of travellers use them. We started to consider if a similar type of guest choice could be a medium for us”.
“Understanding the importance of digital, at the end of last year and early 2014, we determined that we’d bring everything digital together. Guests don’t think about departments or parts of the journey. Their mobile phone is the remote control to the world, and they’ll use it to book a room, check-in, or order room service. We determined that the whole of their activity had to be accessible on one platform, and with that my role expanded from being revenue-focused to guest-focused. If we offer digital tools that guests love, the revenue will follow”.
Bill Murphy added: “Here’s another way to think about it. Hilton, like most hospitality companies, typically refers to its channels when it thinks about the reservation process: call centers, online travel agents, brick-and-mortar travel agents, the website, and most recently mobile devices. That’s the way we traditionally looked at it. Those channels were a way for the customer to shop our product and purchase it. The world of digital has evolved. Today it’s more than a channel. It’s a digital business, and we’ve aligned our teams to support that.
“The way I view it, it’s all about ease-of-use. The first smartphone came out in about 2008. Within several months it went from a way to play Angry Birds and get your email to the development of real applications. What person doesn’t use it today as a map, a GPS, a camera, a social media tool, a web browser, and a way to manage a variety of personal accounts? In the hospitality industry, we need to follow that cue and provide all the things we provide in the hotel today to people who want to control it through their mobile device”.
Hilton Worldwide is already offering an in room mobile service on a smaller scale through its room service app Conrad Concierge. Using customer data and requests from the app the hotels is seeking to personalise a guest’s room with little comforts like the temperature they prefer and ensuring certain items like favourite drinks are in the room on arrival.