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Episode #144: Imagine… an Exceptional Hotel Experience

Grad Conn

July 16, 2021  •  14 min read

A recent Forester study found that 82% of decision makers say that CX is a top priority. But that same study found that most brands are struggling to know where to start. To help kickstart this process, we’re introducing a multi-part series I’m calling “Imagine” — a creative look at how brands could fully embrace CX. We start the series with a look at hotels, and some imaginative ways they could completely transform the customer experience.

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PODCAST TRANSCRIPT

Welcome. It’s the Unified CXM Experience featuring, as always, your host, Grad Conn. I am the Chief Experience Officer at Sprinklr, a New York Stock Exchange listed company, ticker symbol is CXM. And I am delighted to be here today.

I’m going to do something I haven’t done before on this show, which is sing; that should be fun, looking forward to that. And I’m going to be doing a beginning of a series today, I always like doing series, I did a really fun series on digital transformation. I’ve done a bunch of interview series, you know, multi-part kind of stuff. I always love those because there’s just so many things I can kind of fit into that. So, today’s show is going to be especially fun. I am beginning a new series, I’ve done some great series in the past, I did a really great one on AI. I did one on digital transformation. If you haven’t listened to either one of those, I’d encourage you to check them out. They’re fantastic if I do say so myself. I’ve done some multi-part series with different interviews; those are always a lot of fun as well. And I like doing series because they help ground a lot of principles, they help pull us together around a theme. It’s like, usually a collection of things that have been banging around my desk and in my head for a while. So, it allows me to formulate those and put them into something that we can look at. And the series we’re going to be starting on today is my very, very, very, very, very most favorite thing in the whole world – imagination. Yeah.

Now I don’t have Figment to accompany me because he’s a licensed character of the Walt Disney Company. So, we can’t borrow him right now. But, if Figment were on my shoulder, he’d be going “yoobeedoop”. And off we’d be going to talk about imagination. And the reason I want to talk about ‘imagination’ is that so much of customer experience is imagination focused. I think this is maybe why I love this so much. I was actually thinking this morning that I think literally almost every single penny I’ve ever made in my life I’ve made because of my imagination, because of ideas and creativity. It’s actually kind of amazing when you think about it. And I was recently bemoaning my lack of shower time, I’m not getting enough shower time. And I find when I have a really long shower, I get great ideas and I’ve been doing a lot of quick showers and I think I’m going to stop that. New longer showers are coming into play because I need that idea time; I need those ideas.

Now in CXM, people know it’s a top priority. In fact, CX is a top priority for 82% of decision makers, according to a recent study with more than 300 companies in it by Forrester. But what’s interesting is that most firms aren’t delivering great customer experience yet. So more than half of companies say we’re struggling to address customer interactions, almost half the companies are failing to recognize real opportunities to improve the customer experience. Roughly the same number are saying the customer experience is highly fragmented across multiple channels. And nearly 40% of companies are saying that they struggle to respond to and detect crisis situations before they become a problem.

So, everyone gets that this is a priority. People are struggling to bring it to life to make it happen. And I think part of the problem is a lack of imagination. So, I want to talk a little bit about, “Wouldn’t the world be wonderful if we did these kinds of things?” Want to say, “Hey”, you know, “why aren’t hotels operating this way? Why aren’t airlines operating this way? Why aren’t banks operating this way?” So, I’m going to go through a variety of categories. I’m going to pick a specific scenario. And I’m just going to spin a tale of CX and say, “This is what I want to see happen the next time I interact with my favorite institution, or organization in these verticals”.

So, you’re probably familiar with the song by John Lennon, Imagine and I’ll just do a quick verse or two. I think my favorite verse is where it starts with, he goes, “Imagine there’s no countries, it isn’t hard to do; nothing to kill or die for; and no religion too; imagine all the people living life in peace. Yoo hoo oo oo. You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us. And the world will be one. bom bom bom, bom bom”. That’s a great song and maybe my favorite song in the whole world. There are a couple of songs that I like nearly as much but this is one of my most favorite.

So, let’s do some imagination. And today, we are going to start with hotels. So, this is my imagination exercise for hotels. If you’ve been listening, you know that I have traveled a reasonable amount over the years. And just to put just a cherry on top of that statement, just to dimensionalize how much I’ve traveled. To 2019 before the pandemic, I did 400,000 miles that year, that’s a very intense year of travel, I did a recent presentation to the Marriott Hotels brand. I’m a lifetime Titanium member, Marriott Hotels, which is a pretty high level; I have my own concierge, it’s pretty cool. And the stat that I have is I’ve spent 17,036 nights in a Marriott Hotel in my lifetime, which is nearly five years. So nearly five years of my life, nearly 10% of my life, I have spent sleeping in a Marriott Hotel; I’m a very loyal Marriott customer, but they’re not Marriotts everywhere, and I have spent nights in other hotels. So that’s just the Marriott brand. But what’s more even more compelling about that statement is that I’ve only been a Marriott Rewards member for 17 years, when I moved to the US. So that means in the last 17 years, I’ve spent five of those years sleeping in a Marriott Hotel, or nearly a third of the last 17 years, I have spent the night in a Marriott Hotel, which is probably a good explanation on why I’m divorced now.

Anyway, so that is just to put a point that I am experienced traveler, I’ve been to many hotels, I’ve checked in many, many times. And I think that it could be better. And this is how it could be better. So, I’m going to build a scenario where, let’s say I’m not traveling on my favorite airline, which is Delta. I love my Delta SkyMiles program, I’m a Delta 360, if you know what that is. It’s a secret level that you’re not supposed to talk about. Oops. And so, it’s a great level, they run you from gate to gate in a Porsche – super fun. And again, it’s one of those things where you kind of like to have it, then you’re also sad you have it. So, Delta is an amazing airline, I’ve never had a bad experience on Delta that hasn’t been able to be fixed or worked out in some way or the other. So, this is not a Delta flight I’m talking about. This is someone else. I don’t know who; some crazy airline I’m forced to take. And I have a bad experience on the airline. And I’m a pretty good tweeter; tweet fairly prolifically. And I’ll probably make a comment about the customer experience on this flight, having a terrible flight, super bumpy. And the flight attendants are super grumpy. And the food is super lumpy, something like that.

Bumpy, grumpy, and lumpy. I like that – hashtag. So, when me and the three dwarfs kind of land on the ground, I get off the plane, thank God I’m still alive, and I get in a car and go to the hotel. Now, normally, when I walk into the hotel, I walk in as a complete stranger. We’ll talk about that for a second. And I go up to the front desk, and they look at me with blank eyes because they don’t know who I am. They’ve never met me before. So again, I’m a complete stranger. And even though I’ve spent, as you know, nearly a third of the last 17 years in one of these hotels, they look at me like I’ve never been in a Marriott Hotel before. And they ask me who I am. And then they assign me a room. Now if they’re chatty and good at the desk, they’ll say something like, “Did you fly in?” because they don’t even know that. “Did you fly in?” I’ll say, “Yes”. And then they’ll say something like, “How was your flight?”, which will bring up a whole new stream of anger and resentment and tears around bumpy, grumpy, and lumpy, and now I’m all in a bad mood, and I go stomping off to my room. That’s how it kind of normally goes,

Okay, here’s how it could go. Here’s my imagination exercise, I walk into the hotel and there’s a camera at the front door. It takes a picture of my face. There’s a facial recognition program, so that when I get to the front desk, or by the time I get to the front desk, a) they’ve noted that I’ve entered, they’re not surprised when I come to the desk; b) they know who I am. And c) they know what my status is, and they know all about me. They have a 360-degree customer experience management profile – CXM profile in a CDP based in Sprinklr. And they can see that I’m Grad, I’m flying in; I had a bumpy, grumpy and lumpy flight. I really want to tweet that somehow, so I got to start flying Spirit Airlines more and then… (“oh, savage”), and then they’ll know that I’m probably not in a great mood.

All that can happen by taking my picture of my face and matching it to the database. And suddenly they’re in a very different spot. Now, before I go on to the next sort of stage of this, because it’s going to be pretty obvious, I will say it’s a little bit strange the way that businesses operate today. You know, I walk into a Marriott Hotel, or walk onto a Delta plane, pretty much a stranger. And if you’ve ever seen the movie ‘Fifty First Dates’ with Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler, that’s the same situation. Drew Barrymore has got a brain injury; she doesn’t remember each day. Adam Sandler is romancing her; he keeps learning more about her. But for her each day’s a new first date. It’s a beautiful story; it’s a great movie, but it’s not the way a marketing company should work. And it’s increasingly frustrating to customers because they know that you have this information on them. When I walk up to the desk at a Marriott Hotel, and they’re like, “Hi, who are you?” There’s part of me is like, “I don’t know, why don’t you guess?” Like, “why don’t you guess cause, you know what, every three days I’m here. Not this one maybe, but I’m here all the time. And I’ve probably been to this one many times” because I do repetitively go to the same hotels. It’s kind of weird if you think about it, and it’ll be incredibly weird when somebody figures this out. Because the moment that I start walking up to a desk or walking into an Apple store, or walking onto an airline, and they go, “Hey, Grad, how’s it going? I heard you had a good flight, bad flight, good day, bad day, you’re buying a car, you just had a baby, you got promoted”. Like, as soon as they start to know stuff about me, and they greet me like a friend because they know all this stuff, the game has changed, this game has changed for everybody, instantly. Anyway, so I walk up to the desk, they have me up on the screen, they know who I am. They see my tweets because they’ve got a CXM database. So, they’ve got their transactional database in their CRM system. So they’d be able to see what I’ve done, what I’ve purchased, my history with the hotel, but they also have the experience data flowing in from all the public channels that I’m using, they can see what I’ve said about them and others, they can see what I’m doing, my day, they can see where I’m going, all the things that I’m broadcasting, I walk up to the desk, and the desk person looks at me and says, “Hi, Grad. I’m really sorry about your flight”. Okay, so what’s happened right here? So, they said, “Hi, Grad, I’m really sorry about your flight”. I don’t have to sort of explain things to them. And they know who I am already. Then they go on. This is where it gets really exciting. “Your room is prepared. I’ve already checked you in. We have your card on file. You don’t need to give us ID; we know who you are. And we have a special, bumpy, grumpy, lumpy relaxation package prepared for you. When you go to your room, there’ll be a pile of hot towels; there’ll be a bucket of beer; and there’ll be a bowl of wings. And if there’s anything else you need from us, please let us know. Oh, by the way, we upgraded you to a suite. Have a great night”.

I’ve literally got tears in my eyes thinking about how amazing that would be. How many incredible times I’ve walked into hotels so tired or so beaten up or so lonely or so exhausted? And if someone had said that to me, if they had just connected with me like that, what an amazing difference it would make to me. I’ve got to tell you, it’s the opportunity to create human connection. Like forget the business stuff. First of all, by the way, I’ll never stay anywhere else, right? Obviously, I’m pretty loyal anyway. But that’s it for me. Like I’m locked and loaded in that hotel for the rest of my life.

But still, like the human connection, the things we can do for each other, it’s just so powerful. And I think, also, the person at the desk – I mean, what an amazing job to be all day long, making people happy. I fundamentally believe that humans working at these jobs, they don’t want to be fighting with people or disappointing people. They want people to be delighted, be happy, be you know, or if they’re not delightable – maybe I’m just so tired and I’ve been so bumped and so grumped and so on, I can’t get past it. But at least I’m like, “Oh, I’ve got to be appreciative. That is really nice. I really appreciate it”. I mean, l won’t start smiling and laughing but I’d be like, you know, “I needed that. Thank you. I really needed that”. So anyway, that is, that is my dream.

And that’s my imagination. So, we’re going to come back with another category next time. If anyone’s listening in the hotel category, I really hope you build something like that because you could do it today. You can do that today. That is not hard to do. That is doable, right this very second. For the Unified CXM Experience, I’m Grad Conn, CXO at Sprinklr and I will see you … next time.

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Grad Conn

Chief Experience Officer, Sprinklr

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