Hotel rooms to order: Modular units for customized service


What does a traveler need in his/her hotel room? That's a hopelessly vague question! The answer depends on the objective of the trip – personal, business or social – as well as how much of the trip is to be spent in the hotel room, and several other factors. And when a hospitality services provider doesn't know what a customer needs, what can be done to ensure customer satisfaction? How can inventory be managed effectively?

Typically, we try to figure it out from historic behavior. That brings us to predictive data analytics, which happens to be a pet favorite approach of mine to many real world problems. But there are limitations to the data available about specific customers, thereby making all predictions a mere approximation to the typical customer persona. Therefore, the best way is to give customers the opportunity to express themselves at the time of booking. Again, this must be in an abstract manner which exposes only that practical range of offerings which provides sufficient ROI (direct or indirect) while enhancing customer satisfaction.

Customization of the hotel room stems from a number of factors

Clearly, customers vary greatly when in what they desire as part of the experience. Companies such as Sonder offer a unique advantage – consistency in the hotel room experience irrespective of the hotel or kind of property you've rented – for those who would want it. Many premium brands take special care to offer the same level of service across all their properties – this is part of their branding efforts. 

But on the other end of the spectrum are customers who may be tired of having the same old décor for the rooms they stay in, irrespective of the reason they travelled to a city. Or, they may find the standardized décor to be insufficient for specific traveler needs. Take a city like New York, which has as much scope for business travelers as it does for tourists. Similarly, a beach side destination such as Goa, India may seem inviting to not just partiers who seek high energy environments, but also to people who seek a calm, serene vacation away from the crowd. 

Different kinds of travelers may seek different features for their hotel rooms

A makeover for the typical hotel room doesn't have to be a long or expensive affair. Sometimes, converting a typical room into a honeymoon suite is as easy as throwing in the right theme of curtains, bed linen and basic décor pieces. Similarly, a business traveler may appreciate simple pieces such as a dock for his/her laptop, plus a small parlor room with a formal background and table for impromptu meetings/teleconferences. On the other hand, some travelers may just be looking for the cheapest room (within the standards of the brand) and may not care much about the specific décor.

The key lies in understanding the customer's specific needs and then providing the specific facilities relevant to those, instead of providing the entire bunch of offerings only to leave half of it unused. It must start with an undifferentiated room – one which is essentially a skeleton with just enough skin on it to be livable without any embellishments. Then must come thematic modular units, each of which contribute to achieving the final goal – the kind of room a customer requested.

A simplified model for customizing a hotel room

If such a dynamic decor system is implemented, there will be no more designated theme suites – each room will be a potential candidate to be converted to any kind as per the immediate need. This will reduce inventory management costs and also enable modifications according to changing demand. Granted, there will be limitations to the model in the extent of differentiation of a room. For example, a Presidential suite or something of a similar level of luxury cannot always be achieved through assembling modular thematic units. So such a model would be most applicable to those hotels which prefer practical customer service over the pure indulgence segment of the market. 

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Sunday, 14 July 2024

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