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Bob W: A Technology Company Operating a Hospitality Brand

Niko Karstikko, co-founder and CEO of the aparthotel Bob W discusses how it’s using technology to create a new type of hospitality.
Bob W sign
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Bob W is an aparthotel brand that prides itself on delivering a four-star hotel experience via a one-star budget hotel cost structure -- all thanks to technology.

“We’re loved by our guests because we’re a design-focused aparthotel (with no shared spaces), that runs on tech in a virtual marketplace and feels like an Airbnb,” explains Niko Karstikko, co-founder and CEO, Bob W. “We offer the branded promise that hotels provide while also retaining the magic of the short stay rental, with the authenticity and the utility of a home.”

In particular, the brand caters to the 25-45 year old urban middle class.

“This group of consumers is spending more time on the road and needs a different type of product to satisfy them,” Karstikko explains. “This generation has learned to love self-service technologies and apps. Just look at the popularity of Uber and DoorDash. So, we offer them a fully digitized customer experience that runs on a fraction of the operational layer needed in a traditional hotel.”

From check-in to housekeeping to guest communication, the Bob W  brand uses technology to create a simple, seamless experience that keeps guests coming back for more.

“Seventy-one percent of our guests who find us via an OTA rebook with us directly,” Karstikko explains. “Guests realize that when they work with us directly, we can offer an uncomplicated, intuitive experience. And then they’re not interested in going back to an OTA.”

Bob W Tech in Action

One thing that Karstikko is very proud of, is the fact that Bob W successfully drives customer adoption and use of its guest app. The company currently has a 100 percent usage rate among guests.

“We’re super proud of this because it means we’re in control of the guest experience for all of our customers,” Karstikko says. “We have their phone number, emails, etc. We can reach out to them every day and ensure they’re happy, answer questions, offer upsells or rebooking opportunities, etc.”

Within the app, guests also have access to “Bob W” himself.

“We created Bob W to be a super host in every sense of the word,” Karstikko says. “He’s a man of the people while also being very well educated. He knows every neighborhood better than a local concierge. He speaks eight languages. He never sleeps, and he answers WhatsApp and chat  messages in less than 2 minutes.”

While 95 percent of Bob’s messages are automated responses, we are  able to detect when an issue needs human intervention, and will escalate it to a live customer service agent. This escalation technology is essential, as the brand doesn’t keep employees on property at all times.

Kitchen in a Bob W aparthotel property in Madrid

For some brands, a lack of on-property staff would create high levels of anxiety, but according to Karstikko, “anyone who has had a great Airbnb experience knows you often do not need to meet the host for them to be amazing at their job. Hoteliers seem to be obsessed with these ‘touch points’ with the guest, but the only real touch point is during check-in at the front desk. I’ve never met anyone who told me that filling out paperwork and charging a credit card was an amazing customer service experience. There are better ways to interact with guests.” 

Karstikko is also very proud of its housekeeping app, designed in-house by the brand. The app allows housekeepers to be its quality control and operational layer, and it allows the brand to get rid of all other typical on property staff members. Plus, it uses an algorithm to tell cleaners which apartments to go to and in what order as well as what items need to be cleaned while they’re there.

“If we need to make adjustments on the fly because a customer requests a late check out or an early check-in, the system easily changes their schedules,” he notes. “This helps us alleviate the amount of cleaners we need on property which makes it more cost effective for the cleaning companies we use and allows us to get better rates for our cleanings. It also ensures we get the best cleaners, because they want to work for us. And it shows because we have incredibly high cleaning scores on review sites. We’re one of the first in the industry to offer this fully automated service.”

Bob W’s Build vs. Buy Philosophy

Karstikko is no stranger to technology. He has co-founded numerous apps that help connect people to specific services and has been an angel investor for more than ten companies that are looking to use technology to ‘rethink the game.’ So it’s no surprise that Karstikko views Bob W as a “technology company operating a hospitality brand.” This is evidenced by the sheer number of in-house technology specialists the company employs. 

According to Karstikko, more than half of Bob W’s technologies have been built in house. And when it comes to the consumer experience, 90 percent of its guest-facing technology has been built by Bob W. 

But that doesn’t mean that the company refuses to partner with technology vendors.

“There is no point in us building just for the sake of building it,” he notes. “Instead we think of it this way: If we can add value, we will build it ourselves. If we can’t, we buy it shamelessly.”

But Karstikko won’t partner with just any technology company.

“When we partner with a vendor, we view it as a long-term commitment and not a one night stand,” he says. “We see it as an investment, so we get very close to the vendors we work with and look to partner with companies that have a similar view of the world and the digitalization of hospitality. We also need to work with a company that has outstanding APIs so our technologies can interface.”

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