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HT Tours New citizenM Chicago Property

CitizenM Chicago Entrance
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During a recent tour of citizenM’s new property in Chicago, Hospitality Technology’s own Michal Christine Escobar was able to see firsthand how the brand creates a seamless guest experience via its thoughtful use of technology.

The Check-in/out Experience

Unlike other hotel brands that have a traditional front desk for the check-in experience, citizenM expects most – if not all – of its guests to either use their mobile app or the self-service kiosks they have installed within their lobby to check-in. This has been their practice since the first citizenM hotel opened in 2008, catering to business travelers who tend to be technically savvy and looking for a quick and painless check-in/out experience. (Of course, there is always a brand ambassador available nearby if a guest is having a technical issue or has specific questions.)

Travelers who have checked-in via the mobile app are still required to use a kiosk within the lobby to pick up their guestroom keycard. However, if a guest uses the app to check-in ahead of time, they can  skip multiple data entry steps such as typing in their name and reservation number. Instead, they can display a QR code and immediately jump to the step of receiving their guestroom keycard. And in the near future, citizenM is planning switch from physical key cards to mobile keys that will be stored in the brand’s mobile app.

CitizenM Guestroom
A standard citizenM guestroom.

The Guestroom Experience

When entering the guestroom, one immediately notices it has been designed to maximize space in the most efficient way possible. But it has also been designed with technology in mind. For instance, every room is equipped with an iPad (and has been since 2008 when the first hotel opened) that can control almost every single aspect of the room. For example, it can turn the lights on and off, it can open and close the blinds, and it can control the room’s thermostat. As a bonus feature, the iPad offers guests the ability to turn on a variety of colored lighting around the bathroom pod for a fun, modern effect.

81% of respondents report that their guest-facing technologies are either on par or better than their competitors, according to 2022 Lodging Technology Study

The iPad can also be used by guests to view the property’s bar menu, their current folio, share feedback, cast content from one’s phone onto the room TV, or view the brand’s health/wellness videos (created in partnership with UK brand Gym Box) for an in-room workout experience.

During the pandemic, the brand realized that many guests might want a more contactless experience in the guestroom. So, it updated its mobile app to allow guests to control the room the exact same way they would via the iPad. This allows guests to choose how they prefer to interact with the room.

And while citizenM, like many other brands, has removed single use plastics from the room and replaced them with large refillable containers; the brand has also added to all of its rooms a switch that when toggled by the guest – upon leaving the room – automatically shuts everything off: the television, the lights, etc.  

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CitizenM coworking space on the main floor

The Loyalty Program Experience

During the pandemic, citizenM trialed some different subscription-based loyalty programs to cater to changing traveler needs. One was called global passport and allowed travelers to pay a fixed monthly rate ($50/day). This was primarily meant for digital nomads who were willing to let go of their expensive big-city apartment and live at a citizenM property for 30 days at a time instead.

91% of guests place free Wi-Fi at the top of their technology demands, reflecting the importance of robust networks and connectivity to the hotel experience, according to  Hospitality Technology ‘s 2022 Customer Engagement Technology Study.

Now that the pandemic has waned and travel has picked up again, the company found there was less appetite among consumers for the global passport loyalty program. So, the company pivoted and launched mycitizenM+ for $12/month. This program offers benefits such as a 10% discount on rooms, free late check-out and premium views, a guaranteed room when booked at least 48 hours in advance, ‘first in queue’ chat service, and early access to sales and members only events. For example, the company recently hosted a Zoom talk by Anita Albertus, a Harvard lecturer, on how to build one’s personal brand and business which was available only to plus members.

The program has gained approximately 5,000 members since it’s launch in April with the goal of attaining 10,000 members by the end of the year.

The Ambassador Experience

At citizenM, staff members are referred to as Ambassadors and have a fairly different interview and hiring process than other hotel brands. For instance, the brand offers casting days where it invites job applicants in to do group activities together and hiring managers can observe how applicants work together in a group setting with the intention of hiring almost completely based on personality assessments. Why? Because, most people can be taught to check in a guest or make a cup of coffee but they can’t be taught to have a good attitude, to be a team player, or to be helpful and hospitable. Additionally, no Ambassador is trained to do just one job. They all rotate from job to job, working at check-in one day and then bartending on a different day.

As you might imagine, this type of workplace environment would require excellent communication among staff members. To help facilitate this, the brand recently launched an app specifically for staff called: MAMBA.

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