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Is It Possible to Have Anticipatory Service in a Fully Digital Hospitality Experience?

How to balance the increasing prevalence of digital tools with a hallmark of the hospitality experience, anticipatory service.

Anticipatory service stands as a defining part of luxury guest experiences, embodying the principle that guests should have no concerns beyond showing up and paying the bill. Other needs, from early check-in to a preferred wine at dinner, are planned for by the hotel or restaurant team and executed without a guest ever having to ask for them. 

The post-Covid era has ushered in a paradigm shift towards digital-first customer engagement. Brands must now consider their digital guest experience and how to add anticipatory elements throughout, to ensure both a seamless and memorable guest experience.

The Essence of Anticipatory Service

Anticipatory service fundamentally enhances the guest experience by addressing needs before they are stated, creating a sense of understanding and appreciation. Imagine the seamless integration of services, such as a chauffeured ride to the airport where the driver is already aware of the guest's flight details. The essence of anticipatory service is straightforward: always be one step ahead of the guest. For instance, a prominent client of ComOps, a large integrated resort, utilizes their digital messaging platform to proactively inform guests about events happening on the property. This strategy not only shares potentially unknown opportunities with the guest but may also increase revenue through engagement with these offerings.

Anticipatory Digital Service

Translating human anticipatory gestures into a digital realm introduces complexities, as it demands both technological innovation and a nuanced understanding of guest preferences and behaviors. Consider whether a machine could intuit that a business traveler might need their suit pressed overnight before a meeting.

It is feasible to harness technology to preemptively meet guest needs, merging hospitality with digital convenience. This approach necessitates a thorough comprehension of the guest journey, coupled with data analytics expertise to foresee guest preferences and tailor services automatically. Every stage of the guest's stay, from pre-arrival through to departure, offers opportunities for personalization with digital interactions and gestures that anticipate the guest's needs.

Most hotels have ways to communicate with guests, ranging from simple emails to more interactive platforms like text messaging or integrated mobile apps. These communication channels are the starting point for hotels to enhance guest experiences by adding anticipatory service elements. Many hotels now send digital welcome messages, for instance, via SMS. Considering the time of day, these messages could be tailored to meet guests' immediate needs. For example, a message might inform a late-night arrival that the restaurant is closed but room service is available until 1:00am, including a link to the menu and offering to recommend nearby eateries for late arrivals.

Not all guests will utilize or even read these messages, but those who do will appreciate the hotel's thoughtful approach. This reflects the essence of anticipatory service: it's the thought that counts.

Hotels should regularly review their digital guest journey, identifying opportunities to incorporate thoughtful, anticipatory actions based on typical guest inquiries or requests.

As hotel technology advances, anticipatory service can become even more personalized. For example, smart rooms could automatically adjust the environment according to a guest's preferences, remembered and set in advance for future visits. However, widespread adoption of such technology is still a few years away.

Enhancing Through Continuous Feedback

Once those measures are set up, it’s critical to establish a feedback loop using guest data, including survey insights, to refine and personalize the service continuum. This adaptive approach ensures the anticipatory service model evolves in alignment with guest preferences, securing an ongoing cycle of improvement and guest satisfaction.

In the digital age, the transformation of anticipatory service in luxury hotels is not just an adaptation but a reimagining of hospitality. As hotels navigate this shift, the focus remains on delivering unparalleled guest experiences through a blend of technology and traditional service excellence. The future of luxury hospitality lies in its ability to marry digital innovation with the timeless principles of anticipatory service, creating a new standard for guest satisfaction.




About the Author

George Polyard is the Vice President, Customer Experience at ComOps. George began his career training as a chef at The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY, followed by five years in rooms division leadership at Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts. George then spent four years as a Senior Executive Trainer with Forbes Travel Guide, helping over 150 luxury properties worldwide to elevate their customer experience. Most recently, George brings experience from the leader in experience management software, Medallia, to elevate customer experiences by leveraging enterprise-grade technology. George holds a Bachelor of Science in Hotel Administration from University of Nevada-Las Vegas.



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