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The Journey is the Experience

An experience is the sum of its parts. For consumers, the interaction with a brand often starts before they even set foot in a store or make a payment. It begins when a potential guest is considering what to eat, where to travel and book a hotel room, or even what time to get there. This is where the customer journey starts and the work must begin. 

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Donagh Herlihy, EVP, Digital & CIO of Bloomin’ Brands for this month’s cover story. Herlihy initiated the development of a digital innovation team at Bloomin’ to oversee the company’s digital transformation, an undertaking that was laser-focused on the customer journey. Herlihy and his team identify five key phases of the guest lifecycle in order to make sure that each of the company’s brands was able to remove friction and create an anxiety-free
total experience. 

For Herlihy, technology is at its best when it maximizes an experience and offers more to a guest — more control, more convenience, and more choice. The digital transformation of Bloomin’ Brands hinges on its app, which allows diners to make informed decisions about the dining experience they want, and helps facilitate that. It’s an example of how merging the traditional and digital customer service is the future of hospitality as guests’ demands and expectations evolve. 

This concept was top-of-mind for hoteliers who attended the inaugural HT-NEXT, a combination of HT’s Hotel Technology Forum and HTNG North America. With its theme of “Be Frictionless,” much of the focus was on how to create seamless experiences as more guests expect technology to be an enabler that they don’t necessarily even take note of — until it doesn’t work. As best-selling author Erik Qualman pointed out in his keynote address, “the best technology is the one you don’t know exists.”  

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