When Vaughn Davis, Managing Director, of the Dream Hollywood hotel began his career in hospitality (circa 2010), he wanted to ensure his guests experienced a seamless technology transition between their at-home and guestroom experience.
“If a hotel feels antiquated, it makes it challenging for the guest to really fully immerse themselves in the guest experience,” he says.
An excellent technology experience is especially near and dear to Davis’ heart as he has a background in computer science.
“When programmers write code or develop new technologies, they often use human psychology, neuroscience, and a plethora of other disciplines to understand exactly what’s transpiring in the mind of their target audience,” he explains. “Since the dawn of smartphones and the internet, we’ve been programmed to expect certain experiences – subconsciously. And if the hospitality industry can’t live up to those expectations, it’s jarring for the guest.”
Armed with this knowledge, Davis set out to build out technologies within his hotel that could be fully integrated into a guest’s everyday life.
Improving the Guest Experience with Uber, Chexology
After helping to open the Dream Downtown New York hotel in 2011, Davis noticed that he was having a hard time getting taxis to regularly stop by the hotel and pick up guests. So, Davis reached out to Uber and asked if they would be interested in partnering with the hotel. Uber’s enthusiastic response meant that were able to create a solution where guests could book their Uber with a bellman, the front desk, or the Uber app and have the ride charged directly to their room.
“Ensuring that this Uber ride was charged to the room was key,” Davis says. “Business travelers love having all of their expenses grouped together in one spot so as to make reimbursement easier and faster. Once this system was put in place, all of our guests really loved it. And it made me wonder, what else can I make a better experience for my guests?”
Davis’ partnership with Uber soon made him rethink the whole in-room dining concept that his hotel brand offered. Davis once again partnered with Uber, this time with its Uber Eats division.
“Most hotels can’t offer 24-hour room service, but by partnering with Uber Eats we gave our guests access to every restaurant in New York City and then allowed that food order to be charged directly to the room,” he added.
Davis also noticed the hotel was still using paper luggage tags to tag bags. It wasn't environmentally friendly, it was expensive, and it often led to a poor guest experience.
“So, we partnered with Chexology which provides digital luggage tags,” Davis said. “Now guests no longer have to worry about losing their paper ticket. Instead, they get a text message with their ticket number and a picture of their luggage. It’s a totally seamless experience for the guest!”
Improving the Staff Experience with Robots
Improving the guest experience, however, is often tied directly to improving the team member experience. For example, team members are often asked to interact and engage with guests to help create memorable experiences that will draw customers back to the property. However, they’re also told that they must respond quickly when assigned a work order. When those two things happen simultaneously, employees face a difficult decision: talk to the guest or respond to the work order.
“I wanted to figure out how I could make sure our employees never felt that they had to rush out of a conversation with a guest just to respond to a work order,” Davis says. “So, we launched a front-of-house robotics program with Relay Robotics. We employ robots to deliver small items (toothbrushes, shampoo, towels, sheets, etc.) to guests. These tasks used to take up a lot of our team members’ time, but now they’re free to engage with guests.”
Why Technology Is So Important
From Davis’ perspective, utilizing technology as much as possible is not about replacing jobs or saving money, it’s about creating efficiencies so that both staff members and guests can focus on creating meaningful experiences that ultimately lead to the world being a better place.
“Automobiles opened up a whole new world for humans by allowing us to travel further and faster than was ever possible with a horse and carriage. It created whole new industries, extended human life expectancy, and more. I’m trying to find ways to do the same thing in my own way within the hospitality industry,” he notes.
It’s no wonder that Davis is a huge proponent of generative AI. In fact, some of his friends were early investors in OpenAI’s ChatGPT, so Davis believes his history with the technology is probably one of the longest ones out there.
“We use ChatGPT to do market analysis, create revenue strategies, sales and marketing strategies, write and build standard operating procedures (SOPs), plug in old SOPs and refine them and bring them up to date, and more,” he notes. “I’ve used this technology so much that it really knows me, how I think, even how I would likely respond to a question. It’s almost like having a second brain. If we’re able to tap into this technology and use it to improve our industry as a whole, it will be so beneficial.”
How exactly could it benefit the industry? If used correctly, the technology will improve employee productivity by 10 orders of magnitude or even more, Davis explains. And if it can interface with a hotel’s technology stack it would eventually be able to make autonomous decisions for the brand based on solid data and evidence of what will be best.
“When that happens, my director of sales and marketing or my director of revenue will have the ability to tap into an all-knowing form of technology that will give them the refined decision-making and guidance they need for the most integral parts of their job,” he adds. “I think we are living in one of the most exciting timelines in the history of our civilization, and this thing is moving way faster than I've ever seen anything move. Some people find it scary. I find it fascinating.”