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“Treating a traveler as nothing more than a walking, talking, grab bag of preferences, attributes, and emotional buttons to be exploited for upselling will backfire on hoteliers.”

With the convergence of technology and data in the hotel arena creating new ways to please guests, the quote above from a recent Skift article reinforces that it’s not all about the data. Today’s hoteliers need to do much more than rely on a “grab bag” of preferences when fostering guest relationships at the front desk.

Guest preferences should be used to create deeper relationships and focus on serving, not upselling. All of the guest data in the world cannot overcome the need to please guests on an emotional level, which needs to happen at the front desk. Relationships can be gained or lost at this initial point of contact. For example, asking a loyal/returning traveler if they have stayed at your property before, can set the relationship back to “ground zero.”

In addition, as this article highlights, savvy guests worry that personalization is only being used to take money out of their pockets. Smart consumers in general know when they are being sold to, and over-selling can create a dynamic that greatly minimizes loyalty.

As such, larger hotel brands should take a page from innkeepers and independent property owners. Many of these smaller players do not have large “big data” systems from which to leverage and design new ways of selling. They rely on the simple face-to-face communications at the front-desk that starts with a conversation.

Smaller property owners are also savvy about pleasing returning guests. If a guest returns, and they know, for instance, that this traveler previously visited the area to visit wineries, the innkeeper will generally ask about this. “Will you be visiting the wineries again?” “May I recommend a more off-the-beaten path winery that I think you will enjoy?” The list of engaging questions and personalized recommendations goes on and on …

Gaining true emotional intelligence when interacting with guests at the front desk is paramount. With competition continuing to increase in the hotel arena, and many large brands aiming to “out tech” each other, much can be gained by actually establishing a face-to-face relationship with travelers.

All of the data in the world will serve no purpose unless it’s being used to in ways to go beyond upselling.