Tobias Koehler is a hotelier with over 13-years’ experience in various marketing and IT roles within the Hospitality Industry. Having received both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from universities in Germany and New Zealand covering the business and technological aspects of the Hospitality and Tourism industries, he has now an especially well-fitting role as the Chief Commercial Officer at BIG MAMA Hotels. Tobias was kind enough to share his experience below, covering their strategy behind the corporate identity redesign and how they leveraged technology to not only execute that vision to the fullest but enhance the guest experience even further.
In the Hospitality Industry, we are oftentimes guilty of not keeping up with the times, or, at least, not using technology to its full potential. Yet there are many things we can do today, such as simplifying our backend processes to avoid double work and wastage of resources, or ensuring our teams are equipped with the best possible tools to use their time more efficiently while having more meaningful responsibilities. Keeping up with available technology also means that we can offer better, more relevant, and highly personalized experiences to our guests.
The BIG MAMA Corporate Identity Redesign
In the recent revitalization of our corporate identity at BIG MAMA Hotels, we started the process with a thorough evaluation of our beliefs, systems, and an honest look at how we were doing at conveying our uniqueness to our guests. This led us to three important discoveries: that we have what it takes to position ourselves successfully, strong company values, and a desire to scale our brand. However, we could still improve in getting our message across to a key stakeholder – our guests. One of our core values at BIG MAMA is offering guests the flexibility of choice during their stay by catering to their travel needs – be it for business, leisure, with family, or solo – accompanied by useful amenities and thoughtful entertainment and accommodation options.
What followed was an effort to rebrand ourselves into a more obviously attractive brand that shows just how much value we offer. This included workshops with our teams and with our brand agency Studio Formfrage to dig deep and go beyond the obvious value propositions and core beliefs. It involved multiple layers of research on our guests, both by talking to them directly and by leveraging technology when engaging market segmentation agencies to help us build strong personas that accurately represented our target groups. By tapping on an agile approach for the rebranding exercise, our company was able to move from trial stages to solid strategies in significantly less time than more traditional industry players. When others started talking about certain initiatives, we had already tried and implemented them, or simply moved on to something else if not a good fit for our brand.
How We Leverage Tech
Technology is one of the most important tools for us because what we are trying to do is to challenge the whole industry; therefore having technology at the center of this corporate identity revitalization allows us to give our teams the time they need to interact with guests and form a personable bond, which in turn helps to generate useful information about each guest’s preferences and needs that can then be stored in Customer Relationship Management databases and used when offering them tailored services or experiences. This can be done via emailing campaigns and other targeted offers, gathering necessary personal information prior to arrival to comply with local laws and simplify the check-in process, but it also translates to offline interaction when we meet the guest on-property and suggest entertainment experiences that let them discover the destination on their own terms. All this happens while adding that personal touch, made possible when employees are empowered to be themselves and have the time to make these interactions meaningful because the more repetitive tasks were taken care of by automation. An example of this is with bookings, as over 90% of our bookings come in through digital channels and interface automatically with the Property Management System, sparing reservations agents from repeating steps several times just to get a booking in. With that additional time, they can focus on talking to guests on a call, making sure that this interaction will be more meaningful and relevant.
Human After All
Reaffirming our proposition to offer guests what they want, when they want it, we now focus on realizing this by catering to what we identified as their biggest need – to belong to a community, to be a part of something bigger. Our lobbies are designed to be inviting spaces where you can either meet people or do your own work, something I like to call “being together alone”. We also exercise flexibility in how the guest can find information – about us, about their stay, about the hotel’s local area, and so on – by having it immediately available via a chatbot service. Guests can get the answers they are looking for quickly and according to their schedule, not subjected to time zones and other delays. That is not to say, however, that human interaction is out of the question, as there is always a team member available to answer such questions as well. Much as a UI designer would keep the customer in mind when coming up with a product, our teams tailor offers and experiences, and even hotel design, following the same approach.
Last but not least, our backend daily tasks also benefit from automated processes, as it is also important to have the business side of things running as efficiently as possible. Using systems that allow for digital payment and sharing of invoices amongst departments reduces time wastage and also avoidable mistakes due to human error. Similarly, Human Resources functions are improved when done digitally, such as payroll information and more efficient recruitment efforts, which lead to better talent acquisition that will in turn lead to more satisfied guests. And needless to say, more satisfied guests can become better advocates and pay it forward to the brand in the form of recommendations and loyalty.
Knowing ourselves better through the revitalization of our corporate identity has led us to form a stronger bond with our guests, based on a deeper understanding of who they are and what they expect from us. We have also strengthened our internal processes and made it possible for our teams to deliver these expectations with our brand’s personality.
Rather than crediting a single software or a single system with all this improvement, what is important is to have seamless interfacing and to make sure that the entire ecosystem is integrated. Not only will an efficient ecosystem benefit properties at an individual, operational level, but it also opens up the opportunity for faster scaling up of our brand and for ensuring our values are perpetuated in the expansion, all while keeping the focus at what matters most: an incredible guest experience – before, during, and after each stay at a BIG MAMA hotel. And that is the advice that I would like to leave from our experience: consider how you can build a technological ecosystem where each element contributes to an incredible guest experience. If the guest experience is your north star, you cannot lose.
About Shiji Group
Shiji is a multi-national technology company that provides software solutions and services for enterprise companies in the hospitality, food service, retail and entertainment industries, ranging from hospitality technology platform, hotel management solutions, food and beverage and retail systems, payment gateways, data management, online distribution and more. Founded in 1998 as a network solutions provider for hotels, Shiji today comprises over 5,000 employees in 80+ subsidiaries and brands in over 23 countries, serving more than 91,000 hotels, 200,000 restaurants and 600,000 retail outlets. For more information, visit www.shijigroup.com.