The latest mobile trends

Heading into the end of 2012, it’s safe to say that “going mobile” is de rigueur. More than that, it’s a necessity, not only for fostering brand awareness among Gen-Xers and Millenials, but also for attaining newly heightened levels of RevPAR.

One company worth investigating, and one I’ve worked with in the very recent past, is MConcierge. As the name implies, its primary software platform, GuestDriven, functions as a mobile concierge for guests to purchase services and amenities straight off their smartphone or tablet. To get further insight into what makes software companies like MConcierge work and a few of the more subtle benefits of mobile integration, I reached out to Zachary Amzallag, the company’s sales manager.

Larry Mogelonsky: How did the concept for MConcierge develop?

Zachary Amzallag: Co-founders Marco de Stefani and Joel Yaffe were sitting in a bar one evening — seriously, as cliché as it may sound — and the idea was actually drawn up on a cocktail napkin. Joel and Marco had a friend who was the concierge at the Opus Hotel, who in turn had a VIP guest who needed his laptop repaired. The concierge had called on Marco and Joel because, at the time, they ran iTechnique Media, an Apple software and hardware service company. So, as they fiddled with their iPhones that evening, they thought of critical services for hotels. This led to the epiphany: “Wouldn’t it be cool if everything that a hotel concierge did, if there was an app for that!?”  

The very next day, iTechnique Media was hard at work developing what would later become MConcierge Systems. Inspiration really does strike everywhere you look.

LM: What is the core function of the MConcierge and GuestDriven system? What systems is it compatible with?

ZA: The core function is to give hotels the ability to build a one-on-one relationship with guests, and to allow hotels and guests to interact through all phases of travel, not just when the guest is onsite. So, really, it’s about giving guests more flexibility with which to plan their stay and to enable hotel staff to better serve their guests.

We’re compatible with Maitre’D, Agilisys, Aloha, InnVue, MTech, Micros, Hotello, ResortSuite, Northwind, your Hotel Wi-Fi provider, hotel and guest’s social media accounts and many more.

LM: Is this a product specifically for upscale, boutique hotels? How does the product range across different market segments?

ZA: Not at all! We’re fully customizable — lean enough to serve the more modest needs of budget-conscious independents, and robust enough to service the demands of any 5-star resort chain.

Small hotels find that it allows them to offer a more personalized service without the extra staff, while 5-star hotels find that it elevates their brand promise. Most hotels will experience a more seamless run of operations, but importantly, what all properties running GuestDriven will share is the fact that they now have more actionable data and insight into who their guests really are.

LM: You talk a lot about guest behavior and social media prior to booking. What is the exact relationship between these two? How is it changing?

ZA: Well, they are really two sides of the same coin. Now that travelers have choices and the means to compare all options conveniently, they do. So, whereas a hotel used to be able to get away with a few bad customers experiences in the past, today, one bad review on TripAdvisor, Yelp, Google or can mean the difference between thousands of dollars of lost revenue on one end, and a favorable CondéNast editorial PR boost on the other.

LM: Is it a standalone app or does it integrate with a hotel’s pre-existing mobile app?

ZA: It can stand alone or it can integrate with a hotel’s pre-existing app, booking engine, PMS or even social media APIs. The sky’s the limit.

LM: How does the GuestDriven service capture data about customers? Can you cite any examples of how this has positively affected revenues?

ZA: We use all the readily obtainable social media APIs to feed available data into our proprietary algorithm. Beyond that, we’re discussing proprietary information, and we cannot divulge any more.

To answer the next part, we have three separate case studies for Hyatt48Lex, Yotel and InterContinental Montreal that we’ve estimated with direct ROIs ranging from US$40,000 to upwards of US$150,000.

LM: Are there any difficulties integrating GuestDriven with a hotel’s back-end systems?

ZA: Every hotel is different. But we utilize the same standard APIs as everyone else in the market, and our backend gives full-range capabilities from day one. That said, not many, no.

LM: How do you make the content and system easy for property staff to manage?

ZA: We’ve developed the very do-it-yourself “Hotel Builder” for clients to update their content in a way that’s as intuitive to use as Lego blocks. You can literally build, update and alter your app in 30 minutes. For GuestDriven, our redesigned dashboard-style business intelligence module is even more intuitive and easy to use.

LM: Has there been any backlash to the potentially “invasive” nature of the GuestDriven software?

ZA: When a new guest books a room at one of our clients’ hotels, they are invited to personalize their stay by signing up via that hotel’s Guest Portal. The hotel then gets a Klout-like score on the guest to see if they’re likely to be the hotel’s next reviewer on TripAdvisor. Conversely, when the guest opts in, they get to personalize their stay with recommendations based on their actual collected likes and tastes. Full social media integration “gamifies” the process, making it sticky and fun. It’s like a Klout for hotel travelers.

Hotels now know the social influence, wallet spend, likes and dislikes of a traveler before they check in. And since it is a voluntary opt-in offer, there has been no more backlash to this than, say, using your Facebook or Twitter account to log in to Klout or Rotten Tomatoes for movie reviews.

LM: Where do you see mobile apps having the most influence on the hospitality industry? How will this affect revenue channels? Are there any significant channels that hotels are failing to capitalize on?

ZA: Well, first and foremost, when you establish a direct relationship with a guest, you run the chance of eliminating the role of the OTA the next time they return for business or pleasure. And since returning guests spend 30% more than first-time guests, you’ve just cut out a hefty commission payout to HotelTonight and increased RevPOR by 30%.

On the flip side, Priceline, HotelTonight, AirBnB and countless others are capitalizing on the convenience of mobile technology at the expense of hotels. If hotels are not capitalizing on mobile booking and striving to create meaningful relationships with their guests, they can be 100% certain someone else is.