A Mint Worth of Information on Your Pillow


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Most people hear the word “creepy” and think of haunted houses, but a recent story has me wondering if it isn’t hotel rooms.

The story, in Travel & Leisure magazine, details the vast amounts of personal data hotels are actively collecting on their guests. I am not referring specifically to high-spending VIPs who can afford the $1,000 penthouse suite. I mean everyday guests, even first-time visitors.

The extent hotel employees may go to learn more about incoming or repeat guests exceeds casual conversations at check-in. It includes Googling visitors before their arrival, pulling images if possible, and even going through someone’s trash. Some hotels invest in software that trolls the web and social media for details that may paint a more complete picture of the guest upon arrival.

“What has changed, in this brazen new world, is the sheer amount of data that hotels now collect on guests, and the often startlingly personal nature of that data,” the article states. “With the explosion of social networking, and our increasingly unguarded presence online, profiling guests has become a lot easier, and a hell of a lot more effective.”

The goal of all of this snooping is to better serve the patron, the hotel managers in the story explained. Indeed, they were quite transparent about the information they gather and how they collect it. They may be going to great lengths, but they are not being sneaky.

But are they being creepy? In my writings about data use I often refer to the “creepy line.” This is the slim divide that separates the responsible use of customer information to create better experiences from that considered invasive and just plain stalker-like.

The answer to the creepy question is in the execution, or how hotel employees respond to the information once it is collected. I think one manager put it best when he suggested that the art of it was “to act on that knowledge without calling undue attention to it.”

I agree. Consumers do understand their online activities are followed to a degree, but it can be jarring when those activities and shared preferences are addressed in an incongruent setting. It can shake a vacationing guest from her contented state to learn, for example, that the hotel knows the name of her dog.

Willingly sharing information with a brand, such as through a loyalty plan, is different than having one’s information drawn together from careful research. But we live in an increasingly indiscreet society, where people freely share intimate details in public domains such as Facebook.

Given this environment, is it wrong for hotel operators to use that information to better serve? What do you think?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Bryan Pearson
Retail and Loyalty-Marketing Executive, Best-Selling Author
With more than two decades experience developing meaningful customer relationships for some of the world’s leading companies, Bryan Pearson is an internationally recognized expert, author and speaker on customer loyalty and marketing. As former President and CEO of LoyaltyOne, a pioneer in loyalty strategies and measured marketing, he leverages the knowledge of 120 million customer relationships over 20 years to create relevant communications and enhanced shopper experiences. Bryan is author of the bestselling book The Loyalty Leap: Turning Customer Information into Customer Intimacy


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