Balance is a lost art. In almost every sphere of society, from politics to culture to technology, more and more people inhabit the extreme ends of the spectrum. Fanatical takes are rewarded with screen time and engagement, while those in search of nuanced thought are shouted out of the conversation. 

Why? Because balance doesn’t provide easy answers.  

The world of hospitality is not immune. Every brand is faced with a number of complex questions that require considered decisions, whether you’re a general manager at a boutique hotel or a security director for a global chain. It’s the application of balance that will improve your chances of success. 

So what are some of hospitality’s great balancing acts? Let’s take some time to explore three of them:  

  1. Human vs. technology 
  2. Personalization vs. privacy 
  3. Experience vs. data 

Human vs. technology 

Hoteliers have been wrestling with this question for decades. In its simplest form, it’s this: how can I marry technology with the unique, personal experience of great hospitality? 

At the heart of this idea is the fallacy that more technology means fewer person-to-person interactions. Actually, the opposite is true – though only if you get the balance right. 

Let’s say a hotel enables online check-in and self-serve kiosks. Operationally it’s a no-brainer, reducing wait times and creating more upsell opportunities. The fear is that a guest could spend most of their time onsite without engaging with any of your staff, and so you feel distant from their experience, unsure of how much they’re enjoying their stay.  

In fact, by freeing your team from many of the administrative duties that previously tied them to their desks, you grant them the ability to proactively reach out to your guests. To spend time welcoming them with genuine warmth and helpful information, rather than a barrage of questions for reservation numbers and card details. 

Technology that champions user disengagement – like Mews – will help you maintain an inherent balance with in-person hospitality. 

Of course, some hotels and many apartment rentals do operate very successfully with zero onsite staff – with the exception of housekeeping who are often forgotten about when discussing these properties. In these instances, those brands have landed upon the balance that’s right for their clientele – and their business model.  

Personalization vs. privacy 

Here’s another topic with a whole lot of gray area. How should hoteliers balance the want for hyper-personalized guest engagement against the individual’s right to privacy? 

The loudest voices in this conversation are generally in favor of ultra privacy, particularly in Europe. We already wrote about how GDPR laws, while well-intentioned, are an incomplete solution

Of course, every person should have ownership over their data, but it’s a mistake to assume that everyone guards this data equally – and that all this data is equal. For instance, there’s a big difference between identifiable data like your address, and marketable data like your favorite clothing brands. 

For most people, the instinctive reaction is to side with ultra privacy. And for many, that’s where the thought process ends. 

However, it’s clear that the majority of us aren’t as precious about our data as we initially make out. Personalized marketing boosts revenues by between 5-15% and increases marketing ROI by 10-30%. In other words, it works. 

If a brand is using customer data in a meaningful way, to tailor their experiences and serve them more relevant content, offers or services, then people are receptive to it. They also expect it: a McKinsey study showed that 71% of consumers expect companies to deliver personalized interactions. 

There are some regional differences at play, and that’s important to consider when balancing your approach. In the US (where the above research was conducted), customers are more accustomed to personalization and, by extension, upselling. Some European countries, France and Germany in particular, tend to have stricter cultural boundaries regarding data usage. 

Hoteliers handle sensitive guest information, so it’s imperative that data security is handled professionally. But it’s a mistake to draw an iron curtain around every piece of customer data. The benefits for hotels are obvious: personalization can reduce customer acquisition costs by up to 50% while also creating memorable experiences and happy guests. 

Experience vs. data 

Toto Wolff is the Team Principal and CEO of the Mercedes Formula 1 racing team. A high-pressure position indeed. When speaking about successful decision making, he said: “You need the right balance between data and gut feeling.”  

Crucially, he doesn’t specify what the formula for that balance is. Balance doesn’t always mean 50/50. It means you consider the problem fairly, from multiple angles, and then arrive at your outcome.  

For hoteliers, the question is how much weight to give years of hospitality experience versus the constant stream of up-to-the-minute data. Both are important, but in a world that’s changing faster than ever (particularly regarding guest habits), the balance should shift further towards data. 

As I mentioned earlier, however, not all data is created equal. Our industry is awash with information, and identifying the relevant metrics to track is essential to success. Hoteliers can use their experience to understand what has the biggest business impact, alongside staying up to date with the latest reading like this guide, The New Era of Hospitality Metrics for General Managers

Find your balance 

Running a successful hospitality business is a remarkable achievement, and one that doesn’t happen by accident. Those who can strike a balance in their decision making are much better set to pursue and achieve their vision of hospitality.