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Deconstructing a hotel experience from a service designer lens

Deconstructing a hotel experience from a service designer lens

Post by Carol Massa. First published here.

This story was inspired by my latest business trip where I stayed at a Marriott hotel. I was also lucky enough to get to know more about how hotels work through a friend who is in the hospitality industry. The comments below are all based on personal experience.

Have you ever stopped to think about the moving pieces inside a hotel that shapes your experience from the moment you decide to book a hotel room all the way after you check out?


What is interesting about the question above is that, each person is going to answer that question differently. The reason why that happens is because each person creates their own bias about what you are expecting from that experience.

So, how does global hotel brands such as Marriott/Starwood, IHG, Hilton, stay on top of particular customer needs? From my perspective, it is about harmony. These global hotel brands are constantly learning about the customer and their needs, they are experimenting and implementing (new) touchpoint(s) to improve a customer experience, they do so, in a very conscious way. They integrate the ways in which customers, employee and artifacts interact in a hotel environment.

When it comes to assemble this experience, there is a lot to account for, specially because you are dealing with different level stakeholders that influence the overall experience from inside out to outside in. From hotel managers, to customers, to housekeeping employees, all of them act in different ways at different moments influencing on how the experience is being framed. These interactions are built over time through conversations, emails, booking interfaces, hotel rooms, amenities, etc. Customers, hotel employees and artifacts are co-creating value at every touchpoint. Directly and/or indirectly, one person’s experience takes form as the pieces come together for that particular person at that particular moment.

What could influence a customer to become a hotel brand ambassador? From my point of view, it is the service ecosystem. In a hotel experience, each actor that belongs to this ecosystem is part of the design of the service experience and it manifests itself in different shapes and forms. It takes a village to build the building blocks of a hotel experience and each actor (not necessarily a person) plays a role in this scenario. A hotel brand/organization that understands the end to end guest experience, is able to consciously design for critical moments and could become a leader in this industry.

In 2008, when Airbnb disrupt the hospitality industry with a new business model on how to provide a platform for customers to choose their travel experience, it uncovered new areas of opportunity for the overall traveling experience. The industry was never the same, it gave a price point of comparison to customer expectations and triggered hotel chains to find new ways to engage with customer and empower their employees to better serve their guests.

It is not a competition about who is doing it best or who is being more successful, it is about the ones that understand how to constantly design and shape a service that is able to consciously harmonize specific customer needs.

Next time you travel or stay in a hotel, start noticing how your point of view shifts as you go through the experience, how you describe your interaction with a person at the front desk. And think, does your experience change if you decide to self check-in? See how many people or things you interact from the front door all the way to your room. Try to become aware of your decisions and notice how you respond to different stimulus when you are staying in a hotel. You will be able to realize how things come together during your hotel experience.

Thanks, Carol, for sharing this post with Hospitality Vitae!

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