From Big Data with Love

By Sirpa Nordlund | 16 April 2014

Business travel can be a chore.

For over 10 years now, I have been going back to a certain hotel when I travel to Paris. It is a family-run business, with the same people on reception every time. It is constantly undergoing small-scale renovations, the elevator does not always work and the rooms are chilly, but clean. The simple breakfast is served in a dark basement by an elderly and irritable waitress.

There are so many reasons not to return, but I always do.

There is one simple reason for this: they know me and greet me by name. They ask how my kids are and they know that I prefer a room with a good bookshelf. They make me feel at home and valued as a customer. The large hotel chain, of which I am a priority member, doesn’t know my name or my preferences. They may grant me points but the service leaves me cold.

My question is, however, could the personal experience of smaller businesses be replicated using mobile technology and location based services?

Personally, I would happily share my location with my preferred hotel, bank or coffee shop, if they would call me by my name and remember what I like.

But, how to do it?

Customers submit their personal information and preferences to the hotel when registering for hotel’s loyalty program. When entering the hotel, a location-based technology tied with my cell phone (low-energy Bluetooth or other location-based technology and the authentication could also be done via biometrics) would tell the reception that I have entered the building and that I have a reservation. The reception personnel could then greet me by name and make a tired traveller’s day.

The same applies just as well for bank branches: wouldn't it be nice to be greeted by your name, when you approach the cashier? As they are cutting the number of branches, the banks are trying to make their services better. By adding a ‘human touch’, the service level is immediately upgraded to five-star.

The other side of the coin is control over personal data. Customers want to feel respected in case their relationship with the hotel, bank or shop sours. The data needs to be fully secure and constantly remain under the consumer's control so that they to have the ability to disable the use of it.

At the end of the day, big data is actually about small data; the small details that make our lives better. Big data should certainly not be used because “we have a lot of customers' data, let's we sell it and make money?” Making the customer’s data work in a way that makes their experience better will bring greater rewards.

PS. I am not going to reveal the name of my favourite hotel. I don’t want it to be booked out when I need a room!


By Sirpa Nordlund, Executive Director of Mobey Forum

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