Alicia Dixon helps build digital products for mobile at Hilton—perhaps you’ve heard of them! She was kind enough to chat with us to share insights from her decade as a Product Manager for Mobile companies and brands across SaaS, publishing and tourism industries.
WL: Thanks for joining, Alicia! Can you tell me a bit about your background?
Alicia: Yes! Like many of my fellow friends in product, I didn’t seek out a job in product management—I pretty much fell into it. I had the opportunity to join Dell in a brand management role at the peak of the dotcom boom. It was at Dell where I stumbled into a product-focused role, got hooked and since then have evolved my product management career to specialize in mobile apps.
What challenges are you solving? For users, but as well as for your internal organization?
Currently, I’m working on a large scale strategic project spanning the entire Hilton enterprise: our Digital Key initiative, giving hotel guests the ability to use their smartphone as a room key. The challenge is delivering the best possible customer experience while simultaneously saving guests time and effort per stay.
We’re infusing digital into the full customer journey now, from their planning a trip on Hilton.com to the physical stay to converting travelers into return guests via our online loyalty program. All of this is while keeping world class service as core part of the value proposition. We’re constantly looking at ways that we can exceed guest expectations through our digital channels.
Internally, this means a ton of change for our business. Hilton is nearly 100 years old, so obviously a lot of traditional practices need to be reevaluated. Once you determine your new intended direction, getting buy-in from stakeholders in a large distributed, matrix organization is a huge hurdle to clear. However, I’d say the key is to have a clear objective of what you are trying to accomplish with digital transformation. I’d say the key is to have a clear objective of what you are trying to accomplish with digital transformation. Click To Tweet Communicating that shared goal is the key for getting everyone on board with change.
Could not agree more. What advice would you give to other leaders in your product space?
It might be cliché at this point, but I definitely subscribe to the Pragmatic Marketing doctrine that nothing of interest happens in the office. Being in a hotel and having a software failure is distinctly different from a standalone app, like a messaging app for instance, where if it doesn’t work the customer can just switch to another means of sending the communication. Hotel guests absolutely expect digital to work properly every time they use it. In order to ensure that an app delivers the best experience, the product folks need to immerse themselves into the experience and do a lot of dogfooding.
How do you think the rise of digital is transforming how companies, especially large incumbents, engage potential users and customers?
As smaller players enter competitive spaces seeking to disrupt large incumbents, keeping existing customers engaged becomes the key imperative. Digital has emerged as a channel that can convert a discrete transaction into an ongoing relationship through remarketing and loyalty initiatives. However, and perhaps most importantly, digital now provides a mechanism for companies to have insights into actual customer experiences, especially the ones where the customer never complains. Now we can track user funnels and journey maps to see where there are pitfalls. Digital gives us all the opportunity to be proactive rather than reactive in the event of a service failure. Click To Tweet Digital gives us all the opportunity to be proactive rather than reactive in the event of a service failure.
Are emerging technologies like AI-powered chatbots impacting your industry and role?
You know, that’s an interesting question. In hospitality, the focus is on service and providing the best guest experience possible. Some ways that we can do that is to get information to guests as quickly as possible, along with shortening front desk lines and phone on-hold wait times. To that end, the use of artificial intelligence is something that is being closely investigated throughout the industry. These technologies include bot-powered chat response in mobile apps, robotic concierge desks and room service delivery, and in-room connectivity to products like Amazon Echo and Google Home to facilitate placing special requests.
At this point, we need to test to see if the trade-off between having a personal human interaction that makes a guest feel cared for and getting a faster, no-hassle response is an even swap. We don’t want to alienate guests by making everything self-serve, but if we can save that guest a trip from her room to the front desk or from picking up the phone to make a call, that is worth looking into a bit further.In hospitality, tech is applied because there is a strong ROI, not just because it’s cool. Click To Tweet Implementing AI solutions could also have the benefit of freeing up staff time on minor things, such as giving directions to the property, so they can devote attention to higher touch services, like helping a guest choose the best daily excursion.
If artificial intelligence applications prove their worth to the industry, that’s great and we’ll look into it further. In hospitality, tech is applied because there is a strong ROI, not just because it’s cool.