New EU data privacy laws are an opportunity to drive up customer loyalty by showing them their privacy is taken seriously, according to French hospitality giant Accor.
The Novotel, Sofitel, Mercure and Fairmont parent, says it has been designing its loyalty and personalisation schemes to comply with the new General Data Protection Regulations.
Maud Bailly, the firm’s chief digital officer, said customers have an increasing expectation of being known and recognised by the brand requiring preferences to be shared between hotels in the group.
However, she said this must be weighed against their expectations about privacy and what brands do with their personal data meaning acting responsibly is vital.
“I do not see GDPR as a constraint but as an opportunity. I think customers will chose companies which will respect their privacy and data,” she said.
Bailly said Accor was already being impacted by GDPR, which becomes law on May 26, and the hotel operator has a chief data protection officer in place to oversee its policies.
“We have been co-designing all our solutions with the legal teams. We have been designing privacy according to the GDPR rules.
“We have explained this is not just a legal point, it is for everyone [in the organisation] using personal data.
“Our tools which allow our hotels to share preferences between them have been conceived to be fully GDPR compliant.
“I think in years to come people will choose us because of the beauty of out hotels and service but also because they know we will respect their privacy and respect their data.
“We do not sell their data. This is going in the right direction. Yes it’s demanding but it’s healthy for everyone because digitalisation is also about regulation.
“Our core business is hospitality and it will always be hospitality but the ambition is to enrich what it means to personalise an experience.
“It’s being able to enjoy something different, not just a stay. You need it to be a consistent customer experience.
“And you have to find the right balance between enriching the offer to create habits and stickiness but not creating too many offers because you will start being confusing.”
Bailly said a traditional offline brand like Accor can transform into a digital brand as long as it offers simplicity and clarity to the consumer and drives up engagement and usage.
She said speed was of paramount importance, not just in terms of the digital services you offer, but in the way firms develop and react to trends.
Accor is building a bot so that it is ready for when voice devices become the interface of choice for consumers. Bailly said by 2020 75% of US households are forecast to have a vocal assistant.
“We need to keep on being connected to the trends of the market,” Bailly said. “What’s going to come next? This is why I’m working closely with start-ups.
“You have to go faster and faster, not rushing your decisions, but trust me you have to go faster. The disruptors of today may be the disrupted of tomorrow.
“You have to accelerate your capacity to design and deliver.”