How InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) Makes Mobile Guest Moments Great

IHG, owner of InterContinental Hotels Group, wants to fully inhabit the mobile moments of its hotel guests in their journey from booking to arriving to staying to departing. Bill Keen is the Director of Mobile Solutions at InterContinental Hotels Group. You can try out his app here. He shared his experiences making mobile a cornerstone of IHG’s customer strategy in this interview at Forrester's recent Technology Management Forum in Orlando, Florida. My take is that three things drive mobile mind shift success at IHG:
 
  1. Bill and his team relentlessly focus on mobile moments that improve the guest experience, from booking in to in-room services.
  2. Bill’s business team works side by side with the business technology team to build apps. Bill describes a special "team chemistry."
  3. The multi-disciplinary team uses a sophisticated agile process to quickly extend things that work and fix things that don’t.
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[Ted] What was your aha moment when you realized IHG had to help customers on mobile devices?
 
[Bill] While IHG had a mobile solution as far back as 2001, we really started it to put dedicated focus on it around 2007. If you remember in June of that year, Apple introduced the iPhone, which I compare to October 1994 when the Netscape Mosaic browser was introduced. Both created this immediate impact on interest and traffic. It was really around that time we saw consumers trying to access our sites with these devices so we started to spend more time changing our current mobile front ends to be more usable for tap and touch and for the new context of mobile.  
 
 
What IHG mobile moments are you proud about today? Any statistics you can share?
 
Well, I am lucky to actually work in an industry where the product we sell is tailor made for mobile so clearly our revenue growth has been really impressive.  I remember in 2010 when we first achieved $1M in room night bookings in a month and now if we don't generate that before lunch on any given day I start to wonder if something is wrong. In addition to our revenue growth, I have been extremely happy with how we have been able to expand our service capabilities in what we call "guest journey" moments. Our apps are the highest rated in the industry so we certainly believe that is an outcome of our focus in these areas. 
 
 
What mobile guest moments do you think will matter most next?
 
We are really focused on the areas of service and loyalty. Next generation travelers not only want to use their devices for gathering information, consuming content and performing simple tasks but also want to use their devices to functionally interact with our properties in very deep ways to create personal, authentic local experiences. This can come in all forms whether it is leveraging devices for recognition, expedited check in, room customization, ordering services or sharing. We often talk in terms of "need states" and feel mobile devices are perfect tools for helping guest with orientation, acclimation, customization, and celebration.  
 
 
What have you done to engineer IHG's technology platforms and processes to make mobile work? Who's involved?
 
A key to our success has been our close alignment with our technology organization. From a platform perspective, we have been very focused on creating and expanding our services layer based on our key use cases for guests. This allows our front end developers to be more efficient while giving us the flexibility to expand our user interfaces across platforms. Now not everything is simple especially given our long legacy in hospitality that includes a long history of legacy systems but we have made great strides. From a process standpoint, we have adopted an agile development methodology that keeps the business team in constant daily contact with our developers. Beyond the clear benefits of decreasing cycle time and improving quality, there is a personal commitment to each other and a team chemistry that is really good to see.   
 
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What Bill and his technology management colleague James Prolizo have learned is simple but profound: Mobile is successful only when business and technology managers come together to work side by side. Using an agile process with relentless adjustment, measurement, and refinement is a proven business disclipline to create great mobile moments. Forrester customers can learn more about their partnership in this report: Your Company Needs A Mobile Organization.
 
To learn more about mobile moments and what makes them such a powerful tool, watch this 96-second clip, visit this site, or read The Mobile Mind Shift.
 
Forrester will host the Forum for Technology Management Leaders in London on June 12-13. You can register here.