Personalization: General Manager Edition

August 21, 2012

Midori and I recently had the honor of facilitating several event technology sessions at Experient’s E4 conference.  It just happened to be located at the Sheraton Waikiki in beautiful Hawaii.  

Upon arrival at the hotel, we were given brown paper bags and told that this was our amenity bag.  The word “makana” which is Hawaiian for “gift” was printed on the bag. I was told that instead of a typical group amenity (bottle of wine, tray of fruit, etc.) that we would get to fill the bag with treats from a special amenity store.  The store was newly created and was filled with goodies including locally made popcorn, cookies, candy, salty snack and beer and wine.  Guests had the opportunity to browse the store and fill the bag with as much as they wanted without breaking the bag.  I loved this concept.  I was able to choose what I wanted, what I liked and how much of it I desired.  This was the ultimate customized experience.

The next day while networking poolside, I found myself in a conversation with a man who was very friendly. OK, let’s be honest, he was buying cocktails so he was really friendly! It turns out that this man was Kelly Sanders, General Manager of the Sheraton Waikiki.  Knowing that he had a group of potential clients in the house, he decided to take a hands-on approach to connectingwith them and joined everyone in the pool.   As we floated around on bean bag pool chairs (an idea that Kelly brought to the hotel), we chatted about the amenity store.

According to Kelly, the hotel wanted to try something new and create an experience.  The amenity store offers the opportunity to give people what they want and create a wow experience.  While the store just opened with snacks and drinks, they may expand the offerings depending on the initial success. The store is open to any hotel guest and provides three sizes of bags that can be filled. Sanders said it was too early to see if the hotel was making or losing money on the store, but that’s not the point. If the hotel or an event organizer is providing amenities to guests, this is a creative option.

Kelly Sanders is a unique general manager.  His own personal approach to listening to the needs of his guests has led him to bring innovation to the hotel.  From the build-your-own amenities to pool floats to the music played at the hotel (yes, they play the Hawaii 5-0 theme song in the elevators), every detail is designed to create an experience.

We know that more and more people are seeking customization and personalization.  What do you think about this approach?  What have you seen that is simple and effective?