April 27, 2022


Philippa Witheat

How Can Hospitality Drive Innovation?

CEO and co-founder Tristan Gadsby will be speaking at International Hospitality Investment Forum at midday on the 4th of May 2022.

IHIF & Alliants Logos

IHIF & Alliants Logos

Q&A with Tristan Gadsby, CEO and Co-Founder, Alliants

Alliants are customer experience technology specialists with hotel clients such as Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, Nobu Hospitality and Jumeirah. CEO & co-founder Tristan Gadsby will be speaking at IHIF at midday on 4 May on ‘(How) Can Hospitality Drive Innovation’. 

The group recently secured a minority stake investment from Zendesk, Inc (NYSE: ZEN). We spoke to Tristan to find out more. 

How does a more personalised customer service drive additional revenue? 

Smart investors and operators look at the entire hotel guest journey, and its multiple opportunities to raise revenue per guest, rather than concentrating most of their attention on simply securing bookings. 

Hotel employees should not be struggling to understand what guests want from looking at incomplete guest profiles scattered across several departments. This is unfortunately still the situation for hotels that continue to use siloed and legacy technology. 

Changing or upgrading operating systems used to be something too painful and costly to contemplate but cloud capability is now everywhere so the barriers to change have been reduced considerably. 

Cost-effective modern tech stacks that include real-time personalised messaging and electronic payment are now within the grasp of any hotel. These are the necessary foundations on which to build guest loyalty and lifetime value, resulting in significantly higher returns for owners and investors. 

For Hospitality Insights readers who are not familiar with them, who are Zendesk? 

Zendesk started the customer experience revolution in 2007 by enabling any business around the world to take their customer service online. Today, Zendesk is the champion of great service everywhere for everyone, and powers billions of conversations, connecting more than 160,000 brands with hundreds of millions of customers over telephony, chat, email, messaging, social channels, communities, review sites and help centres. The company was conceived in Copenhagen, built and grown in California, taken public in New York City, and today employs 5,500 people across the world. 

What is Alliants’ relationship with Zendesk? 

Alliants and Zendesk have worked together to deliver some fantastic customer experiences for companies such as Four Seasons, Jumeirah and Nobu Hospitality over the last five years. Our shared mission is to put conversations at the heart of the customer experience and to help companies fulfil their goals. We are aligned, not only in what we deliver, but also in our culture and our values. Zendesk actually invented a new word which sums it up pretty well: ‘humblident’ – a mixture of confidence and humility. 

What should hotels be prioritising when they invest in technology? 

Owners and operators need to increase revenue per guest at the same time as reducing staff and other operating costs. Messaging is becoming one of the most popular ways to achieve these tandem goals because the use case is very clearly defined. 

Guests often have the same frequently-asked questions, for example, what floor is the pool on? What time does the gym open? In these scenarios an automated messaging platform can remove a real burden on staff and provide a better service because guests receive answers immediately and in their chosen language. 

Pre-arrival, guests are looking for two-way communication to customise their stay. We can all spot a generic marketing email and most are never opened. A well-designed text message feels more personal and can empower guests to enrich their itinerary by suggesting a room upgrade and a variety of products and services to enjoy during their trip. 

Once on property, real-time messaging can deliver and anticipate what the guest wants, facilitating upselling opportunities. 

We know that messaging has increased ancillary spend significantly for many of our clients, but, like any technology, it has to be deployed in the correct way or you don’t get the benefits. 

In addition to your SaaS messaging and concierge products, Alliants has a very active consulting practice. Tell us more about this side of your work. 

We are seeing a real drive from forward-thinking hotel owners, particularly private equity firms. Traditionally PE had very little interest in investing in technology because it was simply seen as a cost. This has now changed enormously as they realise they can invest in technology to drive additional revenue and asset values. 

We are working with a very large PE firm with a portfolio of UK hotels and the business case is startling. With a £2m investment in technology, they are going to generate £14m EBITDA. When you put that on your enterprise value, suddenly that’s where technology as an investment really makes sense. 

Technology today is no longer just about containing costs, it is about driving additional revenue by delivering a great guest experience, and a greater level of personalisation, even at scale, that is not contrived but feels natural and intuitive to the guest.