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How HotelTonight Made Human Touch Fashionable & Redefined Service Expectations

If you're not familiar with HotelTonight, that's about to change.

The San Francisco-based mobile app, which has drawn legions of users for its friendly interface and slick ability to book last minute hotel rooms at discounted rates, has just expanded a feature which may reshape how numerous industries think about human touch and customer service.

Aces, the playfully branded concierge service that HotelTonight began tinkering with in 2015, is now active across five tiers of hotels in over 30 cities. This expansion, which went live less than three weeks ago, means when one books a room in a qualifying tier and city, they're designated a personal concierge through their journey.

These Aces, which remain available at all hours, can actually prompt an exchange direct to a consumer via an embedded text feature within the app. This was the case with Kelly J., an Aces Concierge I recently had on a business trip.

The highly personable text-based interaction left me gobsmacked. Kelly J. (whose travel favs include "#bookstores #winebars #sushi #doughnuts") kept the entire exchange light and playful. Her use of colloquial texts ("hahahaha" or "AWW") not only affirmed she wasn't a robot, but also made for a relaxed and genial dialog.

However, that was just the beginning. Within the text keyboard itself, HotelTonight has a prompt generator, meaning you can quickly get your Aces Concierge looking for local dinner spots or working on extra towels for your room, all sans typing. Not only handy, it drives creative thinking around how to use the service. 

When I shared with Kelly J., "I prefer a King bed and a room far from the elevator bank," she actually picked up her phone and called the hotel to make arrangements on my behalf. I couldn't believe it!

 Kelly J. wasn't just providing recommendations or imparting local travel tips, she was taking action. She was actually providing me realtime lodging assistance and coordination. And all this, from an app that's 100% free for me to use.

And therein lies the rub. With the likes of HotelTonight providing premium, live, 24/7 concierge services, how long is it until consumer's expect the same highly personable, high touch services in healthcare, banking, or retail?

My guess - not long. Of course, that's assuming poor service standards haven't prompted consumers to beg for improvements like this already.

In the era of rampant digitization and self-service migration, leave it to a Silicon Valley start-up (that's growing bookings 100% year over year) to find a creative, efficient, and compelling way to inject the overlooked human component into their onminchannel customer journey.

Only time will tell which industries and which providers will latch onto a service model of this kind. But if HotelTonight can turn their Aces profitable, it'll only be a matter of time before others play the same card.