January 10, 2019
Joining us on the Marketing Mix Podcast with Jeff Ragovin is Mike Jaindl, Founder of Howard. Mike talks launching a tech operated hotel chain, hospitality trends in 2019 and the evolution of personalized guest experience. In recognizing the untapped opportunities in the hospitality industry, Mike believes a tech-driven operation is the only way to ensure consistency and efficiency in today’s digital-first world.
Jeff Ragovin: Tell us a little about Howard.
Mike Jaindl: Howard is a beautifully designed, thoughtfully personalized, hotel for everybody. Howard is a hotel operator first, and a full staff technology company second. Basically, we operate hotels and built a technology to help do this more efficiently. We want to provide guests with an incredible experience when they stay in our hotels.
Jeff Ragovin: Why now?
Mike Jaindl: There are a lot of underlying trends taking place in the hotel industry today. In the 1920s and 1930s, hotels were largely independent and everything was all over the map- you never knew what you were going to get. In the 1940s and 1950s, the large hotel chains that we all know today such as Hilton, Hyatt and InterContinental started to come into fashion because travelers were looking for more consistent experiences. Then, the pendulum fell so far towards consistency that travelers started to get rooms that were all too similar. Guests craved an alternative, through which you saw the rise of Airbnb. In the past decade, Airbnb has emerged at a company valued at $40 billion. That’s because the next generation of travelers are looking for an alternative that feels fresh, that feels like an adventure.
Jeff Ragovin: Do you think folks flocked towards Airbnb because they were tired of paying a premium, and wanted something more cost effective?
Mike Jaindl: Absolutely. And they want a place that feels comfortable where you can cook breakfast with your family and make a coffee in the morning.
Jeff Ragovin: What can people expect from a stay at Howard?
Mike Jaindl: Howard is creating a guest experience that is superior to your four star hotel. Airbnb has over 5 million listings with different hosts- more properties than the top four hotel chains combined. Each one of these hosts, however, has a very different sense of guest experiences. The technology we’ve built at Howard removes this uncertainty and inconsistency.
From the moment you book, you start to receive communications through email, SMS or a mobile app. You can interact with our full staff 24/7 with any questions before and after you reserve- about your stay, the neighborhood or even restaurant recommendations. Throughout the entire experience, we’re always checking in with our customers to keep that relationship going. One of the elements we focus on is the element of discovery. No matter where you are staying, you can start to discover that neighborhood before you get there. We’re really inspired by brands creating unique content to create a narrative around a neighborhood or particular type of property, and weaving that into a customer experience.
Jeff Ragovin: You’ve launched in D.C., Jersey City and New York City. What are your future goals in terms of expansion?
Mike Jaindl: We have 10 target cities that we are focused on for 2019. Our model looks at launching properties that are under eighty keys, like small, boutique lifestyle hotels. If you look across the country, a lot of these properties that at were launched in the 1970s and 80s in that “hotel-motel” style that are in need of a little love and refreshment. We’re negotiating a lot of deals, and we’ll see a lot of those come online in March. We really like Seattle, Los Angeles and Detroit and all the way down to Columbus, Ohio. We have a couple of projects we’re working on given all the business travels there.
Jeff Ragovin: How is Howard optimizing technology, particularly self-concierge?
Mike Jaindl: We do even better than self-concierge! Before you check-in, you can pre-stock products you like to be in the room before you get there. When you arrive, the room feels more comfortable and more like home. Electronic locks are operated directly from your phone. Before you show up, we let you know what the locks look like and we’ll text you information about how to access the property.
Jeff Ragovin: Are you essentially giving consumers the opportunity to select from a pre-configured list of products that you have partnerships with or are these requests going to be customized?
Mike Jaindl: We have a select list of products that you can stock in the room before you get there. Once someone books with us we start to understand their preferences to personalize requests in the future, which is something that we’re really excited about. For us, we feel that the future of loyalty and loyalty programs within the hotel industry is all around personalization. Every time a customer stays with us, their experience gets better because we can cater to their needs better. We know what type of pillow they like, what kind of products they like pre-stocked.
Wouldn’t it be nice if a loyalty program was a little bit more than a free room? If you actually feel like the property knew you? When you stay at an ultra-lux property in the hospitality industry, they’re going to know your itinerary, your dietary restrictions, what activities you do throughout the day. They’re going to use your first name- and that level of personalization feels really good. At those properties, you’re paying for the additional staff on site that are providing that experience. We use technology to create the same level of experience, and the same feeling of “being known” without all the additional staff. This is something we’ll be making huge strides on in 2019.
Jeff Ragovin: One of the major trends from 2018 going into 2019 is voice technology. A lot of hotels are starting to implement this in their rooms. Is this something you are thinking about, or currently use?
Mike Jaindl: Yes, voice is on our roadmap. We’ve started experimenting with voice in some our rooms today. It’s a natural fit for the hospitality industry; there’s a lot of in-room tech that’s been brought to the market in the past few years and we’ll be using that more in the future. We already talked about self-concierge, and this is something that’s really important to us. Whether it’s ordering a product to your room, or ordering an Uber to pick you up- all of these products and services will get integrated to the voice technology in the rooms.
Jeff Ragovin: Is there anything around health and wellness that you guys are starting to integrate into Howard?
Mike Jaindl: One of our most important values is balance. I travel a lot on business, and I found myself feeling very unbalanced not being able to be in a routine that I typically had at home- whether it’s going to the gym or having a particular food for breakfast. That’s something I really don’t like, and I know a lot of travelers feel the same way. Today, I see a lot of interesting trends going on in the wellness and fitness world that we’re going to start integrating into our rooms. We’re actually already in talks with Mirror- a really interesting product that just launched- to start getting mirrors in the room so people can do yoga or weight training. This fits in perfectly with our model- you don’t have to leave the room to get a workout in. In the future, it also helps us understand which of our travelers care about fitness, and helps us cater more directly to them. Our model wants to help our guests achieve balance.
Jeff Ragovin: In the past year, are there places you’ve stayed in that have stuck out in terms of service?
Mike Jaindl: The first place that comes to my mind is Amangiri. The design is beautiful and the food is great, but one of the things that stayed with me is how well the staff knew our agenda and what was important to us, and how much they catered to that. Every time you saw a staff member in the hallway, they knew what your day looked like.
Please note, the above has been paraphrased for editorial purposes