Creating a Magical Customer Experience

Aaron Gette, CIO, The Bay Club Company
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Aaron Gette, CIO, The Bay Club Company

We’ve fully embraced the digital transformation of our nearly 40-year-old business. Almost our entire traditional infrastructure has been moved to the public cloud, SaaS or our private hybrid cloud. We’ve also replaced our traditional MPLS network with SD-WAN devices from VeloCloud, which has been a great cost saving as well as a business benefit in management and service delivery. There have been great improvements in security and end user experience. We are now working on changing our customer’s digital experience with a unique and engaging platform that leverages wearables, IoT and mobile.

Bespoke Technology

Our overall strategic vision incorporates a technology evangelist as more of a business leader in the divisions of the organization. Most importantly we listen and do not prescribe a technology solution without completely understanding the business problem. We are constantly looking at opportunities to increase productivity and drive revenues through automation, process improvement and platforms that integrate well so that real-time analytics can drive decision making.

Security Barriers

I think most technology leaders are wrestling with the challenges of security and how our decisions to embrace cutting edge technology solutions in fact may increase attack vectors. The old idea of creating an impenetrable wall at the edge is long gone. Also, most technology leaders don’t have the budget or the complexity to employ the skills of a CISO and a dedicated security team. The idea that a cloud-based vendor or a third party will know more about how to protect my business is only that much more viable. The interesting change is the focus within, understanding what normal behavior is and how to prevent employees from taking or exposing data critical to the operations of the business.

  ​Keeping our brand sticky and the customer service level outside our walls will help change the way the customers perceive the brand  

Overcoming the Challenges

Vendors have to become real partners. It’s not just about understanding the business but having an in-depth understanding of how the many facets of the business interact. There are some areas of opportunity that may be templated, but knowing how to get into the weeds and identify those vulnerabilities unique to my business is what stands out.

Meeting Customer Needs with Technology

You have to know your customer better than the next guy and technology is the best way to accomplish that. With the emergence of cloud and IoT we have all the resources and scale to dynamically meet the customer’s needs. More significantly, you have to truly understand what those needs are and then effectively create an experience that differentiates you. It takes a great technology leader, willing to innovate but it also takes a team and organization that believes in the vision to effectively achieve the end goals.

We are seeing changes in the way the business performs and can better predict the changes, thanks to the development of both the cloud and IoT platforms within the Bay Club. We are now working to extend those learnings into the customer experience. IoT has just begun to scratch the surface in its many applications to the business model, but cloud for big data, analytics and systems integration has been driving our digital transformation for some time.

Hospitality is a billion-dollar business that attracts us all as customers. It’s essential to incorporate those experiences when relating to our customers. We have to be open and willing to look outside traditional platforms that have played a role in defining the space but aren’t driving digital transformation or digital experience. In a service based company we need to make it easy for customers to engage us and create a whimsical magical experience once we have them on property. Keeping our brand sticky and the customer service level outside our walls will help change the way customers perceive our the brand. Further incorporating us into their daily lives. Making a seamless experience agnostic to device or location enhancing the customer’s ability to be surprised and delighted. It’s well within vendors reach and resources to bring solutions to the table that can be directly related to their own hospitality experiences, starting with “how did this make me feel?” and “what would have made it a better experience?” before deciding on a technology solution that fits the needs of the business.

The Way Ahead

Be willing to make mistakes and fail quickly. We learn more from our failures than our successes. There have been few times in my career where I’ve been able to design and implement the right solution without falling down more than a few times. It’s also imperative to have a team who believes in your vision, because they too contributed to it. The Bay Area can be a difficult place to find and retain talent, so a network of trusted peers is invaluable. It also goes without saying that planning is more important than the plan, so be willing to venture off the path and find new ways to deliver solutions. It’s challenging to be innovative and transformational, which every CIO has to be to find success in their career as well as their business, if they are not willing to take chances and explore.

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