Monday, November 11, 2013

The powerful charm of biometrics-based loyalty management

In an age where we are so used to technology smashing through its own boundaries all the time, it takes quite something for technology to take a revolutionary leap instead of an evolutionary one. It takes quite something for a technology to pack some “WOW” punch into its results.

Udupi – a small, tier-3 temple town – isn’t particularly the first place you would think of when you think of technology.

Udupi Residency is a somewhat nondescript hotel in the town of Udupi. I have been using this hotel during my not-infrequent trips to Udupi for over 8 years now. It’s certainly not a hotel that I would pick if I were vacationing. Pick any parameter that you would want to rate a hotel on, and I might give it a 2.5 in my most generous moments. Yet, ask me to pick a hotel in Udupi for a night or two that is family-friendly, conveniently-located, economical, offers good service and all I want the room for is to sleep at night and get ready in the morning, and I will unhesitatingly pick this hotel.

Then again, ask me to list the hotels that have wowed me with effective use of customer-delighting technology and Udupi Residency wouldn’t have figured in the top-5,000. Heck, it doesn’t even have an internet connection for guests, let alone WiFi.

I was therefore pleasantly surprised by my recent experience – and somewhat taken aback by the consequent realization – of how Udupi Residency has leveraged a very sophisticated biometrics-based loyalty recognition technology at all levels.

Starting with the watchman who helped me park. He greeted my effusively as I got out of the car and even apologized that he didn’t realize “it was me”.

I stopped dead in my tracks, dumbfounded.

It was only the first of the surprises in store for me, though. It was more than 8 months since I had last stayed at the hotel and I didn’t expect that anything had changed. But the receptionist, the bell-boys, the waiters in the in-house restaurant and the room-service boys were all equipped with this powerful solution and readily flashed me a “hello-again” smile.

What really took the cake – or served as the icing on it if you may – was at breakfast the next morning. The bashful morning-shift waiter gave me a “hey-its-you-again” smile and when I asked for the menu, he waved off my request, saying “Same menu, saar. Nothing new” instead of handing me the menu.

Early in my professional career, I was closely involved in building a fairly intricate and powerful loyalty and rewards management engine. Among other complexities, one of the particularly challenging features that we were proud of was the deduplication algorithm we were running. And here I was in Udupi seeing a far more sophisticated "deduplication" technology in action. 

Without a single line of code.

It took a while to sink in.

But when it finally did, I was left fascinated at how the most powerful and complex technologies we have today pale in comparison to the oldest biometric technology in the world: old-fashioned facial recognition by human beings. The most powerful loyalty management software in the world.


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