HomeSuiteHome: The hotel experience brought to your doorstep
Imagine being in a hotel. Room service is delivered right at your doorstep, the concierge service is just one button away, and a variety of entertainment can be streamed at any time. The experience is characterized by comfort, convenience, and luxury. This is what HomeSuiteHome offers when hotels are not at your disposal due to, for example, a pandemic.
Credited as the world’s first reversed hotel, HomeSuiteHome is a prime example of innovative solutions to the COVID-19 restrictions. Launched in Amsterdam over the Easter weekend, it offered locals a hotel experience delivered to their door, complete with a WhatsApp concierge service and a welcome box full of locally sourced products and amenities. With breakfast included and optional three-course dinner, as well as entertainment streamed throughout the day; it truly offered their guests the hotel experience in the comfort of their own homes.
To investigate this concept further, we reached out to Felix Burghardt, an experience designer and creative business growth specialist, who founded the project along with David Kijlstra. We asked him some questions concerning the project and how experience design can adapt to, and overcome, unexpected challenges.
What is the importance of experience design? Has the current pandemic influenced the implications of the term?
We had already begun transitioning away from objects and towards experiences before the current health crisis. However, the pandemic accelerated this shift as it did with other behaviours, values and beliefs.
Experience design has the power to move products and services from solely being functional to creating engagement and having an emotional impact on people’s lives. Thus, the importance of experience design did not change, but the ‘how’ needed to adapt to the new circumstances, just like we all did.
What are innovative ways in which coliving spaces can respond to unprecedented or surprising circumstances?
I think that playfulness can be key when it comes to responding to surprising circumstances. I believe that it is important to create a company culture and structure that allows teams to consistently improvise and use their imagination, in order to sense opportunities and to reinvent.
A simple way of doing this could be to create a shared Google Document with your team. Ask everyone to add random ideas that could be relevant to improve the business, without any judgment. After a while, you will hopefully have a long list of ideas you can draw from whenever you need one, and maybe two or three ideas combined form a perfect crisis response.
Next to that, I think it’s important to explore and gain an understanding of possible future scenarios in the present. This mostly starts with asking what if questions and exploring possible outcomes to see things from various perspectives.
We could ask ourselves questions like:
- What if there is another pandemic like this?
- What if we could redefine the relationship with our competitors to create a support system for when we all need it?
- What if we create a coliving model that purely exists online?
This inspires us to think differently and prepare for unprecedented cases. There needs to be a structural process in place to get to where you want and to make it efficient and effective. Feel free to reach out if there is any help needed.
How does experience design change in times of physical distancing? For instance, when you cannot see the space beforehand, or consult with the customer in person.
I believe that this crisis holds a lot of opportunities despite the current restrictions. One of the positive side effects to me is that some experiences have become more intimate and more personal even though that sounds like a contradiction. For example, the Stuttgart Opera in Germany created a 1:1 concert session in which you sit 1.5 meters away from a musician who plays a song picked just for you.
“These unprecedented circumstances give innovators a chance to create intimate experiences that have a much bigger impact on a personal level and make people feel connected with themselves, valued and seen. It also provides an opportunity to build stronger relationships between brand and customer.”
Next to this, technology has shown us that it can indeed be welcoming and inviting. It cannot replace real human interaction but it can definitely help us feel connected, even on an emotional level. Therefore I believe it will also play an important role in the customer experience of the future.
Finally, it’s also about perspective. Designing experiences for physical distancing can create affordable experiences for people who cannot travel, due to financial reasons for example. It can also provide an opportunity to design events that feel very personal to the individual, or as in the case of HomeSuiteHome, creating a holiday experience with a minimal carbon footprint. The solutions and experiences designed to cope with the physical distancing restrictions can have a much bigger impact and use than just responding to the crisis.
All of the HomeSuiteHome proceeds went towards Serve the City’s ‘financial donation for Corona campaign’. What are some ways in which entrepreneurs in Hospitality and Coliving can give back during this time?
First of all, I think that brands in hospitality and Coliving should always feel the need to give back and act more like a partner than just a service provider. They should add value to the community, as they are indeed a part of the ecosystem. This should not be something temporary but embedded in the customer journey as well.
Giving back doesn’t necessarily have to revolve around money. This is also about putting structures in place that support diversity and equality, help to educate people in need and reduce negative environmental impact. The Good Group is just one example that shows how you can even build a whole hospitality concept around this. Also, Arctic Blue Resort uses carbon billing, meaning that the price is determined by the carbon footprint of the stay. This is done to motivate guests to consider their impact during the visit.
This moment in time has clearly shown us how strong we can be if we act as a collective.
How important is it right now to support local businesses? Do you have any tips for people to do their part?
I do think it is very important not just now, but consistently. We all have experienced this time together as a community, and in a very different way on an individual level. This really depends on the situation of each individual and how connected they are to some of their local businesses. But I would say, talk to your community and local business to understand what they are struggling with and what they need help with. An introduction to someone in your network might already be a big help. From a brand perspective, it shows how important it is to build a stronger connection with your audience and invest in your customer experience in order to create a safety net for times like this.
Do you believe that home-based customer experiences are here to stay for the future? Will there be potential for hotels and restaurants to adopt the same concept?
I do believe that home-based experiences are here to stay. Before the current health crisis, we had already seen the transformation of home-based services. Food delivery services became an essential part of many lives, as well as smart voice technology and home workouts. With AR and VR continuing to develop, and working from home becoming widely accepted, we will see more experiences that will take place at home. I think that there is potential for hotels or restaurants to adopt this concept.
“In the end, I think it is essential that brands consider how they can become a partner that supports their tenants and guests needs along the way, and to not just act like a service provider.”
Any final words?
If you want to work together or have any questions, feel free to get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org. I am always happy to help.
For more information, have a look at www.felixburghardt.com
Good luck out there!
About the author
I am an Amsterdam-based experience designer with a hospitality background, German roots, a problem-solving brain and an eye for detail.
My experience spans across multiple continents, cultures and industries, from luxury hospitality, to cutting-edge boutique hybrid hotels, to Coworking and Coliving spaces but also food & beverage concepts. This has allowed me to gain valuable skills in creating and implementing meaningful services and experiences to increase guest satisfaction and generate sustainable business growth.
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