Friday, 12 June 2020

Setting industry benchmarks through pioneering digital creativity

By Savithri Rodrigo

  • Kingsbury’s Indulgence app a first for the hospitality industry in Sri Lanka
  • Team spirit rallies to deliver unparalleled service in a digital milieu

With extended curfew in force, Karen Whyte was most disappointed when she couldn’t visit her favourite hotel anymore but had the best surprise when her craving for Chinese food was satisfied with just four clicks on her smartphone.  Associate Director NEXT Outsourcing Wilhelm Elias was so enamoured with “The best biryani in town!” that he introduced it to his neighbours who are all now firm biryani aficionados.  When three tiered platters arrived at her home with all the style and elegance of high tea, Thanuja Madawala couldn’t believe her eyes.  “The freshness, flavour and attention to detail was unbelievable.”

Spending time with family in these times also became the new norm.  The CEO of Stretchline Timothy Speldewinde and Head of Premium Category and Channels of Lion Brewery Jeremy David both realized that five star cuisine at home was a welcome option.  “It introduced a whole new dimension of eating at home enjoying five star flavours,” they said.  And when laundry is given five star treatment during a pandemic, one needs to take note.  “My laundry was picked up and dropped off on time, clean fresh and precisely pressed,” said Mimi Weerasinghe.   The bouquets kept increasing.  “Service levels are beyond compare,” said one.  “They even instructed my home staff on presentation and serving when I had a party at home,” said another.

The buzz centered around a five star city hotel – The Kingsbury, which launched its Kingsbury Indulgence app just days into curfew which closed up the country.  A first for the hospitality industry in Sri Lanka, the trailblazing app was an astute response by The Kingsbury which got into business as usual mode to meet the challenges of bleak times head on.

While hosting 14 in-house guests who opted to stay on and nearly one hundred of its team in situ during curfew, the hotel knew there were multiple challenges to overcome, which it did. Ensuring the Kingsbury Team had job security with all salaries being paid in full and additional allowances given to those dependent on service charge, the sense of community was also augmented when the team organized lunch for frontliners at the IDH.

But here’s the biggest challenge.  With curfew in full force and human contact not an option, how does a service industry make customer expectations come true?  Enter The Kingsbury Indulgence app – pushing the norms of innovation by going digital and promising the delivery of five star desires, safely.  Customers were simply being offered the entirety of The Kingsbury via an app – right inside their own home.  The app’s features include an expansive spread of over 200 menu items that packed in its restaurant menu, snacks and mocktails, options for Grab & Go or doorstep delivery, party packages and high teas for the first time ever delivered and set up in homes and even pick-up and delivery of laundry.

This pioneering solution emerged from the surrounding bleakness – surviving in a pandemic, sustaining a business despite a closed hotel, ensuring customers have access to signature products and hallmark service they are used to and giving an untiringly loyal team multiple reasons to continue raising the bar.

With tough times calling for innovative measures, The Kingsbury team took on their lifeline – the unique brand of hospitality which conveyed completely out of the norm thinking.  Collective brainstorming, analytical discussion and studying global examples brought forth some hard truths.  The biggest challenge – making sure customers enjoy everything the Kingsbury has to offer.

And the trait of always needing to look beyond and give more was the unique value addition to the process – the 360 degree level of customer engagement.  Hence the addition of biryani during Ramadan to the app’s offerings for example, adding immunity boosters into the product range, ensuring that a customer’s garlic allergy is taken note of and constant follow up to ensure absolute customer satisfaction.  Despite going digital, that continuous human intervention, “is what keeps The Kingsbury way ahead of its game,” stated a customer.  “It’s about service levels going beyond the realm, a trait truly unique to Kingsbury.”

It’s no wonder then that in just 28 days, the Kingsbury Indulgence app had over 21,000 visitors, 32% returning customers, while delivering over 3,200 orders of nearly 13,000 items.  The app has gained traction and will continue to carve a niche as an imperative hospitality offering with more users joining the legion of happy customers.