When my business partner, Alex, and I graduated from college in 2012, services like Uber, Netflix and Seamless were hitting their stride. As consumers and busy college grads, these services made sense to us – who wouldn't want to summon a driver with their phone and know exactly how long the car would take to reach them?
It got us thinking about what other industries might benefit from the efficiencies and enhanced customer experience of the "on-demand" touch. I was on a post-graduation trip to Southeast Asia with Alex; and as we were traveling, we encountered service-related issues at the hotels we visited. We were struck by how outdated the guest experience was and knew we wanted to build a company that used technology to address these customer service gaps.
Listening to advice from people closest to us, we surrounded ourselves with influential people who could open doors for us in the industry. Alex's family spent 35 years in the hotel industry, operating 90 hotels in the UK. His connections introduced us to the right people in the industry as we started to build our business. Our goal was to leverage technology to help hotels serve guests more effectively.
We spent the first year meeting with as many hoteliers as we could convince to make time for us. We also studied services like Uber and OpenTable that had inspired us in the first place. What we discovered was that for each of these companies, the guest- or consumer-facing component of their technology was simply an access point to a new infrastructure for delivering service. The real innovation in these cases was on the back-end.
When it came to hotels, we realized the issue wasn't the inability to communicate a request; it was the trouble fulfilling it – the failure to leverage technology on the staff side.
Most hotels today are running outdated legacy systems, which are disconnected from one another. In today's social media and review-driven economy, this is a risk. Customer reviews are everywhere, and social media impacts guest expectations and future bookings. The last thing any hotelier wants is a negative review.
Through these learnings, we broadened our focus to see staff technology as the real lynchpin to the guest experience, and we built ALICE as a technology that would connect staff operations through an end-to-end platform. It's only by solving the staff side of the equation that we can help hotels deliver a better guest experience. A guest can only order room-service, and know exactly how long it will be until it arrives, if the app is integrated with back-of-house operations.
It's been an exciting journey. We've grown our team from three founders in New York City to over 70 team members around the world. We've built a global customer base that we love working with, learning from and helping succeed by streamlining their operations. Our hotels have improved staff morale, reduced their spend and increased their TripAdvisor scores in a short space of time. We're helping to support brilliant hotel managers with motivated teams, and we are proud to be a part of their story.
About the author: Justin Effron is the co-founder and CEO of ALICE. Born and raised in New York City, he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2012 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history. Previously, Justin was an analyst on the Equity Portfolio Trading Desk at Citigroup, leaving in 2013 to build ALICE with co-founders Alexander Shashou and Dmitry Koltunov. As CEO, Justin leads all fundraising, sales and business development at ALICE, raising a total of $39M and building a global client base in both the hotel and residential sectors.
Edited for brevity and clarity by Sammi Caramela.