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Chip Conley, founder of MEA, the first midlife wisdom school, and New York Times bestselling author, reflects on the dynamics of age, wisdom, and curiosity in the ever-evolving world.In our[…]

Hotelier Chip Conley on how he uses new technologies to generate buzz and improve corporate systems.

Question: How do you best connect with customers?


Chip Conley: We have forty thousand members of joy of life club which is our loyalty club. They all have my email address, they all have… they connect with me and talk with me directly. We also do regular open forums with them so if people want to come together this last weekend we’re in Ventana.

We’re at this in Big Sur and a lot of the people part of our most regular customers chose to come down for the weekend to hangout with Chip and just get to know me, and spend time with me, and give me some feedback. So we do that, so we try to make it face to face as much as we can. We do events, usually once a quarter that give people the opportunity to come and to an event where they can actually talk about their experiences in our hotels. But most importantly, I think, just in the form of the, just the email format which it what people are most comfortable with, we give them the opportunity to observe transparency in terms of every single key manager in the company and how that can connect with them.

So, which is a lot times our company our size, they don’t do that. Their more inclined to say, ok you need to, all of your email go to the corporate ombudsman or to the marketing department and you can’t get to the real people, so we do give that opportunity. We also give the people on our website the opportunity to connect with each other. So we have a section of the Joie de Vivre website which is that’s called California Connect, and it’s almost, it’s a social network, networking protosite. It allows the people who want to ask a question, I’m going to LA the beach. I’d like to find a great restaurant, a seafood; they can ask that of anybody else in the social network who are California interested parties, because all of our hotels, we’re the largest hotels here in California.

So this gives them the opportunity to connect with each other, give travel advice to each other, which is part of what people look at you, part of why people stay in the hotels is because they’re traveling, part their staying there is to go out with experience somewhere else. But if I have to go out and buy some kind of guide book as my way of learning about what to do there and then the hotel maybe has done their job, another thing we have in our site, another sort of a tool is we have like a character named “Yvette, the Hotel Matchmaker,” and if you go to that website on homepage, she’s there and you click on her and you can take a one minute personality test, it gives us the sense of the five to ten adjectives that best describes you and what that allows us to do is not only match you with the right hotel of our almost forty hotels that fit your personality but also we give back to you some customized travel advice that will fit your personality because frankly one of the things that you want to do when you’re traveling, you want some good advice from the locals to say here’s the things sir that’d be perfect for your personality. Once you’ve taken that test we could do that and that’s one of the more popular things on our site.


Recorded on: April 14, 2009