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Episode #77- Brian Murphy, Group CRM Executive, Cliste Hospitality
Graphic of the Hotel Moment podcast episode 46 with Matthijs Welle.
The Hotel Moment podcast — episode 77

Keep the spark alive in your guest relationships

In this week’s episode of the Hotel Moment podcast, Karen Stephens, Revinate CRO, and Brian Murphy, Group CRM Executive of Cliste Hospitality, reveal what keeps the fire going between hotelier and guest: reliable, personalized, and quick communication. Murphy breaks down the misconceptions around the influence of technology on guest communication, but also why there’s no replacement for the “human touch” element of the guest experience.

Expect to learn how to service guests using text communications, and why that has a downstream impact on not only the ease with which your front desk operates but the guest’s overall perception of their stay.

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Headshot of Karen Stephens

Meet your host

Karen Stephens is Revinate’s Chief Revenue Officer and runs the sales, marketing, and customer success teams. She has more than 20 years of experience in the industry alone.

On the Hotel Moment podcast, Karen speaks with leaders to draw out their experiences and insights. She is also a Francophile and Prof K — a coach, a mentor, a guide to the people who work with her.

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Transcript

Intro – 00:00:02: Welcome to the Hotel Moment podcast, presented by Revinate, the podcast where we talk to leaders in the hospitality industry. If you’re looking for trends, perspectives, and stories from leaders in travel and hospitality, you’re in the right place.

Karen – 00:00:21: Hello and welcome to another episode of the Hotel Moment podcast. Today, I couldn’t be more excited to welcome Brian Murphy, a tremendously passionate and skilled hospitality professional. Brian is based in Ireland where he works with Cliste Hospitality as their Group Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Executive. Brian has worked at many award-winning restaurants and hotels, and judging by his job history, is a born leader and someone who knows how to manage both guest and staff expectations within this ever-changing sector. Welcome, Brian.

Brian – 00:00:52: Thank you very much, Karen. It’s lovely to be here.

Karen – 00:01:02: Well, you know what? I’m so excited to have you on the call. We have many customers in Ireland and we don’t have enough representation on this podcast. So you’re the guy.

Brian – 00:01:05: It’s great. It’s great. No, it’s good. It’s great.

Karen: 00:01:06: So just to get us started here, you know, I had a look at your LinkedIn profile and you’ve really worked at some beautiful hotels and restaurants all across both the UK and Ireland. A couple of hotels and restaurants in London as well. So having worked in several different hospitality environments where the expectations of customers must have been very high in some cases, how important is adaptability to thrive in those roles that you’ve had in the past?

Brian – 00:01:30: That’s a really good question. I started out in the hospitality industry 15 years ago, and it’s an industry that I fell into. And I remember like it was just yesterday. But I suppose I’ve worked in so many different properties throughout my time, you know, from the boutique hotels and to the corporate giants in Liverpool Street to the Michelin Star restaurants. And at the end of the day, I’ve always found that the guest is the guest. And I’ve never, ever changed who I was, I suppose, in my job, I’ve always been true to who I am. And I suppose that’s kind of what kept me in the industry, because I suppose, you know, every day is different and has been different. And you know, adapting to those guest preferences — I think I’m going off-topic Karen.

Karen – 00:02:41: No you’re not! No. I think what you’re hitting on is brilliant. It’s about bringing your authenticity to whatever you’re doing.

Brian – 00:02:57: Yeah look. I can restart I suppose. I mean, look, as I say, I fell into the hotel industry, Karen, and it just fell on my lap and I didn’t know what to expect. And I always think back, I beat the hospitality book so much. And I decided to pursue it, and moved to London. And as I say, I came from really small boutique Irish hotels into London. I always remember. I was so scared going to London because I didn’t know what the expectancy was there. I soon realized that as long as you’re true to yourself and you stick to your guns, and you don’t change who you are. I mean, it’s an industry of personalities. And I’ve been lucky enough to be successful in all of the diverse range of hotels and restaurants I’ve worked in because of that ethos.

Karen – 00:03:48: Yeah, absolutely. You know, I think that that’s the most fun that I have doing these interviews on the podcast is that everybody I talk to that works in hospitality, because we’re such people person, we just love it. And once you get into it, as you say, you just, no matter what job you go into, you kind of bring that guest experience. And it’s an authentic, true thing that you love about, you know, that’s core to your personality, I guess, is the way to say it.

Brian – 00:04:13: Absolutely. The industry of hospitality, it’s a tough industry. But one thing that I find, especially, you know, having spent the majority of my career in operations, that you know, the good days most certainly outweigh the bad ones because it’s those positive guest experiences or those experiences that you take away every day and you see the impression that it has on that guest journey is what makes it stay in the industry.

Karen – 00:04:43: Can you talk to me a little but about the history of Clíste, and what has got you excited about the business lately?

Brian – 00:04:50: Clíste Hospitality is, I suppose, is one of the leading operators and management of hospitality venues in Ireland. And it was founded by two of my colleagues, Paul Fitzgerald and Seán O’Driscoll. And the journey began back in 2012. And I suppose the vision for them was to kind of redefine hospitality in Ireland and the island of Ireland. Our portfolio for now is sitting at 14 hotels across the island of Ireland. And we’ve just recently expanded into Belfast in Northern Ireland. And our collection of hotels, is a really diverse selection of four and five-star hotels, throughout handpicked areas of Ireland. They’re all inspired by different cultures and the stunning landscapes they all have. And you know, I suppose, our portfolio is so diverse. We’ve got the modern contemporary in Dublin with Dublin Hotel, down to the 5-star luxury Muckers Park Hotel and Spa in that tourist destination. And a lot of it, as I say, is in the name. “Cliste”, is Gaelic for clever, which not only  I suppose reflects our Irish roots, but it’s also our commitment to building those genuine relationships with our properties, our clients, and our communities alike.

And I suppose me personally, you know, Cliste Hospitality, specifically the INUA Collection, I am most excited to see where we’re gonna go. I mean, since I’ve come on board, we have grown so much. You know, in times of uncertainty to see that we are expanding our portfolio and growing as team, is a real testament to the product we supply. You know, me personally in the CRM realm, having come from operations, I’m starting to see the other side and see kind of what’s on the horizon, and it really looks good.

Karen – 00:06:59: That’s exciting. So I always love it when somebody, you know, again, we talked to a lot of professionals on this podcast that started in one area of the business, be that operations, you did a lot of restaurant things, and then you move over kind of the more, let’s call it technology heavy part of the business. So now you’re in email marketing and CRM. Can you talk to us about how you leverage AI or technology? Because you’ve got a lot of guests, a lot of hotels, they’re coming from all different parts of the world. So how do you in your new role leverage technology to really meet those expectations? And also, let’s face it, drive bookings into those hotels?

Brian – 00:07:37: So you know, as I say, you hit the nail on the head. I came from operations. I’ve recently come into CRM and email marketing with Clíste Hospitality Hospitality. And I suppose, you know, it was a role that came about, Karen because our portfolio was expanding and we’ve been working with Revinate for several years. And we had this incredible pool of data, but I suppose we weren’t probably leveraging as best as we possibly could. And you know, we at Clíste Hospitality, we’re certainly understanding the importance that technology is now with the industry. How we’re harboring in so many initiatives at the moment, and we’re always experimenting with different initiatives as well. I suppose, as of recent, so we’ve started to roll out our online check-in just to make everything easier for the guest on that journey. We’ve also implemented our chatbots across the property as well, which is fantastic because it feeds into our Revinate. So any of those warm leads that we get to our chatbots can feed back into Revinate, and we can attract those audiences to our properties. I suppose one that I’m really excited about at the moment is Ivy, which has come on board in the last couple of months and we’re just in the soft launch phase of Ivy. And, you know, we’re so excited about it here at Clíste to introduce Ivy across the group because not only, you know, are we the first hotel group in Ireland to roll out Ivy, but I suppose it really is like a significant step forward in aligning, I suppose, our mission of creating those deeper connections with our guests. Our approach kind of revolves around leveraging those personalized automated communication through the guest journey and enhancing that engagement and satisfaction. And Ivy is such a versatile tool that it contributes to so many various objectives that we have. So, you know, we really want to improve that guest satisfaction across the portfolio. We really want to understand the guests and their preferences, but not only with Ivy, you know, it also addresses any on-site issues that we have promptly. But again, we want to try and boost that outlet revenue as well. And really when we were looking for a tool, Ivy ticked all those boxes, really. And do you know what, for us as well Karen, in the industry, obviously staffing has become — is a global issue in the industry at the moment. And I suppose Ivy has its ability with artificial intelligence to free up our staff on the site. It really allows them more time to focus on delivering, I suppose, the old-school meaningful guest experiences that we all know well. And by embracing the AI technology, routine tasks are automated. So it empowers all the team on the floor, and I know all too well to give that personalized exceptional service. And with Ivy, it was a no-brainer for us because we know that the guests are now real tech-savvy, and who rely on WhatsApp quite daily. And we’re starting to really understand now their digital habits. And our aim is, I suppose, is to try and enhance the guest journey at every touch point by delivering not only a message, but a personalized value-driven message. So we’re incredibly excited. We’re thrilled to have Ivy come on board. As I say, it’s kind of in the soft launch phase at the moment. But, you know, as you said, we get a lot of international guests to our properties. Ireland is a really hot destination for international guests, especially from America and the United States. And you know, a bit further than that, with Ivy Translate, it’s now allowing us to tap into our international guests by communicating with them in their native languages. So we’re attracting a way broader audience now than we ever could. And, you know, we’re really excited to see how Ivy evolves and positively impacts that guest Interaction.

Karen – 00:12:11: Awesome. Well, thank you so much for talking about Ivy. So Ivy is our messaging app. It’s our SMS app that integrates with WhatsApp for the listeners who don’t know too much about Ivy. But I think you hit the nail on the head. You really want to meet guests where they are. They already have WhatsApp on their phone. They don’t have to download something new. And then I really love what you talked about with your staff because staffing is an issue. And then also for the professionals you do have on property, you don’t want to bother them with, “What’s the Wi-Fi password? Can I get extra towels? What time does the restaurant open?” So there’s so many questions that guests ask over and over and over again. And if you can automate part of that, great. And then you also have the ability when it is a more in-depth question — something about a local restaurant or something happening in the region, your staff can jump in and actually do what they do best, which is proper guest experience. So thanks for calling that out because I think it’s important.

Brian – 00:13:15: Exactly, you know, Karen, it really is. The staff that we have, we’re incredibly blessed across our portfolio with the level of staff that we have. And the Irish, they’re particularly known for delivering that customer service, and people travel to Ireland for it. So we don’t necessarily want to kind of replace that. While we’re embracing technology at Clíste Hospitality, and we understand it’s a pivotal role in the industry, we would never want to overshadow that personal touch and that genuine hospitality that our colleagues provide and our guests crave it. So we at Clíste are just using AI to enhance and to facilitate those connections.

Karen – 00:14:06: And I think that’s the proper use. You know, I think AI can be so terrifying to a lot of people. Certainly, when you look at the news, you’re like, “Oh, my gosh, this is going to do everything.” But I think actually the proper application of AI is to do exactly what you’re saying. Take away the redundant tasks that nobody wants to do, but you will never be able to replace the staff that’s on property. And that is why people go to Ireland, because they love Irish people, you know, because they want to — I know who’s speaking as an American, you know, we love everything about it. The accent, the sense of humor, like everything. So I think that’s a good way to think about it. So kind of looking off into the future, you know, if you had a crystal ball, what do you see any big advancements coming down the line for hospitality? We talked a little bit about AI. You talked about kind of the new check-in. What is kind of your dream state coming down the line if you had a crystal ball in the next call it five to 10 years for hospitality?

Brian – 00:15:07: It’s a really tough one, to be honest. It’s a really hard one to call because — I say fortunate —- I’ve seen massive changes in the industry myself, having worked my way up through the industry, seen out through pandemics, worked through pandemics, post-pandemic, and now where we are today. If I had a crystal ball where we are in five years, five to 10 years, you know what, Karen? I wouldn’t like a whole lot to change, to be honest with you. And that’s me being truthful. It’s already, as we’ve touched on AI, you know, taking over those mundane tasks. But it’s an industry that has lasted the test of time and has seen out a pandemic and has probably come out stronger than it. Of course, we’ve had our ups and downs, but it’s always been such a resilient industry. And yeah, if I had a crystal ball, I would love to see, you know, it just grow and flourish like it always has and not to change too much, really. And that’s kind of where I would love to see it. I wouldn’t love to see too much of a change. I just think it’s a beautiful thing and I’d hate to see too much change to it.

Karen – 00:16:35: Yeah, I think that’s a beautiful way to put it. We keep optimizing what we’ve got going on here, you know, maximize it. But I think that’s what’s so wonderful about hospitality. We deliver experiences. You know, we’re the vacation of a lifetime. We’re how people recharge, relax, and connect. So I agree with you 100%. OK, so I’ve got one last question for you. What piece of advice would you give someone just getting into hospitality now? So someone who’s brand new, they’re thinking about coming into the sector. What piece of advice would you give?

Brian – 00:17:16: Stick with it. Stick with it. I started, as I say, 15 years ago, and I didn’t really see, I didn’t really know if there was a future for it in me. And especially after pandemic, I thought about different career paths, as did a lot of people. But advice, stick with it. It’s the most rewarding industry. I find if someone could have told me 15 years ago that I’d be sitting here talking to Karen, I would have laughed. And I’ve literally gone —  I’ve never studied hospitality, Karen. I worked my way up through the ranks. Anyone starting out in hospitality, I will say, “just get out there.” Travel as well is really beneficial. London really kind of opened up my eyes to the expectancies in the industry, but also kind of the opportunities. You know, spread your wings. Go to meetings that you’re not invited to. Ask the questions that you’re not supposed to ask. A mentor told me very early on in my career, Karen, to “always surround yourself with people who have an interest not only in your personal growth, but also your professional growth.” And I’ve always kind of stuck by that throughout my career and been incredibly lucky. But you make your own luck as well in the industry I find.

So stick with us. I know the hours are long. I know those split shifts, but it’s all worth it. and set yourself a goal. And I’m sure you can get there.

Karen – 00:18:58: Okay, great. So Brian, it has been a real pleasure. So if folks want to learn more about Clíste Hospitality, where can they find you?

Brian – 00:19:04: Yeah, so you can learn more about Clíste Hospitality. It’s Cliste Hospitality. And you can also see our diverse range in the INUA Collection at inua.ie.

Karen – 00:19:17: Wonderful. Thank you so much, Brian.

Brian – 00:19:20: My pleasure. Thank you very much, Karen.

Outro – 00:19:21:Thank you for listening to the Hotel Moment Podcast. Make sure to subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts. And if you’re watching on YouTube, please like the video and subscribe for more content. For more information, head to hotelmomentpodcast.com. The Hotel Moment Podcast is presented by Revinate.

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