I met Metis’s mother in Los Angeles in the summer of 2014. We were introduced by a mutual friend. At that time, Metis, named for the Greek goddess of wisdom, was brand new. She is a curated, big data analytics aide-de-camp — not quite at the level of artificial intelligence, but close — and she speaks in a British accent.
Her mother, Kyle Richey, and her co-founder, David Richey, are known for helping luxury service businesses — including hotel, retail, fashion, and professional sports — develop brand-defining service standards. As global director of guest experience and innovation for the Dorchester Collection’s ultra-luxury hotels, I was intrigued because I had a problem I thought Metis could help me solve.
In a nutshell, the enormous volume of data collected from mystery shoppers, online reviews, social media, blogs, and ratings agencies about customer preferences and experiences has become too overwhelming for any business (including mine) to assess. And as the luxury segment depends upon anticipating, and then exceeding customer expectations, this is a problem. In the absence of a more nuanced understanding of customer feedback, the data we collect today is driving the industry toward standardized service, and standardization turns luxury into a commodity – the very opposite of what luxury customers want.
Luxury customers, whether they’re buying automobiles, or jewelry, or hotel suites, want to feel special. They do not want to share their experience with others. But when most suites come with a bottle of chilled champagne (as they do), and every hotel has a Michelin-starred restaurant (as do all 11 of the four-and-five-star hotels in Paris), how can a guest feel that he or she is experiencing something special, created just for them?
This is the conundrum I thought Metis could help answer by diving into the deeps of customer data to tell us what makes our hotels special. What are our strengths? Where could we improve? I offered to help the Richeys train Metis — who was then still learning to analyze text — by sharing with her my experience and operational insights. The Richeys invited me to join their product development advisory board. A bit less than two years later, on March 23, 2016, Metis, accompanied by a film, addressed 30 Dorchester Collection leaders in the Crystal Suite at the eponymous Dorchester, in London. She had digested and analyzed millions of words of online conversation.