The Clearbridge Hotels case study

It’s a case for Apply design thinking to AI

Before Start

  • Meet the group of Clearbridge employees working on this project.
    1. Beth, Data Scientist
      • I started focusing more on AI products about 3 years ago after taking a few online courses. I’m good at translating business needs into models and finding hidden insights in data.
    2. Alice, Software Developer
      • I’m a full-stack developer, but I’m pretty new to AI. I do have some experience integrating APIs into different platforms, so it’s probably an easy transition. I’ll work closely with Beth to maintain the quality of our AI solution over time.
    3. Alisha, Design Researcher
      • I’m a design researcher, so I spend most of my time getting to know our guests and making sure that everything we create addresses their needs. I have a close relationship with our Sponsor Users—guests who’ve signed on to help us.
    4. Jacob, Product Designer
      • I design the Clearbridge app and website. I work with Alisha to make sure my designs are in line with what our hotel guests need. This is my first project with AI, so I’m excited for the new challenge.
    5. Haidy, Product Manager
      • I’ve been in product management for about 5 years. Before that I worked as a manager in a few of our hotels across Arizona. My focus for this particular offering is to make sure we deliver our exec’s goals on time and on budget

  • Design Research
    • Alisha leads the team’s design research of Clearbridge guests around the world.
      She shared that there’s a clear distinction between business travelers and leisure travelers.
      • business travelers come solo and are between the ages of 35 and 50. They tend to stay for a short amount of time, sometimes a single night, where they need to check-in and get to their room quickly to take a conference call or prepare a presentation for the following morning.
      • Leisure travelers rarely come alone. They’re with their whole family or groups of friends who are staying for a fun celebration or vacation. They’re less focused on time to check-in and more interested in amenities like pools and spa services.
    • The team uncovered from design research
      • Haidy uncovered that there’s an opportunity to compete directly with other hotel chains for business travelers, who make up over 60% of guests across all Clearbridge locations.
      • She knows that scoping a project correctly is key to its success, so the team decides to look more closely at that subset of guests: solo business travelers.

  • As-is Scenario the current typical user experience
    Alisha consolidated the team’s observations and Sponsor User interviews into an as-is scenario.
    Watch the story to see the current state of individual business travelers’ experiences at Clearbridge.
  • Response to those questions:
    • What specific pain points did you most focus on in the business traveler’s current experience?
    • What do you think business travelers need to have a better experience?
    • How do you think AI could address this need?

The team uncovered that

  • employees don’t always know guests’ needs.
    1. the check-in experience takes a long time and often compromises what guests expect.
    2. rooms don’t offer an inviting welcome: guests spend time customizing them before settling in.


Clearbridge Hotel is a global hotel chain, and executives at the company want to differentiate their hotel chain from similar mid-market competitors.The sharing economy has changed guests’ expectations for accommodation and travel services.

user’s feels

Clearbridge Hotel is ready to invest in change to stay competitive.

In order to provide a modern and competitive guest experience, Clearbridge needs to rethink how its services and providers interact with their guests.

your team on the business

They hope artificial intelligence solutions can accomplish their goals.

The team is charged with building a more personalized guest experience with AI at Clearbridge Hotels across the world. Company leadership is anxious to see results that it can announce publicly and use as a marketing boost.

1. Which of the 6 core AI intents do you think apply best to Clearbridge’s goal? Why?

2. Reflect on the intent you just wrote down. 
Give 1-2 concrete examples of what the Clearbridge project could make to bring this intent to life.

3. Bring it back to our users: business travelers. 
Would their needs be addressed through your ideas? How?

The team defined that:

they will set hyper-personalization as their intent.


  • Set a to-be scenario

  • Think about the to-be scenario you just saw:
    1. How much does this to-be scenario meet business travelers’ needs?
    2. Did you see the big idea come through in this to-be scenario?

  • Confirmed data status of analysis Array:
    1. What data be used in the to-be scenario?
    2. Do we have or can get all the data?

The team defined that:

Understanding your Data

it’s time to break down how their AI will make sense of that data.

  1. What databases would be the center to discuss?
  2. What component would be there?
  3. What’s the component in the database that an AI would need to understand?

The team broke out the room service orders dataset

  1. Personal information
    • These are names, email addresses, phone numbers, etc.
  2. Member Number
    • Clearbridge uses this number to reference guests who are part of their loyalty program.
  3. Member points
    • As part of the loyalty program, guests earn points that translate to status and rewards.
  4. Member preferences
    • These are the choices members previously made during their stays
  5. Membership Level
    • This indicates how many member points a guest has earned. Certain thresholds of member points result in a new membership level.
  6. Member benefits
    • These are the perks that come with being a Clearbridge member. They could be things like complimentary water and cookies when you arrive or discounted room rates

Reasoning your Idea

  • The Clearbridge team took a look back at their big ideas and to-be scenario. Here’s what they discussed.
    • Discuss some idea you consider is work
      • Beth, Well, with what Alice and I have access to now, data-wise, I think we could do something just around the check-in experience.
      • Recognizing when a guest is due to arrive and having their favorite snack waiting in their rooms for them seems doable. It could be like a tailored check-in.
    • Discuss some ideas you consider isn’t work
      • This is a lot. It seems like our whole ‘coming home’ idea isn’t possible right now, at least for the timeline we have.
      • We should look back at our other big ideas and try one of those. Maybe the ‘virtual best friend’ idea could work?
  • How will your AI use what it knows to meet your intent?

The team uncovered all of the concepts their system would need to learn.

<Clearbridge Hotels> can <offer a personalized experience> by <preparing a guest’s room with custom niceties> based on <weather, treat and room preferences, and the reason for their visit.>.


  1. Layers of Effect
    1. Primary
    2. Secondary
    3. Tertiary
  2. The 5 AI ethics focus areas
    1. Accountability
      • Every person involved in the creation of AI at any step is accountable for considering the system’s impact on the world, as are the companies invested in its development.
      • Has the Clearbridge team considered how this AI will make difference?
    2. Value alignment
      • AI should be designed to align with the norms and values of your user group in mind.
      • Do you consider customers will hate that their data be used for training?
    3. Explainability
      • AI should be designed for humans to easily perceive, detect, and understand its decision process. Imperceptible AI is not ethical AI.
      • Has the Clearbridge team considered how to explain the AI’s decision-making process to guests?
    4. Fairness
      • AI must be designed to minimize bias and promote inclusive representation.
      • How biased might their solution be?
    5. User data rights
      • AI must be designed to protect user data and preserve the user’s power over access and uses.
      • Has the team discussed protecting user data?

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