Unlocking the Full Potential of Shopping Centers with the Hybrid Guest Experience Model

Corry van den Brink
Founder & CEO

Striking the right balance between exceptional guest experiences and managing operational expenses is crucial for shopping centers. The emerging hybrid guest experience model, which combines human interaction with AI and digital tools, offers a flexible, scalable, and customer-centric approach that meets the evolving demands of today's shoppers, providing a promising solution for shopping centers looking to create seamless shopping experiences.

Imagine walking into your favourite shopping center, where a personalized concierge is ready to assist you through every step of your journey, from finding the perfect gift to locating the nearest parking spot. In today's fast-paced world, providing exceptional guest experiences (GX) cannot be overstated. As shopping centers struggle to cope with increasing costs and changing consumer expectations, it's crucial to strike the right balance between providing top-notch services and managing operational expenses. In this article, we'll explore the three primary options available to the shopping center industry regarding their Guest Experience Departments and discuss how the hybrid guest experience model is emerging as the optimal solution for creating seamless shopping experiences.

Option 1: The Costly Status Quo

Many shopping centers continue to operate their guest service kiosks with one or two staff members behind the desk. While this approach may be perceived as the benchmark of the highest levels of guest experience at shopping centers, it often fails to meet the heightened expectations of today's shoppers. Due to cost-cutting and limited resources plaguing this model in recent years, it is challenging to address unexpected events, such as staff absences and varying traffic levels, ultimately resulting in less effective service delivery. It is also important to remember that access to this service is limited to a physical location within the mall. This means that shoppers must first find the Guest Experience Desk before they can ask their questions.

Option 2: The Risky Removal of Guest Experience Departments

Some shopping centers have opted to remove the guest experience department altogether, cutting costs but leaving shoppers without access to essential information and support. This decision can negatively impact the overall shopping experience and hinder the center's ability to recover from negative exchanges. Ultimately, this option risks driving away customers and damaging the shopping center's reputation when situations go sideways during the shopping journey.

Option 3: The Impersonal AI and Automation

The rapid advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) and automation are exciting and have led some shopping centers to work towards implementing fully automated guest experience solutions. While this approach offers potential cost savings in the long run, it has drawbacks. Many shoppers become frustrated with the unreliability and impersonal nature of AI-driven solutions, which can lead to subpar experiences and diminished customer satisfaction.

86% of consumers prefer to interact with a human agent; 71% said they would be less likely to use a brand if it didn’t have human customer service representatives available; only 30% believe that chatbots and virtual assistants make it easier to address customer service issues; only 29% of consumers looking for a quick answer would choose chat over all other channels, down from 50% in 2018, and 40% chose the phone or voice option first [CGS survey of 1,000 US consumers]

The Hybrid Model: A Promising Solution

The hybrid guest experience model offers a powerful alternative to the options above, combining the best of human interaction with AI and digital tools. By equipping guest services representatives with digital tools, they can expand their reach throughout the entire mall and onto shoppers' cell phones. Additionally, AI and automation can supplement the human touch with self-serve features, making the service scalable and more accessible to a broader demographic.

Benefits of the Hybrid Model

  • Enhanced customer interactions: With the hybrid model, shopping centers can take advantage of key digital integrations that will enhance the guest experience while personalizing the interaction and building brand loyalty.
  • Greater accessibility: By leveraging digital tools and AI, the hybrid model makes guest services accessible to shoppers through various channels, including in-person, phone, SMS, email, chat, and social media.
  • Scalability: The hybrid model allows for more efficient resource allocation and management, enabling shopping centers to provide consistent, high-quality service even during peak times or unexpected events by sharing resources across a portfolio.


The hybrid guest experience model presents an innovative solution for shopping centers looking to create seamless shopping experiences in a rapidly changing landscape. By combining the benefits of human interaction with AI and digital tools, this model offers a flexible, scalable, and customer-centric approach that meets the evolving demands of today's shoppers. As the shopping center industry continues to adapt to new challenges, embracing the hybrid guest experience model could be the key to staying ahead of the curve and creating memorable experiences that keep customers coming back for more.

May 1, 2024