Why Every College Needs an AI Program and How to Get Started

Creating Meaningful Experiences with Data

Charlie Anastasi
February 8, 2023
4 mins

This content originally appeared in the monthly Rize newsletter. Sign up to receive industry insights, upcoming events, the latest news about Rize, and more in your inbox each month.

One of the perks of living in Brooklyn is having access to some classic restaurants. On a recent special occasion, I had the opportunity to go to Union Square Cafe, which was founded in 1985 by a “famous” restaurateur, Danny Meyer. Danny is the author of Setting the Table which promotes the value of Enlightened Hospitality: how the delivery of a product makes a customer feel.

When we sat down at our table, the Union Square waiter came over, paused, and sort of stared at us quizzically: “Have I seen you here before? You look so familiar. This isn’t your first time, is it?”

It is not my first time, but I am far from a regular. I think it is my third time in over 8 years! It is also a big restaurant with many servers and tables. There is simply no way he recognized us.

But, the iPhone app that I used to book the reservation definitely did recognize us as a repeat customer. He did an amazing job of making us feel "important" with that information. Even better, it didn't feel phony or contrived.

At the end of the meal, the waiter looked at me and said, "Well, we can't wait to welcome you back soon. You have a birthday coming up, don't you? We hope we can celebrate that with you."

Once again, this was obviously information in the booking system, but he took his time to use it and created a meaningful experience for me.

Overall, the meal was a great reminder of how expressions of personalization and warmth in a typically transactional relationship can stand out. It was also a great reminder of how technology can empower and guide meaningful human interaction.

My mind immediately started racing on how Enlightened Hospitality could be incorporated at Rize (don’t I sound like a really fun dinner companion??), but I also thought about our college partners and how important hospitality is in a small community. I imagine this philosophy is already core to the DNA of many Rize partners, but I still think it is a worthwhile concept to consider.

What breadcrumbs of information are prospective students leaving on your website or your application that could be used on a campus visit day or in an email campaign? In this podcast, Danny describes his philosophy of “ABCD” - Always Be Connecting Dots - as a way to make people feel seen. How can you celebrate milestones of your existing students with small gestures of recognition? Can you do something similar with your alumni?

To close this short aside from your regularly scheduled programming, I’ll try to connect a few more dots. If you happen to listen to and like the podcast, there is another great episode with a restaurant owner called “Know What You Are Selling.” The guest's main point is that he isn’t selling food, he is selling an experience. And once you understand that, you operate the business differently.

Much more so than a restaurant, small colleges are selling a transformational experience, and hospitality can go a long way in fostering that experience.

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