Custard Interview: The Know

By Lesley Whyte

To mark International Women’s Day on Thursday, 8 March the female founders of The Know – Fiona Adams and Mané Ryatt – reveal how they used their experience working in the City to create a breakthrough service designed to give hoteliers unparalleled insight into guest experience.

Before establishing The Know, entrepreneurs Fiona and Mané had never worked in a hotel, let alone run one. Yet, thanks to their extensive travel experience and successful careers as investment bankers, they knew they could offer the sector a unique solution to help make great hotels exceptional.

Previously Mané spent 20 years working in the City where she specialised in client service, risk management, process re-engineering and project management. During that time, she also developed a love of travelling and luxury hotels.

She says: “Investment banking clients are notoriously hard to please – not that different from luxury hotel guests!  You have to be able to pre-empt the problems before they happen and really get into the mind of your client – see things how they perceive them – not how you do.  Once you have that insight, you can go about formulating an action plan to address those issues, so the client never encounters them, or add those extra little touches that impress – creating loyalty, repeat business and word of mouth recommendation.”

Like her colleague, co-founder Fiona, whose own 15-year career in investment banking involved creating innovative solutions to complex problems, streamlining processes and improving user experience, is also a keen traveler with a love of luxury hotels.

Fiona says they identified a clear gap in the market for a service that could gather vital feedback for hoteliers from guests just like them.

“We found ourselves staying in really lovely hotels but we both always found one or two things that we would like to see done differently or additionally,” she says. “I never shared the information with anyone other than friends. Most of the time, it didn’t warrant a complaint to the staff and frankly, I don’t have any motivation to spend my time filling out guest surveys. When we spoke to friends and colleagues, we realised we weren’t alone and became acutely aware there was a wealth of information not making its way to hoteliers.”

Fiona and Mané went on to carry out extensive market research and found that conventional methods of gaining feedback from guests simply weren’t working. An independent survey of luxury hotel guests found that 60% very rarely, or never complete surveys following their stay. Those who did provide feedback spent just a few minutes giving minimal details.  With only 3% spending more than five minutes completing a direct guest survey, they realised the real value of this feedback was likely to be much lower than a lot of hoteliers believe.

In addition, The Know founders scrutinised TripAdvisor and other online review sites. They discovered there was very rarely a detailed, balanced, consistent approach to the online reviews. Feedback was often at either end of the spectrum – a rant about a single issue the guest had encountered, or vague with little information that a hotelier could use to adapt their service. Rarely were both positives AND negatives shared by the same reviewer in an equally detailed way and across all aspects of the guest experience.  They also encountered a surprising number of fake or paid-for reviews.

It was clear that there was a need to create a better way, for both hoteliers to source the intelligence they so clearly need and for guests to gain something in return for spending their time and energy to share that information, so in 2017 Mané and Fiona launched The Know.

The Know is an intelligent mystery guest service for luxury and boutique hotels, which provides detailed, confidential, qualitative insight and analytics from real paying guests.

In addition, being part of The Know enables hotels to benchmark their performance, gain proprietary market insight into guest preferences and create individual action plans using the sophisticated and bespoke question-led technology.

Multi-night, extensive reviews are conducted by an invitation-only members’ club of ‘Knowers’ who are experienced travellers, individually vetted and incentivised through reimbursements and loyalty points.

Fiona attributes much of the business’s success so far to the experience she and her business partner gained in banking.

“The subject matter changed, but our approach to The Know is very much the same as that in our banking experience – issue identification, risk management, problem-solving and keeping the client happy.

“We have both always been very driven and have a real desire to succeed and that’s even more heightened now that it’s our own business! It’s certainly hard work being an entrepreneur but core to our success is working very closely with our hotel clients to understand exactly what they need to enable them to provide their guests with exactly what THEY need.  We spend a lot of time listening to both our hotel partners and our Knowers.”

Exciting times lie ahead for The Know. Mane says: “As our portfolio of hotels grows, we are also seeing an increasing number of experienced travelers hearing about the incentives they could receive and coming on board to share their insight. In turn this means more quality insight for our partner hotels so it’s a win-win situation for everyone and definitely a very exciting time to be in The Know!”

To find out more about The Know, visit