Being dependent on internet and technology for almost everything – be it shopping, booking flights, cooking, socializing and even dating – we often find it hard to imagine how people back in the 19th century survived without the Internet, computers and mobiles.
This brings to mind an interesting story I heard about a hotel and its guest experience. The incident goes back to the early 70s when there was no internet and travelers would make hotel bookings through travel agents or phone calls. A couple in their mid-50s arrived at a hotel which was located far from the city. Little did they realise that the booking they made via phone prior to their arrival was tentative and not confirmed. On learning that the hotel was full, they were forced to look elsewhere. The incident didn’t leave them happy as they weren’t prepared for this situation. The hotel was also helpless and couldn’t do much to accommodate them. This situation could have been avoided if both the hotel and the couple had a confirmed booking!
Now imagine if this incident had occurred in today’s era: the guests would have most likely damaged the hotel’s reputation all over the Internet through negative reviews and posts. Technology has changed the way we travel, experience and share the hotel experience and I believe, the change is for good! I couldn’t have imagined myself in a situation like that of the couple. Using technology, new-age travelers are preparing their own itinerary and replacing the traditional travel agents.
On the other hand, hotels are also experiencing broader visibility through platforms that bring travelers from all over the world together. They are able to use technology and provide value-added services, comfort and convenience to their guests which was not the case in the past.
Here are five viable technology solutions that can help hotels serve their guests better and personalize the experience:
Mobile bookings are gaining popularity and are predicted to increase to 25% of online bookings by 2017. What is more interesting for hotel owners is that 40% of leisure travelers and 36% of business travelers book overnight accommodations in hotels using their mobile phones.
Hotels should take advantage of this growth to engage with the travelers, especially with the rise in Millennial travelers who are highly dependent on their smartphone. According to PhoCusWright, one in four hotel bookings comes from a mobile device and Millennials alone add up to 38% of these bookings.
Having the hotel’s booking engine optimized for mobile viewing can offer guests a convenient option to book. Hotels can also try connecting with their guests pre-arrival through mobile apps that can help in a variety of ways, like assisting guests with directions, sending notifications of the seasonal packages and offers, or inviting a repeat stay from an old guest. Strong mobile promotions can be used as a key marketing and sales strategy by hotels.
Hotels can also look at integrating Beacon technology that will help them gather guest data in order to offer personalised services. The technology allows hotels to engage with the guests on a personal level by pushing special offers based on their location, request for special services, access to view maps, or connect with the hotel’s social media channels. Starwood Hotels & Resorts and Marriott International have already implemented Beacon technology.
Tablets are growing in popularity among the new-age generation as seen in a recent survey that found that more than 1 billion people worldwide use tablets in 2015, representing nearly 15% of the global population and more than double the number three years ago. By 2018, the number of tablet users in the world will reach 1.43 billion. So, hotels should consider providing tablets to enhance the guest experience and use it for multiple marketing purposes. Here’s how:
- Front desk: Front desk is one of the busiest areas of the hotel which is mostly accessed by the guests, hence it’s good to use tablets at the front desk to check-in/out the guests and take their quick feedback. It can also be used for digital signage by displaying information on nearby attractions, local map and to encourage guests to sign up for future email marketing. Consider the OnSpot Social app that collects email addresses and guest data to engage with them through various digital marketing strategies.
- Rooms: After Wi-Fi, guests are expecting hotels to provide tablets in the rooms. Seeing this rising demand, many hotels have started investing in tablets and are installing third party apps to give their guests the control of room lights, AC, TV and more.
- Restaurants/bars/spas: Another effective area where guests are more likely to engage with tablets is a hotel’s point of sale to browse through the menus and packages. Hotels can encourage guests to give real-time feedback on the services.
3. Self check-in
New-age travelers like to be on self-sufficient to save time and effort. Self check-in technology can play a role in providing convenience to the guest while also easing the burden on the front desk staff.
This technology allows guests to check-in via tablets or phones using a QR code that captures their expected time of arrival and sends the notification to the hotel. Checking-out the guest can also be done via smartphones or tablets from the luxury of the guest’s room using technology like a mobile optimized hotel software.
Self check-in technology also eliminates errors and speeds the process. Ritz Carlton uses this technology for their guests to check-in via QR codes through their mobile app.
4. Live chat
While there have been many debates over the merits of embedding a live chat feature on a hotel’s website due to the cost and infrastructure involved, it is one of the best ways to connect with a potential guest. Live chat may be expensive, but it helps in increasing sales while providing a convenient platform for interaction. Research suggests that 52% of travelers will visit your hotel’s website after seeing you on an OTA . With a live chat option, you can tap into such travelers easily. I came across an interesting survey that predicts that 90% of customers consider live chat helpful and 63% are more likely to return to a website that offers live chat.
This simply means that people prefer websites that can immediately attend to their queries while they are in the process of making a booking. This also helps eliminate website bounce rates as the live chat assists guests through every stage until they complete their action. Engaging potential guests through this feature will make them feel valued and can convert lookers into bookers.
As many buying decisions are purely based on convenience, a live chat option could lead guests to stay and not move on to your competitor hotel’s website.
5. Door opening technology
No, this technology is not for burglars, it’s for the hotel guests to open room doors using a mobile. This technology is similar to the self check-in technology where guests receive a code on their mobile app through which they get control to their room door. OpenWays introduced this technology that uses a Crypto Acoustic Credential system for electronic access control in hotels.
The system can also be integrated with many other services such as the concierge or security. It can be activated on a guest’s handset without him paying a visit to the reception. Hotel chains like Hilton and Starwood provide the luxury to their guests to unlock their rooms using smartphone app.
Traveling today is much easier than it used to be few decades ago. Now, traveling is all about instant gratification for the travelers. Millennials are a dominating segment that often looks for hotels that offer quick services and technology allows hotels to deliver what they expect. So, strike the iron while it’s hot!
About the Author
Manisha is a blogger and media communication specialist at Hotelogix. She writes on the latest hospitality trends, guest experience, new-age technology and solutions that simplify a hotelier’s life. Connect with her at [email protected]