Technology has transformed our lives and the way we run businesses. But it’s worth remembering that every new piece of tech not only changes the way we operate, but also our customers’ expectations.
In hospitality, as we’re in the business of finding ways to exceed customers’ expectations, it is perhaps more important than in any other sector to understand how new technology is changing the way customers think.
1. People want things done quicker
Consumers increasingly want things done quicker than before Ð and they are much less willing to wait. Analysts call this the ‘Amazon effect’. The name comes from e-commerce company Amazon, which has created an expectation among customers that they should be able to buy and arrange delivery of products Ð with just a few clicks Ð from the safety and comfort of their own home.
This change in expectation has filtered down to other industries outside of online retail. For example, many people now expect to be able to pre-order their coffee so they can pick it up on their way to work; get their car repaired overnight; and even get their shopping delivered within hours, potentially by drone.
A survey by Apica found that 77% of people expect websites and apps to perform faster than they did just three years ago, and according to research by comScore, 38 per cent of online shoppers will abandon their order at the checkout stage if shipping will take longer than one week. The need for urgency will only accelerate.
But what does this mean for hospitality? Speed and on-demand access to facilities is essential. Hotels can use technology to provide quick and efficient services to their customers Ð this could mean launching an express in-dining menu which can be ordered via a phone app, and delivered to customers’ rooms within 15 minutes.
It also certainly means providing customers with the tools they need to access hotel facilities and services online; people do not want to wait on the phone any longer. They want to be able to book their rooms, restaurant tables, spa treatments, activities and meeting rooms quickly online.
2. Companies are expected to anticipate customers’ needs
In the past, great companies were expected to exceed people’s needs but tech has changed that: people now expect companies to go one step further and predict and anticipate their needs in advance. Customers today expect customised, personalised products and services without asking for them first.
This has been driven by the growth of big data, which gives companies unrivalled access to information to better understand their customers. In fact, six million developers worldwide are currently working on big data, and spending on the technology is expected to reach more than $57 billion this year, according to SNS Research.
Hotels can use this technology to better understand their customers. The latest tech gives hotels the opportunity to pick up patterns from their data that would not have been possible in the past, and anticipate customer needs. For example, it may be that guests who book longer meeting rooms, finishing at 5pm, tend to then book a table in the restaurant. That gives hotels an opportunity to suggest a table to the guest in advance.
However, the less obvious implication is that to gain a competitive edge, hotels should take the opportunity to collect high-quality customer data in the first instance Ð the more information you can capture at booking, the better you will be able to anticipate a guest’s needs.
3. Shareability of experiences
The emergence of social media has had an incredible knock-on effect on our lives. Today, people are increasingly looking for opportunities to broadcast and share their experiences via videos and photos. They don’t want to just tell their friends about their lives, they want to show them every aspect.
Take restaurants: according to research by Zizzi, 18-35-year-olds spend up to five days per year browsing food images on Instagram, and 30% of them would avoid a restaurant if their Instagram presence was poor. And this trend is not confined to the hospitality industry. In fact, PwC Global found that 39% of people say that social networks including Instagram provide their main inspiration for retail purchases.
This trend for visually documenting your journey and experiences is a perfect opportunity for hotels. Hotels can look for ways to create photo opportunities, ÔInstagrammable’ environments and experiences. Hotels can make sure that the experiences they’re giving customers are not only top quality but look good enough to share with family and friends.
4. Two-way relationships with brands
Social media has also changed consumers’ expectations about company engagement. In the past, it was largely impossible for consumers to contact companies directly but the emergence of Twitter and Facebook has changed that.
Customers now expect to have direct contact and engagement with the companies that they buy from, and brands are starting to recognise that it’s a two-way street than can increase profits. According to a recent survey by Clutch, more than half of social media marketers said social media has helped increase their company’s revenue and sales. But there is still a way to go before customers are satisfied. A State of Engagement report from martech firm Marketo in the US found that 65% of business-to-business customers believe brands could do better.
Given that consumers want this intimacy with brands Ð and in many cases they feel that they’re not getting it Ð this is an opportunity for hotels to build long-term relationships with their customers using social media and other means such as regular, personalised email newsletters. Of course, you can’t do this if you don’t have your customers’ full details, which just underlines the importance of owning your customer data, so you can follow-up with them after their stay.
5.Ê Access services whenever and wherever they want
Just 10 years ago people expected to be able to engage with a company or, when it comes to hotels, make a booking, over the phone, fax, or on the computer.
People now expect to access these same services everywhere and anywhere Ð on whatever device they happen to have, be that a tablet, phone or even a smartwatch. Today, according to PwC Global, 47% of people own or intend to own a wearable device.
That means hotels should take this opportunity to make sure that their services are accessible on as many different devices as possible.
Technology has made a huge difference to our lives and opened a vast number of new doors for the consumer. But it has also changed the way people think, and what they expect from the companies that they buy from. Hotels can steal a march on their competitors by meeting their changing customers’ needs better and faster than their rivals.
About the author
Matthew Stubbs is CEO and founder of BookingTek,Êa London and California-based tech company whose software enables hotels to launch real-time direct booking platforms for their meeting rooms and restaurants. Used by some of the world’s largest hotel chains, Meetings MakerÊand TableResÊincrease efficiency; reduce cover charges and referral fees; drive direct revenue and optimise guest spend.