Numerous travelers of today, regardless of which generation they are a part of, carry and use mobile devices almost as if these were extensions of their persona. These consumers not only research and book hotels through their mobile devices, but also use the devices to try and solve any problems they face while traveling.
They flock towards hotels which support this part of their lifestyle. So, hotels have to combine the comfort, dependability and reliability they traditionally offer, with technological advances to bring about a digital transformation in the hospitality industry.
The following are a few ways in which hotels can connect better with such travelers:
1. Digital access in hotel lobbies for local information, vignettes about the hotel and check-ins
Hotels are increasingly providing digital access points in their lobbies, mostly in the form of tablet computers, to improve the guest experience and to make it more fluid. These act as hubs which help provide various services for the guests of the hotels, including the ability to check in, vignettes of information about the hotels and about the local amenities and sites of tourist interest. Generally, it is possible for the guests to download the information to their tablets or smartphones.
For example, a hotel in Seattle has stationed a table with Microsoft Surface technology in its lobby. Guests can treat themselves to a game of virtual chess or explore the local area virtually. Another hotel in the UK give guests iPads to check in.
2. Access to virtual concierge, hotel guide, check-out application, etc., through digital devices in rooms
A hotel in Vienna has extended the digital experience that it provides its guests to its rooms. Guests have access to tablet computers in their rooms, through which they can arrange for the daily newspapers of their choice, browse through a hotel guide, seek the services of a virtual concierge, fill surveys and check out applications. They can even book their future stay.
Guests still have the option to check out if that’s what they want to do and are not obliged to use the tablets. However, the employing of the options frees up the process at the front desk and allows greater time and attention to serving the guests.
3. Smartphones as keys to the rooms
A hotel can deploy an app that provides keyless entry to guests into their rooms. The guests will then be able to unlock their rooms simply by scanning their smartphones using the app. When a room is ready for a guest, he gets a key code along with a notification. He can then go to the hotel and bypass the traditional check in process to go to the room directly.
4. Apps that let likeminded guests interact with each other
The Mariott has built an application called Six Degrees, in collaboration with MIT students and researchers. It is a social app that guests can download and connect to their LinkedIn pages. The app is targeted mainly at business travelers and aimed at helping them interact with other likeminded guests. It lets strangers get to know each other in real time and form authentic connections. The app is connected with a large digital screen, which is interactive, in the hotel lobby, besides an LED table with which the people sitting down can interact.
5. Use of big data to provide services that improve guests’ experience at hotel
There are a number of points of contact that hotels have with their customers. These include bookings, emails exchanged before stay, check in, communication during stay, check out and communication following stay. However, there is a lot more to be learnt about them and what they do during their stay at the hotel.
To be able to gather the data required, hotels have to pursue a more intensive digital relationship with customers. That will enable them to provide services to make the guests’ experience of staying at the hotel better.
For instance, hotels may be able to provide dining menus that suggest food and drink choices based on the analysis of past interactions with the hotel, besides demographics.
Hotels may have to crunch huge amounts of data to achieve the desired results and that’s where big data comes in.
6. Embracing feedback from online customer reviews
Review websites like TripAdvisor have been driving transparency in the hotel industry even before businesses such as AirBnB brought it to unprecedented levels. Brand power has now been reduced in significance as against the actual location of individual properties and the value and service they provide.
Hotel brands have to embrace the valuable feedback their customers, especially those clued in to the ways of the digital world of today, provide about every step of their stay with the hotels. They can try to encourage a sense of community through their websites and apps and be a part of important conversations about how to provide better value and service.
7. Provide only the services that customers want to use
Most customers rarely use a number of amenities in hotels, ranging from fitness centers to the contents of the mini bars in the rooms. Even though hotels can hardly compete with the low cost supply enabled by services such as AirBnB, they can try to go for a flexible cost structure where several services can be delivered only on demand or can be shared with other establishments.
For example, hotels can let guests making reservations through mobile apps or online choose the contents of mini bars and provide accordingly. They can also make arrangements for guests to visit reputed fitness centers only on demand instead of having a gym in house.
8. Collaboration with other providers for product and service delivery based on digital means
Hotels can collaborate with other service providers, such as retailers, to offer unique user experiences to their guests. For example, a guest may browse for and purchase a dress online, through a retail partner of the hotel, which the hotel concierge may then ensure gets delivered to the guest’s hotel room in time for an important event that she has to attend.
The application of digital technology does not have to mean that hotels become devoid of human interaction, but it implies providing more options to reduce the travel stress of guests. It needs to help the guests relax and enjoy all that the hotels and the surrounding areas have to offer. Digital should help apply new technology extensions to make hotel guests’ and employees’ lives much easier.
How has your experience with digital technology in hotels been? Please share with us in the comments section below.