Contributed by Kelly Popp, Senior Director of Business Development, SHR
Research continues to show that today’s hotel guests want to feel personally cared for, and yet, they also continue to demand more and more tech conveniences that can seem to bypass the traditional hospitality experience. So, how can you, as a hotelier, meet your guests’ needs for technology without alienating them from an authentic, caring experience?
In a recent webinar, I joined Peggy Joyce, Product Manager for SkyTouch Technology, and Amanda Saye, Vice President, Franchise Operations for GreenTree Hospitality Group, to explore each stage of humanizing the guest journey. Here are some highlights of what we discovered, and what you can do today to start capitalizing on the human/tech connection.
The Future is Now
Gartner reports that by 2021, 70% of organizations will integrate AI (Artificial Intelligence) to assist employees’ productivity. For hotel guests, Software Advice’s Guest Preferences for Technology Use in Hotels reports found that a combined 60% of respondents were more likely to choose a hotel that allows guests to check in and open doors with a smartphone than a hotel that doesn’t.
Yet, there remains a strong link between guests' feelings of well-being, customer engagement, and spending. According to several of Gallup's Hospitality Industry studies starting back in 2014, guests spent an average of $457 per stay at the hotel they visited most frequently in the past 12 months. But fully-engaged guests spent $588 per stay compared with $403 per stay for actively disengaged guests—a healthy difference of $185 per guest. So, it makes more sense than ever to get the balance of guest tech and guest care right.
There are some great possibilities for the hotelier in this brave new world. For one, empowering your staff with tools that make communication seamless, you might reduce turnover because everyone is on the same page with what is expected of them, plus guests can receive a more rapid response to their inquiries, making your staffs’ jobs even more enjoyable. A good example of this is the new SkyTouch API integration called /CONNECT, which enables SkyTouch to exchange information with integrated vendors to better service guests. You might also improve efficiency considering that hotel staff would be able to concentrate on improving the guest interaction instead of looking at screens as much as they generally do now. And of course, all of this may improve your bottom line, because time really is money. When the right information is provided at the right time to the right system, revenue-impacting decisions can happen faster and with more accuracy.
On the back end of your tech, there are other perks to be had. Ease of use from smoother internal systems integrations, CRS to PMS for instance, plus booking advances can help in creating better guest packages, which in turn can create a better onsite experience by catering to guests’ needs via more relevant, fresh data.
Quicker response times, added convenience, and ease of use onsite all can contribute to a more customized experience for the guest. By this point in time, everyone has grown so accustomed to instant responses via our mobile phones that utilizing those same phones to enhance the guest experience via integrated partners can be an easy and natural way to introduce new advanced technologies to guests. These include mobile check in and instant guest messaging as events are confirmed. From the guest outward, beiung able to contact the hotel staff through a simple text message or voice command means the hotel can better anticipate and understand guests’ needs like never before, which can substantially add to that sense of well-being we were discussing before.
From a CRS and booking engine perspective, customization to meet guests’ needs can be had from a streamlined booking process. This can save guests time by presenting more relevant special offers. Plus, there can be a new flexibility to make changes in reservations, and mobility to cater to guests’ needs to book anytime from any device.
Getting the Balance Right
Being able to not only capture guest information but provide that information to the systems that will further enhance the guest experience is key; whether that’s a CRM that understands the right marketing to send to a guest, or a CRS that understands the right offers to serve up to the guest based on collected data. Advanced integrations can also give your staff more confidence in meeting the guest needs in a timely manner, as well as predicting or recommending upgrades the hotel offers that the guest may not be aware of. And confidence increases morale, which in turn contributes to the overall positive atmosphere of your hotel.
Ultimately, technology should be an enhancement to a truly hospitable, tailored experience, providing strong tech that works for the hotel, while also having strong support when needed. But it may be easier to start off small, offering guests perks that really matter to them, i.e. free WiFi instead of valet parking. This means using your tech to really know which guests wants to have a more tech-centric experience (bypassing the front desk, for example), and which guests do not. So, have check-in that is easy and automated if that’s what your guests want, but have staff available who can provide that one-on-one communication as back up.
The Bottom Line
If you’re using your technology to determine what each guest really wants and expects from you’re your hotel, before during and after the stay, today’s technology doesn’t have to eliminate human interaction at all. The truth is that advanced technologies can actually help assist guests and staff, and improve your hotel efficiencies, experiences, and profitability. With the right integrations, meaningful personalization can elevate, not alienate, the guest experience.