5 Ways Technology Can Improve Guest Experience
Technology is often pegged as disruptive to the formation of quality relationships. That viewpoint is not incorrect. With news stories highlighting hotels operated entirely by robots, the potential for lack of human-to-human connection in our society–and in hotels–is a valid concern. And when guests visit hotels, they don’t necessarily want less interaction. Humans, after all, are the key to providing the kind of customer service that makes guests feel special, the kind that keeps them returning to the same hotel year after year.
But what if we told you that technology could be used to forge a deeper connection with your guests? When properly implemented, we believe that it can have a positive impact on both customer service and guest experience. Here’s why:
Automation for Increased Efficiency
If there’s one thing your guests hate, it’s waiting. They hate it so much that many are willing to sacrifice a little bit of human interaction for a more streamlined experience. A 2016 study by Zebra Technologies found that 70% of guests want to see technology used to decrease wait times.
And it’s true–when hotels automate small, repetitive tasks, it allows employees to spend more quality time with guests, making those meaningful connections that truly matter when it comes to customer service. Hotels are taking note and implementing technologies like mobile check-in and check out, but there are even more ways to increase efficiency.
Wait time is especially disruptive when it comes to guest inquiries. When your staff has to answer every question individually, it often results in lengthy lines at the front desk and prolonged hold-times on the phone. In an age of instant gratification, these drawn out processes are unacceptable and can lead to frustration. Artificial Intelligence is emerging to tackle this problem in many hotels, allowing for automated and instant answers to common guest questions, twenty-four seven. This gets guests what they want, when they want it and frees up staff to provide top-notch customer service to all guests throughout their stays.
One caveat: utilizing automation in your hotel doesn’t mean the guest experience should be devoid of human interaction. For example, although guests may be using mobile check-in, it’s best to have a staff member on hand to greet them when they arrive, for a non-transactional welcome that is both efficient and personable. The same goes for messaging–guests should always have the option to speak with a real person.
Your staff may be masters of customer service, but automated systems are better and faster when it comes to entering and analyzing data. There’s nothing that gets on a guest’s nerves more than a mistake on her bill or an unfulfilled request. Technology can work wonders to reduce small errors like these, ensuring that every guest’s stay runs as smoothly as possible.
For example, when it comes to tasks like collecting and processing information for guest requests, humans make significantly more errors than computers, contributing to guest dissatisfaction. At Ameniti, we’re particularly passionate about reducing friction between hotels and guests, so we spent years developing an automatic ticketing system. In the traditional ticketing process, a guest calls the front desk with a request and speaks with an employee, who creates a ticket manually. With automatic ticketing, tickets are simply created from digital communications with guests. If a guest wants an extra towel, the request will be submitted directly to housekeeping, cutting out the middleman- and the potential for inaccuracies.
The majority of guests agree that this is a good thing. In Oracle Hospitality and Phocuswright’s “Creating the Coveted Guest Experience” study, 94% of business travelers and 80% of leisure travelers expressed interest in using smartphones to request services and message hotel staff. Our world is becoming more and more smartphone-oriented, and guests are increasingly willing to request services via messaging rather than phone calls. This is good news for hotels, because it allows them to provide better customer service.
Guests increasingly expect their stays to be personalized with information they submit during the booking process. This information enables hotels to provide customized experiences, promotions, and perks based on guests’ ages, interests, or whether they are traveling for business or pleasure.
For example, a room can be selected for a guest based on the preferences he indicates during the online booking process. If health and fitness are important to a guest, the hotel can send a notification to her phone with gym hours or a recommendation for a local vegetarian restaurant. Guests traveling with children can receive information about kid-friendly attractions nearby.
For members of a hotel’s loyalty program, a personalized experience could mean even more – a voucher for a massage at the hotel spa, or a favorite cocktail waiting in their room upon arrival, for instance. Frequent or returning guests can also save preferences for things like room temperature or type of pillows preferred, and the hotel can use them to ready the room for their stay. The possibilities are endless.
Location services provide even more opportunities for customization, and we predict that using them to customize every aspect of the guest experience will be a major trend over the coming years. Privacy may be less of a concern than previously thought, with Zebra Technologies’ study indicating that 75% of travelers are willing to share their personal information in exchange for tailored promotions, coupons, priority service or loyalty points.
Connecting with Guests on Many Different Platforms
These days, hotels can interact with guests on a variety of platforms before, during and after their stays. Technology allows for hotels to engage through social media, email, or even SMS. This increased connection goes a long way in assuring guests that they are valued customers, in addition to breeding loyalty and trust.
The use of social media listening tools allows hotels to monitor guest reactions to the hotel and utilize them to create a better experience for future stays. Often, unsatisfied guests just want to know that they are being heard. Social media and online review aggregators are the perfect platform for guests to air their grievances, and for hotels to respond empathetically. An unprecedented number of guests are taking to social media to share their experiences, and hotels are missing an opportunity if they fail to listen.
Mobile technology is another important opportunity for a hotel to provide enhanced customer service. For example, when a hotel has the ability to send a message to a guest asking if he would like his room cleaned, rather than knocking and potentially disturbing him, it minimizes friction and maximizes satisfaction. Mobile also opens the door for options like push notifications to communicate important information to guests. Although mobile communication is a significant change for hoteliers, the reduction in phone calls and facetime with guests doesn’t mean lower-quality interactions, just more convenient ones.
High-tech perks have the potential to make every guest feel like a VIP while reducing workload for hotel staff. Hotels now have the option to enhance guest experience with everything from in-room wireless charging stations to Ameniti’s own digital personal assistant.
There are many new services and products designed to help hotels innovate- some Hilton hotels, for example, are using Nightingale, an advanced sound system that lulls guests to sleep after a long day of travel. Minibar technology is advancing as well, with smart fridges that alert staff when a refill is required, and even one model that provides guests with premium wine selections on-tap. Other hotels are utilizing tools that allow guests to control a room’s temperature and lighting from their mobile devices or an in-room tablet. These luxuries also have added benefits for staff – fewer noise complaints, for example, or a reduced need to check on the mini fridge.
Staying at a hotel is a special experience for many guests, and luxurious upgrades like these go a long way towards improving their experiences. It’s also important for hoteliers to stay ahead of the curve. Investing in high-tech extras will become essential as these offerings move from luxury to expectation for guests.
Hoteliers- how do you feel about the intersection of technology and guest experience? Do you have any concerns about the implementation of new technology at your hotel? Let us know in the comments or send us an email at email@example.com.