Hotel guest expectations have never been higher. Through a combination of steady technological advancements and demographic changes, the lives of modern consumers have become deeply linked to their mobile devices.
We rely on our smartphones to help us navigate the world and engage with all types of businesses — this is now the norm. In fact, 73% of travelers prefer hotels with self-service technology, according to industry research.
All of this taken together means that the quality of a hotel’s digital guest journey has become an integral part of the overall hospitality experience for the majority of guests.
To meet these new expectations — and reap the rewards of doing so — leading hotels, hospitality brands and management groups are turning to technology solutions that are designed to help create more personalized guest-staff interactions, automate rote administrative processes, improve data security and boost revenue. Here are the three stages of the digital guest experience and how they are evolving.
Before a guest ever steps foot on property, they’re interacting with your hotel and brand. Post booking — but before the guest actually arrives on property — hoteliers have the opportunity to digitally interact with the guest to streamline operations and elevate the guest experience. Surprisingly, many hotels do not take full advantage of the pre-arrival stage.
Most hoteliers are missing out on the opportunity to introduce guests to everything your property has to offer. Amenities. Upgrades. Things to do. The pre-arrival stage is the perfect time for hoteliers to upsell guests who may prefer a larger room, early check-in or a spa treatment.
But relying on email misses out on one of the greatest technological shifts of the last 15 years. Text messaging can allow properties to answer guests’ questions easily via text before they even step foot on the property. These messaging systems can advise guests on what time check-in is, whether they can check in early or late, what time the property’s restaurant is open and whether they can make a reservation, and more. This availability to travelers can pay dividends to a great guest experience.
Hoteliers can even streamline their check-in process by engaging guests before arrival. One of the most notable ways hotels are digitizing the guest journey is through mobile check-in. Guests can now check-in and access their rooms entirely through their mobile devices. This drastically frees up the front-desk — reducing lines and allowing staff to focus on hospitality rather than admin work. Many hotels are also implementing keyless entry systems, which allow guests to access their rooms using their smartphones or smartwatches.
Check-in day. It’s the guests’ first impression with your physical property and the welcome experience is critical to setting the stage for a great in-stay guest experience. Properties with mobile check-in are eliminating front desk lines and elevating the welcome experience. A Cornell study found that even a five-minute wait time decreases guest satisfaction scores by 47%.
Once the guest is on property, it’s critical to marry the physical and digital experiences. Once your guest checks in, they can receive an automated text message, welcoming them to your property and letting them know that they can simply text back if they need anything.
Guest messaging systems are also drastically evolving. The more robust systems can automatically respond to your most common questions — saving front desk and concierge teams a valuable time. What time is check-out? What’s the Wi-Fi? Technology can now automatically respond to these questions. On top of that, the most advanced messaging systems are now incorporating generative artificial intelligence to automatically generate responses based on pre-trained contextual information about your hotel.
Everything around us is being digitized, but somehow tipping in hotels is stuck in the 1950s. A recent Canary survey found that 80% of guests believe that hotel workers should be tipped, but only 30% actually tip given the lack of options. That’s why hotels are now implementing digital tipping platforms to make it easier for guests to do so. These platforms allow guests to leave a tip using their smartphones, eliminating the need for cash and making it easier for hotel workers to receive their tips.
One example: Dream Hollywood Hotel in Los Angeles has been an early adopter of digital guest journey technology. They have integrated guest management systems, real time notifications for the housekeeping staff, robot room service, and NFT galleries. General Manager Vaughn Davis believes that technology has been a great enabler for the guest experience at the Dream Hollywood, stating that, "Today's guests are more comfortable with technology than ever, and they expect outstanding, mobile-friendly digital experiences. Technology has improved our guest satisfaction scores, and the hotel is now driving more revenue than ever before.”
Having the guests depart your property on a high note is just as important as the welcome. Technology has made the check-out process more efficient for guests. Many hotels offer remote check-out options where guests can settle their bills, receive invoices and provide feedback online. This eliminates the need to wait in line and streamlines the departure process.
And hotels are leveraging technology to maintain personalized communication with guests even after they check out. This can include sending automated emails or text messages to thank guests for their stay, requesting feedback or reviews or informing them about special offers for future visits.
While the digitization of the hotel guest journey is still in its early stages, hotels are embracing technology and automation to enhance their guests' experience and manage their operations more efficiently. In the future, we can expect to see even more automated solutions, such as personalized recommendations through AI and virtual or augmented reality experiences for guests. As technology continues to evolve, the hotel industry will undoubtedly find new ways to use it to provide a seamless and unforgettable guest experience.
Copyright 2023 Northstar Travel Media, LLC. All rights reserved. From https://www.phocuswire.com. By Harman Singh Narula.