Not long ago, airlines mobile apps didn’t do much. They promoted their brand, offered a less-than-ideal flight search and at best, triggered an email containing a link to your QR code to be scanned at the TSA checkpoint. Remember those days? I do. Invariably when I went to retrieve my QR code while in the TSA line, I would search for that text message (scroll scroll scroll…there it is!), click on it only to realize that I hadn’t yet connected to the airport wifi…forget it! I learned fast that the old airline apps just didn’t help me during my travels…so I didn’t use them
Recently, all this changed. The apps were updated. Today, searching and booking flights is actually faster on the phone than on a desktop. I can view the seat-map on my phone while in the TSA line and change to the exit row aisle (start up first class!) in real time. Further, the app puts my TSA QR Code in my iPhone’s Passbook…which means two hours before my flight, the QR Code pops up on my lock screen meaning I can access it with a finger swipe…wow, convenient! I now use airline apps all the time because they actually help me a ton during my travels. I love it!
What changed? The airlines created an app experience with real-time integration with their back end systems…and that is a huge difference! And because I use the app during my trips, the airline earns the right to spin up relevant promotions right before I get on that plane (more legroom for $40? pre-purchase food for $10?). As we’ve all so often read about, promotions offered at the point of purchase (i.e. just before getting on the plane) have a dramatically higher rate of success. That is a win – win. The traveler wins with convenience and choice. The airline wins with increased incremental revenues.
What can the hotel industry learn from this? Well, lets look at hotel apps…the great majority of today’s hotel mobile apps are not integrated with the hotel’s systems. As we saw with airlines, no integration with the back end system is a dramatic limitation on what the app can do for the traveler. As the EVP of eCommerce at Marriott stated so correctly…without PMS integration, hotel apps are relegated to being nothing more than mobile brochures. Yawn…
SO…if a two-way, real-time, PMS/POS-integrated mobile hotel app did exist, what are the possibilities?
The hotel could offer automated room upgrade promotions with pictures of the upgrades to increase conversion (pictures are powerful selling tools).
Guests could actually check in via the smartphone, and the PMS would be updated in real-time. And with the soon arriving BLE or NFC door lock systems, the smartphone could be used as the room key itself, allowing guests to not only check in during the cab ride to the hotel, but the guest could skip the front desk and go straight to their rooms. As a GM friend of mine once said…my guests do not come to my hotel for the front desk experience. They come for my great rooms and my great service. So right!
On days where the next night’s occupancy is soft, the hotel could promote late checkouts for say…$20, $30 or heck, $100 until 4pm…and those that accept (with a frictionless touch of the smartphone) would have their guest record in the PMS duly noted and the fee automatically applied to the folio.
Room service could be promoted and guests could order right from their own smartphone and such orders would automatically go into the POS.
Guests could communicate directly with staff and staff could respond, better connecting the guest to the hotel and available services.
Guests could check out from their smartphones, review their bill, request folios to be emailed…and the PMS would be automatically updated. Hotels could incent guests to actually checkout with loyalty points or other…which improves housekeeping operations.
Such apps could have geo-location awareness, thus alerting hotel staff when guests are near the hotel so as to have their room assigned and ready prior to approaching the desk, and allowing staff to greet guests by name…always a nice service touch.
I think you get the idea…with integration comes great possibilities. The new service paradigm is right around the corner. Are you ready?