The hospitality industry has historically been bound to its traditions. In the business of making others feel comfortable and welcome – the foundations on which the hotel industry is built on – hoteliers defined the guest experience by their personal interactions between guests and staff, believing that long-standing traditional values can only be successfully delivered and received as a face-to-face interaction.
But as any savvy hotelier knows, the current hospitality landscape has outgrown those traditions. With technology enabling increasingly convenient lifestyles guests now have a desire to take control of their stay. Where guests previously expected to be greeted with cheerful front desk staff, they now prefer a self-service check-in option, allowing them to bypass lines and interact with the hotel freely (and immediately). Moreover, guests today expect customized service with a low-touch flair, allowing them to express complete control over their hotel experience.
Self-service hotel technology entering the hotel space has caused some needless apprehension for some luxury and boutique hoteliers believing it could undermine the human touch many travelers appreciate. While there is no doubt that the relationship between hospitality and technology is a balancing act, by providing guests the choice, has the power to improve the guest experience. Here are just a few ways how:
We are living in a self-service world where you can buy groceries and check-in for flights without interacting with a single person. With technology enabling increasingly convenient lifestyles guests now expect a certain level of control over their stay. This means guests already have preconceived expectations about their stay at a hotel and if it doesn’t match the standards they set in their own life, there’s going to be problems.
Research has found that 80% of customers prefer to self-serve options to get the information that they need. Modern guests, especially those of the millennial generation and younger, are continuously demonstrating a desire for increased mobile functionality and convenience. This desire conceptualizes in the form of integrated hotel apps, mobile check-in, and mobile keys, just to name a few. In fact, it is reported that guests using a digital key generally rate a hotel seven points higher than traditional key card guests.
An increase in self-service technology also translates to an increased opportunity to gather guest data at every touch point for improved personalization. Such data can include previously occupied rooms, special requirements and notes, customer preferences, amenities used, company information and so on. Hotels can then use this data to create guest profiles and save preferred settings. This allows hotels to both better customize communications and respective offers for various guest segments and also to ensure guests’ expectations are immediately met (or better yet, exceeded) every visit.
In the hospitality industry where customer experience is everything delivering personalization can pay dividend. It only takes one bad experience for 25% of customers to defect to competitors but for those that excel at creating memorable personal customer experiences, the rewards are clear. Such hotels can achieve revenue gains of 5 to 10 percent and cost reductions of 15 to 25 percent within two or three years.
There is a misconception that self-service may seem to be a model that decreases engagement with staff or a brand and compromises the human aspect of the hospitality, when in fact, the opposite is true. Self-service encourages a different kind of engagement. It complements and enhance existing hotel services allowing your staff to further service guests.
Self-service solutions allow staff to be less transactional and focus on establishing more personal, genuine connections with guests. Hotel employees are no longer confined to stationary positions within the lobby or left to guess what guest expectations might be. Instead, staff can freely move around the hotel and service the guests wherever they are. A Cornell Hospitality report highlighted brands that provide a consistently exceptional hotel stay via technology “are not only able to remain relevant, they can also strengthen guest loyalty, motivate return visits, increase average daily rate, and drive incremental hotel revenue.”
The tradition of limiting service and interaction to just your hotel staff and physical property is being outgrown by the ability of technology to automate and make many processes easier for guests. Offering guests the choice of self-service improves their overall stay experience. It doesn’t change the basic values of hospitality, it helps you to continue delivering an exceptional service but now with more efficiency.