April 16 2014

Update your Hotels Check IN and OUT process… offer CHOICE!

It’s being done the same way for centuries now. Guests walk in the door, they find the front desk, sometimes wait in line, than are being checked in by a hotel employee, who mostly looks down at a computer. Guests usually do not have great memories of the check in or out experience in a hotel. Still when speaking to many hoteliers they are reluctant to let go of that age old “from behind the desk” check in/out process. They feel that’s the only way to service, please and connect with the guest. But in 2014, is that really the only way to please ALL guests?

With forcing guests to check in via the front desk, the experience is not always a great one. What happens if a group or airline crew is arriving at the same time? Or if the guest in front of the line, happens to be a difficult one… yes, everybody else has to wait! Very quickly for subsequent guests, the check in experience becomes a long waiting process, and no matter how nice the front desk agent is, the waiting part as a first impression will remain and remembered!

Here is a text I picked from a guest writing about his recent checkin experience “My negative experience checking at the Intercontinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort today got me to write this review. We were checking in at the same time as a group was checking out, causing chaos at the total reception area!” An all to familiar situation, especially in larger hotels or hotels that facilitate groups and airline crews. This guest also went on to write “It made me aware how old fashioned hotel systems are even today at premium resorts like the Intercontinental Danang. It showed that there is a bright future for newer technologies and check in processes, I can do everything mobile…. except checking into a hotel!”

Guests don’t look forward to the front desk check in experience.That’s something they see as a necessity and want to be done with quickly, especially the road warriors!” says Scott Dawson, Area Managing Director for Commune Hotels in Washington DC. “They come back to my hotels, when we provide great rooms, and smooth touch points with our staff. This is exactly what we would like to see in our hotels. If my guests want, they should be able to check in from their smartphone, go to their room and relax.”

By offering the choice for guests to check in from their Smartphone and get the key from our dispenser in the lobby, or go to front desk to be checked in by my team, or even better, by my team using tablets to check in guests we feel we answer to what guests are looking for in today’s hotels.” says Victor Muoghalu, Assistant General Manager at the Carlyle Suites Hotel in Washington DC. “Our guests are getting the check in experience THEY want! And when it gets busy at the front desk, we use our tablet’s to walk up to guests, and quickly check them in or out.”

Technology is available for hotels to make the front desk obsolete. Problems like those experienced by the guest trying to check in, while a large group was checking out, should be a thing of the past. Hoteliers should re-think “Is it our guests that want to come to the front desk for a great check in experience….., or is it really us (hoteliers) that believe that checking in at the front desk is always a great experience?” As for check out… most guests have voted…. Who these days checks out at the front desk (or checks out at all)?… very few still do (more on that in next weeks blog post).

Hotels with traditional magsstripe key cards, can place affordable and nicely looking key dispensers in the lobby, so they can enable full circle self check in. Hotels with RFID key systems can deliver a nice check in experience by using tablet’s to check in the guest and create the room key right in front of the guest, anywhere in the lobby, in the limo or even while walking the guest up to her room! Perfect to check in groups, VIP’s or just your “regular” guest waiting in line at the front desk.

It’s not about “We want to check in our guests at the front desk!” It should be about providing the check in method the guest prefers… self check in or by staff, that’s what will make hotels stand out!.

By Jos Schaap, CEO – Founder at StayNTouch, Inc.