Mobile phones have made life so much easier in many ways and are particularly useful when travelling. They are an omnipresent companion on the road, providing us with up-to-date information and a source of entertainment. The hotel industry is capitalizing on this trend as the demand for personalisation increases and they strive to enhance the customer experience with digital services. But are these new ‘services’ they offer really what the guest wants?
Guests expectations are high
The guest experience is an extremely high priority for hoteliers who are often expected to provide a range of digital services ranging from booking apps and easy payment systems to room keys and concierge services. But sometimes these services can be too sophisticated, complicated or unreliable, as network complications, power failures or theft of mobile phones can turn a potentially enriching experience into a user nightmare!
The range of services is rapidly expanding
Many hotel chains already have a mobile version of their website with an integrated payment gateway. Hotels can’t afford to be inattentive as around 40% of mobile phone users report abandoning a travel booking due to poor experience. Payment by smartphone on a variety of services is becoming increasingly widespread. Smartphone keys and room control, for example for closing the curtains, or turning the lights or heating on or off, are also beginning to take hold. Indeed, trends show that service sales through mobile offerings such as room service, spa appointments, or other amenities have increased by 18 percent, as guests are provided services in their time, at their pace. Personalisation is what people want.
It’s not surprizing then that Hilton recently spent more than $100m to develop and install digital key technology, as well as a further $550m on infrastructure to run their app and hotel management systems!
What does the guest really want?
Are hotels going in the right direction in their quest for digitalisation? Some are using QR codes next to room-service or restaurant menu items, which guests can scan to get more information about the ingredients and the preparation of the food. Is this going too far? Perhaps digital services should focus more on personalisation, convenience and efficiency, aspects that front desk staff deliver daily in their exchanges with guests? Indeed, there are many digital services available for guests that provide simple and useful customer services, and not just digital for the sake of digital.
Give them something really useful!
For most guests, their accommodation is simply a facilitator for the primary reason of their visit. A business man booking a room is probably in the area for a meeting or congress. A family may book a room for a holiday or to explore a city. So, helping a guest fulfil their main motive would probably be much more beneficial and appreciated. Think about it: if all things were equal and you had the choice of a hotel that offered you a QR code for a digital city map and tour of the city, or a QR code which gave you the details of how the TV remote control worked, which one would you choose?
Self-guided sightseeing apps are simple to use and greatly appreciated
Technology can be expensive, and smaller businesses do not have the budget of the big hotel chains, but this does not mean that they cannot provide 5-star digital services to guests. Most travellers need a map when visiting a city for the first time, so hoteliers will be right on target with app-based self-guided sightseeing city tours using public transport. The more sophisticated versions work offline, meaning guests can pin the hotel as ‘home’ and navigate there without ever getting lost. This way the hotel stays in the guests’ pockets even when they are out and about.
A navigation and self-guiding app have a dual benefit – not only is the guest provided with a useful service, but the hotel also gains rich data on guest behaviour and activity trends. In today’s competitive world, data is king, having this type of information helps businesses make better targeted marketing decisions.
Today’s aspirations are for personalisation and efficiency
Smartphone technology is being rapidly adapted by hotels across the world in order to provide their customers with a better experience, and it is easy to see how this technology will become a lot more widespread in the future as technology improves. However, the main concern for hotels is to manage the use of smartphones to enhance the customer experience, without replacing the high-quality personal service. The service should be to compliment the hotel staff’s personal touch, to help guests enjoy their free time, or to improve efficiency. If they get this balance right, smartphone integration and digital services in hotels is almost certain to improve the experience for all guests.