A virtual key is the smartphone version of the key or pass found in most hotels. Its mobile version facilitates the guest journey and optimises the welcome at reception. Here are 8 benefits for the guest and the hotel that come with dematerialising room keys onto the guests’ smartphone.
The modern guest’s expectations are known to all: the traveller of today is looking for efficiency, control and personalisation. These expectations apply to their daily life (which the FAANG have understood well), but especially to when they are travelling in an environment with which they are less or not at all familiar.
A mobile key in the hotel industry is the digital version of the physical key card that allows the hotel guest to open their room or accommodation simply by motioning their phone towards the lock on the door. It is accessible on his or her smartphone and, thanks to several technologies, allows the guest to unlock the lock to access his or her room.
The key’s identifiers are stored in the guest’s smartphone and are accessible throughout their stay. Thus, the guest does not need to be connected to the internet to use their mobile key to open their door. He simply needs to activate his Bluetooth® connection to make contact with the connected lock on his door.
How would a guest benefit from using a mobile key?
Dematerialising the key on the mobile phone offers comfort to the guest who is used to being able to do everything with his smartphone.
① Speed up arrival and departure
A traveller’s worst nightmare: arriving at his hotel after his long, tiring journey and seeing a queue of people at reception when all he wants to do is drop down his suitcases. The figures speak for themselves: a five-minute wait at check-in reduces customer satisfaction by 50%. Whether on business or on holiday, no traveller wants to wait, especially if they have already been to the hotel and already familiarized themselves with the services, have already filled in their information and have deliberately chosen to return to the hotel.
The mobile key solves this issue: it reduces time at check in for each guest and thus reduces waiting time.
When the guest departs, the mobile key deactivates itself. This is great for the guest who now doesn’t have to worry about returning the key card before leaving, and can focus on getting to the airport/train station on time.
② Getting to your room made as easily as possible
Guests always have their smartphone with them, and even more so during their trips: they use it to catch a plane or train, search for a restaurant or a tourist attraction, guide them to their destinations, read reviews left by other customers, take photos, pay, access their emails or chat with friends and family. Dematerialising the room key on the mobile phone makes it possible to open the room on the device that is most familiar to the guest.
In addition, the guest will be accessing their room several times a day, and so this process must be as easy as possible.
③ Avoid key card losses and malfunctioning
Getting to their room and not being able to open it with their card after waiting at reception can have a damaging effect on guest satisfaction. As well as the constant worry of losing their card at any point in their stay, guests are faced with several other problems when using key passes.
The guest is not used to having the key on their person (unlike his mobile phone), they forget it in their room, and when they don’t forget it, they have to be careful not to demagnetise it, in which case they would have to return it to the reception. A mobile key benefits both the guest and the reception: the former as they are spared of all the above concerns and the latter as they can focus on other topics of discussion with guests.
How would a hotel benefit from using a mobile key?
④ Optimising the efficiency of operational teams
Any technology that facilitates check-in and check-out formalities has the effect of lightning these rushed moments for the reception, who can consequently better concentrate on welcoming the guest. Not having to deal with physical cards allows the receptionist to take more time to ensure that their client is not missing anything and to answer any questions they may already have.
⑤ Facilitating the management of keys
Before their arrival, the guest automatically receives the link to retrieve his key. The hotelier does not have to manually send the key to the guest. The guest uses their information to access their encrypted key. It is then saved in the guest’s phone for the duration of the stay.
Their mobile key is automatically updated if, for example, the guest changes rooms, or if the guest has booked a late check-out and the deactivation time needs to be delayed. Unlike a pass that has to be re-encrypted, the mobile key is updated automatically.
A mobile key can be used to open not only the room or place of accommodation, but also other facilities within the hotel. Thus, you can easily limit (or not limit) access to rooms or different facilities depending on the type of client (all-inclusive, VIP, etc.), hotel staff or even if you have a service provider, so that they only have access to the facilities reserved for them.
⑥ Better management of late arrivals
Guests who arrive outside normal reception hours often have a less positive experience than others. Automating key management by using mobile keys makes it easier for late arrivals to access the accommodation and gives them better control over their experience. For hotels without a 24-hour reception, it is essential to provide a welcome outside reception hours and to adapt to the needs of the guest, rather than imposing the operation of the hotel on them.
⑦ Assuring guest security
A lost pass requires a considerable amount of action on the part of the hotelier to secure the establishment (physical updating of the lock, the lift, the car park etc. to block the lost card). The mobile key has the advantage of being more secure, particularly thanks to the security features built into almost all mobile phones (automatic locking, PIN code, etc.).
The creation of the mobile key is also highly secure as the right key must be given to the right guest. Mobile keys require double authentication on the part of the guest, similar to Internet payments using 3D-Secure. A mobile key will only work on the guests’s smartphone, with their reservation, with the room they have booked and in the hotel application. It also cannot be transferred to another device.
Finally, the RFID cards used in the majority of hotels are easily duplicated technologies, unlike mobile keys which are encrypted and accessible through single sign-on.
⑧ Increase guest satisfaction and loyalty
A mobile key offers the customer a much appreciated comfort that allows them to have total control over their stay on the platform they know best: their smartphone. In addition to the practicality and ease of use of mobile keys, given that mobile opening of the room is not yet widespread, it is a real eye-opener for guests, who consequently see their experience directly enhanced.
A better experience leads to higher guest satisfaction, better reputation and increased loyalty.
The advantages for the guest and the hotelier of dematerialising access to the room on the smartphone go beyond the gadgetry and practical aspect. Indeed, this process allows the hotelier to free up time to better welcome the guest by completely delegating the management of the keys. In addition to being more secure and convenient, mobile keys add a step to the digital guest experience that shows the hotel’s dedication to providing maximum comfort to its guests.