The idea of ‘the perfect guest experience’ has taken on a new meaning in recent years. Though breakfast in bed and reserved sunbeds at the pool once sufficed, this is clearly no longer the case. Guests now expect a fully customised experience: from a personalised welcome to carefully selected recommendations and even specialised contact throughout – the traveller of today comes to a hotel for an experience specifically tailored to their wants and needs.
The past few years have done nothing but emphasise the above: guests now not only expect a highly personalised experience, but one that is almost completely digitised. Digitalisation means less physical interaction and also gives the guest more freedom over their stay: it is, therefore, evident why the provision of digital tools and services must now be a priority for hotels.
In order to ensure that the hotel is able to respond to the guests’ expectations, the establishment must:
- Offer a personalised experience
- Provide instant assistance
- Ensure internal operations management is seamless
- Digitise standard services
- Make use of a unique guest database
1. OFFER A PERSONALISED EXPERIENCE
Being able to create a fully customised experience has become a prerequisite for the modern hotel, with guests now expecting to receive a personalised treatment long before the actual check-in date. Customising something as early as the confirmation email and the emails that follow allows the guest to quickly be immersed in the world of the hotel and to initiate the guest relationship. Indeed, 79% of consumers say that they are more loyal to brands with higher levels of personalisation, highlighting the huge importance of customisation in guest loyalty and satisfaction.
Personalisation should be prioritised throughout the stay at every contact point with the guest, whether that be physical or digital. Through data accumulation- using forms/surveys, for example- the hotel should know the types of services each guest prefers so that they can offer a service to the guest before they even have to ask: this could be a reservation at a restaurant, a spa treatment, or something as simple as directions to the hotel. This allows the hotel not only to meet guest expectations but also to have more control of the relationship with their guests.
By remaining in the hotel’s ecosystem, the hotel becomes the guest’s point of contact not just for their accommodation but for their entire stay. For the guest, it simplifies their trip by having a single point of contact to which to turn and ask for advice. For the hotel, it increases its additional sales and its guests are more satisfied and consequently more loyal to the hotel.
2. PROVIDE INSTANT ASSISTANCE
The guest has become conditioned by technology in other industries to a certain level of service, yet the provision of digitally-based services in hotels is lacking, despite the fact that the industry is centred around experience. The reception desk, the room directory and landline telephone are three features that have been fixtures of hotel operations for years. Guests now, however, wish to be able to contact the receptionist via other means than the in-room telephone, and also want easier access to information.
Therefore, a messaging hub to speak with guests using all communication channels (SMS, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, hotel app chat service…) paired with a digital room directory makes it possible to respond to guest requests whilst also allowing both the hotel and the guest to benefit from the advantages that come with the use of this technology such as:
- the speed of exchanges, thanks to SMS and instant messaging platforms such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger
- the ease of access to information and the ease of updating data on a web portal (as opposed to a paper guide book) which is more beneficial for the guest who can access the information they need in their own language
- the accessibility of the interlocutor due to the fact that communication with the hotel is realised on the guest’s phone, which he/she carries at all times.
A recent study on the different messaging apps highlighted the most used applications by customer type in order to better understand and meet guest expectations. The results were clear: instant messaging is familiar to guests and it is what they use when they want a quick response, especially in the event of a problem. The study also shows how this information can be used in the context of a hotel stay to improve the guest experience and increase guest satisfaction.
3. ENSURE INTERNAL OPERATIONS MANAGEMENT IS SEAMLESS
Good team management is essential for both of the above factors to function properly. A hotel is only able to provide excellence to its guests when the internal staff network is faultless meaning there is effective organisation and communication within and between teams. Hotel teams are facing the challenge of doing more work with fewer resources. They have had no choice but to adapt quickly and show flexibility and coordination, which has been considerably easier for establishments who are equipped with technological tools to help them.
Communication between teams from all different departments such as housekeeping, reception, and kitchen staff must be quick, constant and efficient. Having an online software to manage internal staff matters is therefore essential: a virtual log book combined with an internal messaging service and database therefore allows the hotel to manage, follow and centralise hotel operations and train teams easily.
Using a tool to centralise internal operations management on a common platform for all teams which is accessible from anywhere ensures the smooth functioning of a hotel and means that staff can focus wholly on their guests, rather than lengthy procedural tasks to be completed each shift.
4. DIGITISATION OF STANDARD SERVICES
The guest journey need not only be bespoke, but also seamless. That is to say, from the booking right up until check-out, there should be no inconveniences- no matter how minor- for the guest. Technology is our friend here; if it is used effectively, it enables the provision of a smooth guest journey and also gives the hotel the power to streamline all of its services.
Filling-in check-in forms at the Front Desk, waiting in the queue, or getting out your credit card are processes detested by most. Allowing guests to anticipate these procedures when they are comfortably seated at home, in the taxi travelling to the hotel, or at whatever time they feel is most convenient, gives the guest the freedom to choose what is best for them and makes them feel as though the hotel is adapting to them, not the other way around. The hotel also benefits here: the front desk is relieved of non-value-added procedures when they meet the guest for the first time, and can therefore devote this time to the guest relationship rather than to these procedural tasks.
A Statista study from August 2020 revealed that 62% of guests prefer to check-in/out via a hotel app. Expedia also found that 8 in 10 travelers also now expect to make accommodation decisions based on implemented pandemic measures such as contactless check in, room service and takeout, Covid-19 hygiene protocols and reduced capacity.
Mobile keys also have the advantage of relieving the hotelier of the management of key cards and simplifying the guest journey whilst lowering the hotel’s cost as they don’t have to replace lost cards. Coupled with dematerialised check-in and check-out, the time spent at the front desk managing procedures is considerably reduced to leave more room to focus on guest relations.
5. MAKE USE OF A UNIQUE GUEST DATABASE
To ensure a seamless experience during the guest’s visit, accumulation of data is key. The idea is to collect (and be able to reuse) as much information as possible, firstly so as not to ask guests for information that has already been provided (contact details, preferences, services, etc.), but above all so as not to annoy them and to offer them only what interests them.
Collecting guest information is also an important element in valuing returning clients. A hotel that knows exactly when a guest came and what services they ordered will be highly valued by the guest and this service will be recognised. For group or chain hotels, this valuable information can be shared between establishments to ensure a consistent quality experience and thus enhance customer loyalty.
These specificities of the guest relationship are bound to develop and intensify. The next generation, which is referred to in a Skift report as “travel’s next big opportunity”, has an appetite for digital technology and is used to being able to turn to service providers to understand this. It is up to hotels not to close the doors on guest relations by not responding to the behaviours and expectations of this clientele. These five rules require external and internal digitalisation; hotels that have integrated it into their processes will inevitably see an increase in guest satisfaction and loyalty.
Expedia : 2020-21 Traveler Sentiment and Influences
Formation : Brand Loyalty 2020
LoungeUp : Study: Instant messaging in hospitality: which guests use which platforms
Medium.com : The Jam Experiment — How Choice Overloads Makes Consumers Buy Less
Statista : Global hotel check-in/out tech preferences worldwide 2020
Photo Credits: Drobotdean – Freepik