Previously in the hospitality tech series…
We considered why you can’t ignore smart digital tech and how to meet you guests’ expectations for a digitally enriched stay. This time we’ll be discussing the rise of the smartphone’s popularity and how it’s shaping the way you need to interact with your guests, as well as considering how you can get closer to them in order to anticipate their needs and personalise their experience.
3. Mobile search is the start of the journey
Whether it’s searching for the right hotel, immediately connecting to the Wi-Fi upon arrival, being recommended the perfect little bistro restaurant or a virtual reality tour of the facilities, technology is an inherent and valuable part of the entire travel lifecycle.
Driving this need for the hospitality sector to adopt bigger, better or different technological innovations is the millennial generation – younger travellers that have grown up surrounded by technological advancements and who crave the need to be always connected. Accounting for 50% of travellers worldwide – a figure that will only increase in the coming years – satisfying their demands is all about delivering instant gratification.
This modern consumer wants effortless, personalised experiences, and they expect to get what they want at the click of a button – which means you’re going to need an app.
Loyalty programmes have always been commonplace within the hospitality industry, allowing customers to accumulate points that they can later exchange for attractive rewards. Apps modernise this dated approach to loyalty. Rather than reward someone purely for returning, they add value to your customer’s experience through timely updates, personalised content and other perks. Taking loyalty to the next level, apps will encourage your customers to post rave reviews following their exceptional stay.
But apps have another side – data.
Every action your customer takes through your app is captured. Now you have a wealth of data, which when analysed will help you understand their behaviour and preferences to give you the actionable insight that drives engagement, retention and loyalty.
So what could you think about including as part of your app?
The practical application
The check-in process is often cited by customers as being the most painful aspect of their stay. Using your app to allow people to check-in online – as they might do when catching a flight – would reduce the waiting time in reception. And then allowing them to unlock their room door through the app means that as soon as they arrive, they can head straight to their room.
Thinking about the duration of your guest’s stay, you could use your app to allow them to send messages to the reception team with any questions, or requests for room service or additional toiletries.
Through your app you could also show guests personalised ads based on their preferences, alerting them to menu specials, daily excursions, or evening entertainment that might make their stay more pleasurable.
And the consequences of doing this…
Mobile app loyalty programmes are the best use of technology to improve customer service. And guests engaging with the programme will spend up to 18% more during their stay. It’s a huge, untapped opportunity that’s there for the taking.
4. AI is reshaping guest interaction
In the digital world, customers expect to be able to do whatever they want, through any channel of their choosing at the click of a button, expecting an immediate response – that’s pretty demanding.
Resourcing that with personnel to monitor and respond in a quick and meaningful way simply isn’t practical because it’s going to drain your money, and take their attention away from the customers they’re currently taking care of. So what you need are AI chatbots.
Used effectively, these tools enable you to interact with your customers in the moment, and even anticipate your guest’s requirements without needing a person to be physically present.
Serving as a virtual host, AI chatbots improve customer satisfaction, reduce costs and improve service effectiveness both before and after your customers make a purchase. Business leaders predict that in less than three years you will need one to stay competitive, so if you haven’t got one, now’s the time to think about it.
So how could an AI chatbot free up your team, allowing them to dedicate more time to the things that really matter?
The practical application
There will be many standard requests made to your reception team that don’t necessarily require human interaction. For example, ordering room service, more towels, or a turn-down service. While your AI chatbot deals with their requests, your team is free to fulfil them quicker. And 93% of hotel guests would be comfortable using this technology to contact your reception team.
Although voice search is in its infancy, it’s quickly gaining in popularity because it allows consumers to find what they want easier and faster – 43% of guests already prefer to use voice search. A quarter of digital engagement leaders are adding AI voice-based technologies to their establishment to enhance the guest experience.
Research from Google shows that two-thirds of smartphone users are more likely to buy from companies that tailor their offering based on location, showing that location-based services are crucial to improving the guest experience. Think about how you can personalise your guest’s stay through restaurant recommendations or well-timed offers.
AI may once have been the subject of science-fiction, perhaps feared because of the lack of human intervention and the threat that robots would take over the world. In reality, AI is commonplace in our everyday lives and offers the opportunity to digitally transform your business, simply by enhancing your guest experience.
In next week’s instalment we will look at the importance of online reviews in a digital world and how to encourage more of them, as well as a deep dive on using tech to improve the check-in process.
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