News for the Hospitality Executive
By Andrew Sanders
Just because a traveler is a member of your hotel's loyalty program doesn't necessarily mean that he or she will remain devoted to your property or brand -- especially if the competition is already re-inventing the way they welcome their guests. To lock-in customer loyalty, a hotel needs to remove unnecessary burdens to the guest experience at every interaction.
Removing such burdens comes from creating an environment whereby guests can get the services they want in a manner most convenient for them. This convenience factor needs to also be cost-effective for the hotel.
Are you giving your guests the most convenient and least burdensome experience upon arrival? To give the best customer service at check-in, stick to some basic rules of keeping it simple and giving customers a choice. Here are some top tips for thought:
Top Five Tips to Making the Guest Arrival Experience more Efficient and Enjoyable:
1. Make it Simple and Convenient.
Customers want simple, quick and efficient processes to ease their travel experience. When they arrive at your hotel, they want to get to their room, eat, sleep, shower, check email or simply relax. They do not want to wait in line, but they do want potential problems or immediate issues resolved promptly. Therefore, they demand options.
Think of the journey a typical traveler has experienced before they get to your hotel. If the guest traveled by plane, chances are he or she probably packed as light as possible to avoid fees and baggage-check delays and the hassle of waiting for luggage at the carousel. If a car was rented, the guest quite possibly opted to go straight to the vehicle and get on the road vs. waiting in line and checking in at the rental counter. He or she may have brought a personal satellite navigation system, or relied on a smartphone to get directions. When buying gas, the choice almost always leans towards paying at the pump, filling-up, grabbing a receipt, and getting back on the road as quickly as possible.
Whatever the method of transportation, each guest could have encountered a few hiccups along the way, resulting in delays or even cancellations. What started out as a routine trip has just become an insufferable journey -- and there is little time left to prepare for tomorrow’s meetings. Already impatient and incapable of tolerating further delays, the traveler now is faced with another task that could be streamlined: the hotel front desk check-in.
If your hotel has inflexible procedures in place that only gives guests one way to check-in and get to their room, you risk losing the guest as they find less burdensome methods with more freedom of choice. Ask yourself these important questions: Do your business systems help or hinder your guests’ rapid progression from the hotel entrance to the comfort of their rooms? Do all your guests want to interact with the front desk? Have you asked them? How would providing choices to your guests help build loyalty and therefore your competitive advantage?
Giving guests choices throughout their stay helps build opportunities to emotionally engage with them. Emotionally-engaged consumers are more likely to be brand-loyal with the increased likelihood of staying with you again. A simple, efficient and convenient arrivals process will result in happier, more loyal customers.
2. Make Your Mobile Marketing Strategy Complete to Support Options for their Arrival
Demand for mobile travel websites has doubled again this year (source: Frommers Unlimited Research Reports, May 2011). Fifty-two percent of respondents said they wanted content in their mobile devices, compared to 27 percent in 2010.
Consumers are not only familiar with how to harness the technology on their mobile devices, but they demand it -- especially for travel and retail transactions. Do you know what mobile services your customers want? Do your mobile apps and mobile strategy give your customers what they want and in a manner they desire? Is the usability compatible with mobile smartphones and other devices in use by your customer base?
It's not enough just to enable mobile bookings. Today’s travelers want new and exciting ways to interact with your brand and to make their lives easier at each touch point – especially before and during their stay.
When they do arrive, travelers want to get to the room in the simplest way possible, and they want options at this and each point of engagement with your hotel. If your mobile website does not support room access capability and front-desk bypass options, you may be turning off potentially loyal guests who will find this at your local competition.
3. Make Self-Service Options Easily Accessible.
Findings from a recent Harvard Business Review reveal that offering self-service options is a must for hotels to remain competitive. Despite what hoteliers may think, many guests are seeing the traditional check-in process as a burden, especially as so many other parts of their journey have already been satisfied efficiently by self-service technology.
Once they are settled, hotel staff interaction can then take place if demanded by the customer. New technologies allow you to give guests access to their rooms using something as simple as their mobile phone to open their rooms.
Self-service options give guests the ability to control more aspects of their lives. When deployed properly, it can enhance service and reduce costs simultaneously. Is your guest-service strategy aligned with this increasing market demand of customer self service and the ability to influence control of their lives via a mobile phone? Freedom of choice is the ultimate service: providing self-service options gives customers more service.
4. Make it Green.
Making check-in "green" goes a long way towards attracting a large demographic of travelers and helping the environment. There are no check-in methods more environmentally sustainable than issuing a “virtual key” (or Mobile Key) vs. a plastic key card, which frequently will end up in the garbage and then an unhealthy landfill. Knowing that 43 million U.S. travelers are "ecologically concerned" (according to statistics released by the U. S. Travel Data Center), hoteliers should be doing everything possible to secure this sustainable demographic.
5. Make it Technologically Available to the Masses TODAY.
Don’t wait for your competitors to offer such self-service options and then play catch up. Gain the competitive advantage now by providing a useful, practical and desired benefit to all your customers regardless of the phone they carry or the network they use. Offering them a Mobile Key delivered via their cell phone is a huge service enhancement and helps give customers the choice they demand in having an option for room access. By removing the burden of a traditional front desk procedure, you are giving your customers the control they seek. If you want to make a difference, choose something that works with all technology today for the greatest opportunity for customer adoption.
The Bottom Line is this: Providing true hospitality means adapting to what your customers prefer and not forcing a guest to do things your way. From the moment the travel experience begins, consumers need to be presented with options to either talk with someone (Attended Service) or engage in transactions on their own (Self-Service). This choice needs to carry through to the hotel environment via a mobile platform that is interoperable with any cell phone on the market today. This is the key to delivering the best customer service at check-in that will help you build brand stickiness as customers choose your hotel over others that do not offer such a choice.
About Andrew Sanders
Andrew Sanders is Vice President of Business Development at OpenWays. He has held senior executive positions at a variety of software solutions providers to the hospitality sector for nearly 20 years and was formerly executive director of corporate develop and vice president of sales at MSI. Previously he was director of sales at MICROS, Director of Sales & Marketing at RedSky IT and business unit head for hotels and leisure at McDonnell Douglas Information Systems. He can be reached at email@example.com or +1 732 707 1869.
OpenWays is a global solution provider of mobile-based access-management and security solutions. With offices in Chicago, Las Vegas, Seoul and Paris, OpenWays provides technology solutions allowing for the secure issuance and delivery of access rights and keys processed via any cell phone operating on any network. The OpenWays solution is truly unique as it is built on the concept of credential dematerialization. The OpenWays mobile room key solution works on ALL the 5 billion cell phones in service in the world today. For more information, please contact Pascal Metivier at ++ 33 6 85 622 306 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or Barb Worcester at +1 440 930 5770 or email email@example.com. www.openways.com.
Tel: (440) 930-5770
Tel: (732) 707-1869
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