By Matt Peterson
Turning the page on another calendar year is always fun and reflective. As we look to 2019, there are some interesting trends and new technologies that should continue to impact the lodging industry. Following is a look into two specific groups, employee and customer experiences, and how we should continue to embrace technology so it can positively affect the bottom line.
With higher costs and questionable growth over the next few years, employee costs and retention will continue to be a hot topic. It goes without saying that a “happy” or “satisfied” employee is more likely to stay with their employer, but how do we make sure that they are as content as we might think? Investing and embracing technology when it comes to systems and processes is one way to ease the workflow and create a better work environment. Easier said than done, yes, but something that any employer, big or small, can consider. This doesn’t need to be an entire systems overhaul. It can be as simple as integrated systems onto tablets or mobile devices, or embracing mobile devices and allowing employees to communicate internally via chat or instant messaging. This can be especially useful for interaction between departments and when there is a guest who is expecting an immediate response. Of course, this is not a one-size-fits-all idea or solution. Using employee satisfaction surveys and asking first-hand how we can improve our employees’ workday is still the best and easiest way to see higher employee morale and a greater return on your investment.
In line with employee satisfaction is guest satisfaction. This is not a new theory and we have been hearing it for years. However, in addition to embracing technology to increase employee satisfaction, we will continue to see greater demands and expectations from the guest in terms of technology and interaction. From mobile booking and property and/or brand-specific apps to in-room dining, concierge and dinner/spa reservations, connecting with the guest has never been more important. The guest continues to become savvier when looking at pricing, packages and deals. Having a social media team, internal or external, to engage, interact and react with guests has never been more important. It is no longer important to just react to a TripAdvisor review or a tweet. Connecting with your guest over the life cycle of their trip will lead to higher conversion numbers, a greater spend per guest while on-property and more re-bookings and return guests.
If a dedicated app or social media team is too costly, consider creating a concierge text message line so guests can still interact via their smart phones. Then, tie your sales team’s bonus to online engagement. In a day and age in which smart phones are only getting smarter, this should be a no-brainer.
The underlying technology can vary, and this is not a one-size-fits-all solution. What may work for a large portfolio company might not make sense for an independent asset and vice versa. However, with “big data” and cloud technology, we are living in a more complex world in which more information is accessible and, if properly tracked and coded, can be mined to maximize employee and guest satisfaction. Of course, those scores should lead to higher occupancy, greater flow-through and increased profits.