5 ways a task-oriented mobile app can help hotels attract and retain talent while improving operations, driving revenues, and ensuring positive online reviews
By Thomas Zarikian
In today’s world there is an app for almost anything, and one can’t deny that apps have greatly simplified our lives. Just think of how many apps you’ve used today! Some you may even deem essential to your daily professional life. Yet, for some reason, it seems the hotel industry has fallen behind in adopting the technology and leveraging the increased productivity that apps bring. Contrast that with the airline industry, which is at the forefront of technology; you can basically book a ticket, and fly from one place to the next all within an airline’s app. If you try to do all that for a hotel — even with some of the big chain hotels — you may be in for a wild ride in dealing with multiple apps for different things and gaps in between. So why is this happening with the hotel industry?
Let me explain. As an active hotelier, I understand our industry’s struggles in adopting technology. There may be one hotel app for each service, but there seems to be no single app for many services. We must deal with many providers and then figure out how App-A connects and interacts with App-B and play the role of a digital Dr. Frankenstein to build the app they need. This is usually frustrating for guests as well.
Following the Airline example above, just imagine if you had to book your flight through one app, then jump onto another to select your seat or upgrade to first class, another to check your flight status and then to another to see whether your bag arrived. Additionally, the cost of entry is extremely high since technology providers for hotels are usually very costly upfront. Finally, trying to get a big brand, an owner, and a management company to all agree on what step to take just adds to the challenge. So, it would seem, that trying out new technology in our industry has been left for a few willing risk takers.
Add to this challenge that fact that in today’s new normal, with employees failing to return to work after being laid off during the pandemic, hoteliers are being forced to operate with a permanently smaller workforce while paying higher wages to attract new talent with little to no experience. Labor costs are going up, while the demand for rooms hasn’t fully recovered, so we are all feeling the pinch. We need to find a way to reduce our labor costs while becoming more efficient in our operations and emerge as an employer of choice for the new labor pool. Going high-tech may be the best bet.
Created by Hoteliers for Hoteliers
In our case, as an independent brand, we needed technology even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic to help us operate better and stay ahead in guest satisfaction. We don’t have a big brand backing us that we can allow a few too many slip-ups and still get demand for rooms. We really needed to impress our clients to compete. At the time, no technology existed that met our immediate needs or those available were simply too expensive. So, stepping away from a hotch-potch of apps, we took it upon ourselves to develop our own technology. We created a web-based mobile app that facilitates everything in the full guest experience cycle from reservation to reviewTM, while requiring no app download and placing guest request task management and guest messaging at the core.
Here are five ways our proprietary guest experience web app is helping our global hotels operate more efficiently and encouraging employees to engage:
- The app prevents guests from having to wait for requested items and services. Because it is web based, an employee’s smart device is the app. For instance, it is impossible for an employee to answer many guest calls at the same time. Therefore, there is no option but to have more employees or put other guests on hold. Getting to all guests would take many minutes. But with the app, an employee can swiftly acknowledge multiple tasks in less than one minute, and guests can see immediately when their request is underway, eliminating any anxiety. When requests become an active part of the hotel’s web app, it immediately increases guest satisfaction. Not to mention, happy guests create a more positive work environment, especially these days.
- The app helps employees to do their jobs better by ensuring that no workorders fall through the cracks. Different tasks take different times to execute, so the system knows when to send reminders and when to escalate issues to management when they are not resolved as expected. When associates can do their jobs with less stress, the more likely they will remain in the hotel’s employ. Investing in tools that improve the employee experience shows empathy; when employees feel valued, they will not want to leave.
- The app provides fluid communication between staff and guests, and triggers immediate responses based on guest experiences. Positive feedback is likely to lead to positive reviews, and negative feedback can be dealt with immediately — before a situation escalates and results in negative comments on review sites or corporate surveys. By managing guest feedback, operators can boost room rates and their online reputations simultaneously. When the hotel is operating efficiently, it can afford to pay higher wages to employees, creating a best-place-to-work environment.
- The app increases onsite sales by digitalizing the food-and-beverage ordering process and takes employees out of harms’ way by eliminating direct contact with staff. By giving guests complete control over the ordering, re-ordering, and payment processes, wait times to place orders lessens and satisfaction increases, leading to higher check averages, bigger tips, and more positive online reviews. The app can also be used to track guest parcels and lost-and-found items, often resulting in tips for employees. The more money employees make, the more likely they will stay.
- Last, but definitively not least, the app gives hoteliers what no pen and paper can, and that is data and analytics on all guest requests and issues. In today world, operators need data to see trends and react accordingly and continuously improve the experience for guests to stay ahead of the competition. Like Peter Drucker famously said, “You cannot improve what you cannot measure.” So, taking an active role in using the data to improve is what differentiates a well-managed hotel from a poorly managed one.
Task Orientation is Key to Engagement
Hoteliers’ contemplating adding a guest-facing app to their 2022 mobile strategy should bear this in mind: it’s not enough to just have an app . . . staff must be willing to embrace it. The easier an app is to adopt, the better the results will be. We found task orientation to be the key to engagement. It requires little-to-no training and provides the heightened support that today’s inexperienced staff requires. Better yet, it is tested daily in our hotel environment and improved upon routinely.
In general, mobile apps make life easier for everyone. They streamline booking, showcase the property and brand, upsell onsite services, promote upgrades, encourage extended stays, drive food and beverage revenues, collect guest request data, capture reviews, and build loyalty. Newer apps facilitate contactless guest experiences, such as remote check-in/out, and they integrate with mobile keys to enable guests to skip the front desk and go straight to their rooms.
Hoteliers can no longer ignore investing in mobile apps because travelers not only expect them, but they apps are part of the criteria by which some travelers select one hotel over another. According to Hospitality Technology’s 2021 Customer Engagement Technology Study, 70 percent of respondents say they will only choose a hotel has positive online reviews; 53 percent want to stay at a hotel that enables them to make reservations from a mobile device; 47 percent want to check in/out via their mobile device; 42 percent will select a hotel has a mobile app vs. one that does not, 40 percent want to unlock their room door using their mobile phone (available via the web app), and 36 percent want to stay where they can text or “chat” with the hotel using their mobile phones.
Due to the success that our brand is having with this proprietary app, we want to share it with other brands and independent operators. As the world slowly returns to normal and travelers re-enter our doors, we must have an adequate labor supply to provide the service levels expected. Anyone looking for a web app designed with hotel employees in mind that meets guest expectations and lowers costs, and that is modular, affordable, and extremely easy to use, are encouraged to reach out today.