By Jos Schaap CEO and Founder StayNTouch
Ask any leader — regardless of industry — what they believe is the key to driving customer experience and exceeding consumer demands, and their answer will likely detail some form of technological transformation. We have long since entered the age of the customer, which means customer experience can now be earmarked as the defining factor in the creation of brand longevity and customer loyalty. In fact, according to recent studies, 74% of respondents believe that digital is reinventing the overall experience that they deliver to customers and improving digital channels is the top action being taken to improve customer experience.
Amping up digital efforts allows companies to keep pace with modern consumers — a realization which has settled across the hospitality industry with increasing weight. Guests, whether traveling for leisure or business, expect an easy, frictionless and ultimately personalized experience as they move from point A to point B. With this in mind, hotels have quickly begun to leverage innovative technology platforms to build out their operational ecosystem and advance their technological offerings to guests. Basically, hoteliers finally realize the importance of technological accountability; which can be divided into three primary pillars:
- Technological Accountability: API’s and Interfaces
- Service & Support Accountability: Ensuring that technology providers work together and don't point fingers when interfaces drop and offer responsive support and service for their solutions
- Guest Service Accountability: If the technology breaks, the guest service ecosystem breaks down
Is Your Hotel Accountable?
Ultimately, all technological accountability, whether derived from the actual product not working (an interface not functioning, Wi-Fi speeds too slow or check-in/check-out systems failing), can and will affect guest service.
This is where the notion of guest service accountability comes from. In order to provide exceptional guest service, hoteliers have to account for their everyday business actions and decisions. These are what make up and support their brand promise to each guest. Are wait times minimized and check-in/out processes streamlined? Are staff members engaged and creating unique, personalized experiences? Is the hotel mobile app working seamlessly? Are guests receiving relevant offers on their preferred devices based on their purchase history? If the technology breaks, guest service accountability will undoubtedly feel the effect of that disruption.
However, when all parts of the technological ecosystem are well supported and working together at optimal levels, hotel staff can focus solely on guest service and not worry about any of the technology that surrounds them. They can trust in the digital ecosystem to back them in the way they need, without interruption, to empower them in their role as guest service providers.
The Benefit of Seamless Integration and Shared Data Streams
Every hotels’ technological architecture can be viewed as a spider web with a myriad of different systems connected to each other internally and externally. Further, these new data streams provide hotels with the unique opportunity to better define their guests through buying behaviors, social media activity, app engagement, interests, travel type and more. With more user-centric data gathered from various sources, hotels can begin to truly personalize the guest experience. Despite this, recent studies found that only about 60% of companies are using a variety of tools and tactics to gather and act on customer insights. Considering guest personalization has become paramount in the success of modern hotels, this is a concerning gap. With the help of intuitive operational technology, hotels can finally view, understand and apply guest insights in a truly actionable manner.
Of course, as our industry continues to add new and innovative solutions to enhance the guest experience, the likelihood of tech service interruptions increases. With this in mind, it becomes increasingly important for technology providers to offer seamless integrations and open APIs that can work with other platforms and data streams in cohesion. After all, service technology accountability cannot be achieved if systems are working against each other, rather than with each other, when interfaces drop, or something goes amiss. Rather, with the focus of providers on enhancing guest service while moving in lockstep with various complimentary platforms, hoteliers can ensure they are always in position to provide great guest service. It is within this discussion that we are reminded the importance of picking technology partners rather than vendors. Unlike transactional vendors, trusted partners will understand the importance of and welcome the accountability of adding value to your property while co-creating strategy, driving innovation, providing excellent support and scaling execution.
Supporting Staff to Support Your Guests
Even better, aligning with platforms that support unlimited interfaces on a cloud-based platform will allow your hotel to stay ahead of market trends and connect to best-of-breed solutions. This freedom of integration and access ensures your staff always has access to the best in support technology, while improving productivity and reducing training time. This keeps hotels accountable not only in their promise to provide a certain level of guest experience, but also maintains accountability with their staff. The creation of a seamlessly, supported environment for staff translates to an equally positive environment for guests and a promising future for your hotel property as a result.
Meeting Your Guests Where They Are
While modern guests may have differing views of what, specifically, makes a great guest experience, offering 24/7 connectivity and tailored communications is an excellent place to start. By utilizing mobile, self-service technology, your hotel provides guests with the opportunity to choose the way in which they interact with your property. They may elect to engage with staff directly, or to check-in or order room service via an app or self-service kiosk, but either way they know they have access to 24/7 support, on their terms.
Giving guests complete control over their interactions and level of service helps to empower their experience, provide instant gratification and increase seamless automation where manual processes once lacked efficiency. There’s no sense denying it — to support the demands of guests, hotels require the support of systems and technology providers that are entirely accountable and reliable, in order for guests (and hoteliers alike) to reap the benefits. Partnering with the right technology providers and solutions will allow your hotel to build speed and agility into your operational model to better stay ahead of guest-centric trends and scale accordingly.
Ultimately, the time is now to invest in technology that will not only transform your offerings in the eyes of the modern traveler – but will offer your property and staff uninhibited operational support both now and in the future.