By Jos Schaap CEO and Founder – StayNTouch
With the onset of 2019, we’ve stumbled upon a rather interesting (albeit, integral) crossroads in the hospitality realm. As consumer technology continues to expand its influence and popular adoption across industries, brands are realizing mounting pressure to adapt to this new age of technological personalization and hyper-connectivity.
Why? Because with heightened technology and uninhibited connection across platforms, comes higher stakes and those companies who fail to keep up are, simply put, at risk of being left behind. And rest assured, hotels are no different.
Welcome, hoteliers, to the new era of personalization; better known as the hyperconnected guest experience.
What Does Hyper-Connectivity Look Like?
Consider this — If the ideal hospitality environment is one which cultivates a “home away from home” experience, how can hotels expect to remain competitive if their guests have more advanced technology and/or enhanced comforts in their own home? Industry leaders agree— “Personalization of the guest experience is the next frontier”. Those hotels which find the most success in today’s digital-savvy climate will be those which offer an experience that is equal parts high-touch service and high-tech offerings. Guest engagement and communications should be personalized and convenient, upgrades and upsells should be targeted and insight-driven, and technology should empower a seamless and hyper-connected guest experience. In fact, Aberdeen Group claims that companies with the strongest omni-channel customer engagement strategies retain an average of 89% of their customers, as compared to 33% for companies with weak omni-channel strategies.
The digital realm has evolved at a rapid pace, from being a segment of the guest journey which hotels could choose to navigate for potential growth, to one which they absolutely have to occupy and utilize for effective guest connection. In fact, reports show that by 2020 customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. Further, the number of connected devices around the globe is expected to hit anywhere from 50 billion to a staggering one trillion in the next five years alone. With this in mind, hotels today have to find a way to connect with each individual guest (and their unique set of preferences) while communicating and engaging with said guest across various new channels and devices.
Ultimately, embracing hyper-connectivity isn’t a choice — it is now a necessity.
After all, the modern consumer interacts with brands from multiple devices, platforms and touch-points (desktop computers, mobile devices, iPads, smart watches, social media etc.) at any given time. In the case of hotels, this expectation remains the same — hoteliers must remain privy to the increasing influence of non-traditional, virtual channels (while maintaining a high-level experience across traditional channels as well). If the modern guest transitions from physical to digital touch-points seamlessly in their day-to-day life, it’s no surprise that they expect that same experience on hotel properties as well. Hoteliers must utilize modern technology to effectively anticipate, manage and, better yet, understand guest needs and expectations for each and every stay, and across every touch-point.
The True Value of Exceptional Guest Service
Studies show that a moderate improvement in customer experience (CX) would impact the revenue of a typical $1 billion company an average of $775 million over three years. Further, 67% of consumers say they will pay more for a great experience, while loyal customers are seven times as likely to test an offering, five times as likely to buy again and four times as likely to refer. Not only that, but 81% of consumers want brands to understand them better and know when and when not to approach them. Curating a personalized guest experience not only drives revenue, but it enhances guest loyalty and brand reputation.
Ultimately, by offering a more personalized travel experience, hoteliers are able to establish a value-driven, long-term connection with each and every guest — who are then far more likely to become advocates for their hotel. With travel and hospitality representing one of the most competitive industries on the planet, it becomes ever-important to capture (and maintain) guest attention and loyalty, all while increasing revenue, decreasing costs and streamlining operations.
The evolving demand for technology across hotel properties goes beyond satisfying guests by demonstrating an understanding of modern trends and convenience. What becomes more important is the opportunity which technology offers hoteliers in the way of a more personalized service offering. Emerging technological solutions open the door to data-backed insights and behavior, which help hoteliers generate a 360 degree view of each guest. In this sense, investing in technology allows hoteliers to better invest in their current and prospective guests.
With the help of integrated, digital-savvy platforms (think mobile PMS and CRM software), hoteliers can access a dashboard with organized data from all channels, that not only curates a personalized view of each guest but also helps to offset operational load. With certain communications and touch-points going digital, guests are treated to a more efficient experience and staff are empowered to connect with guests on a more personal, memorable level. Further, these platforms can help to monitor social behavior and influence the lifetime value of current and prospective guests, collect data on industry trends, track purchase behavior, identify targeted upsell opportunities, measure performance, and ensure messages reach the right guests at the right time (and through the right channel).
Embracing the Mobile Experience
Embracing the demands of a hyper-connected world means embracing the demand for a mobile-centric experience. By the end of the year, mobile search will generate 27.8 billion more queries than desktop search and by 2020 it’s predicted that a customer will manage 85% of the relationship with an enterprise without ever interacting with a human. When it comes to convenience and self-service, the mobile experience simply reigns supreme. Still not convinced?
– 83% of travelers find social media a top source of inspiration when browsing online – 70% of travelers who own smartphones use them to research travel – 60% of travelers won’t go on holiday without their smartphones – 76% of travelers say their mobile devices are their number one travel accessories – 75% of Americans say that a week without Wi-Fi would leave them grumpier than a week without coffee – 84% of travelers want to be able to access information from anywhere in the world while they travel
Modern guests expect (and rather, need) an uninhibited travel experience that is largely defined by digital accessibility. Creating a mobile-centric booking experience, offering keyless entry through a mobile device, text-based communications, mobile concierge and more, hoteliers can curate a more connected and convenient stay for their guests.