By Yossi Zekri
There is no doubt that we all look forward to summer travel plans, but there can also be some stress involved. Those travel-related inconveniences we don’t look forward to, including check-in lines at the airport, rental agency, and hotel- they always seem to be there. These tiresome tasks can take the joy out of travel for many and make you tired and exasperated before your vacation has even begun.
Hotels, rental agencies, and other tourist businesses are well aware of customer service pain points, and are increasingly using technology solutions to make every aspect of their guests’ visits easier, more pleasant, and more profitable. One such solution—identity capture and verification—is essential to implementing many other high-tech hospitality features, such as concierge text chat, guest service apps, self-serve kiosks, and mobile check-in. Identity verification also reduces fraud and enhances visitor security programs in a very customer friendly and cost-efficient manner.
Scan-and-verify solutions include desktop devices and mobile scanning apps that quickly capture and digitize all the information from a driver’s license, passport, or other identity card. The digitized information is automatically exported to customer database records, and a digital replica of the ID is stored for regulatory and security purposes. The information, including photo ID, can then be checked against DMV records, credit bureaus, and other databases to verify the guest’s identity and payment method. Customer records can then be used by internal systems to complete billing and marketing processes. Personal data can also be leveraged, through CRM and GEM systems, to create more tailored experiences and to target opportunities to upsell and maximize revenue from each guest during their visit. Scanning IDs reduces keystroke entry errors, eases language barriers for foreign guests, and frees customer service reps to have more meaningful and relaxed interactions with guests. The entire check-in experience is streamlined and pleasant with fewer manual tasks.
A growing number of customer-facing processes depend on identity verification. Customers, most notably the well-traveled Millennial market, increasingly prefer to do everything from booking to check-in to keyless entry from their mobile devices. With mobile scan-and-verify solutions, it becomes possible to securely accommodate guests who’d like to avoid check-in lines altogether. If you can seamlessly and reliably prove the validity of your guest’s identity remotely and securely collect payment, you can trust them with your hotel room or rental car even if you’ve never seen them. And if they cause damage, you have all the verified information you need to recoup your losses and report them to law enforcement.
The hotel and rental car markets are intensely competitive and being further crowded by sharing economy businesses like Airbnb and Uber. The most successful companies will find ways to provide outstanding customer service and modern amenities (e.g., top notch digital connectivity and entertainment) while cutting costs through automation and efficient use of staff. The hospitality industry also needs to accommodate shifts in customer preferences, influenced in part by the distinct priorities of the Millennial cohort, and more generally by all things digital—social media, smartphones, and apps for everything.
The Millennial generation (18-34 in 2015) has surpassed the Baby Boomers as the largest living population, and Generation X (35-50) will become the second largest generation by 2028. These cohorts (as well as those now entering college) are used to conducting all their personal business and communications online. They are used to immediate results: communicating by text, self-service options, and streaming media everywhere. They expect businesses to use their personal data to provide them with enhanced products and services. Millennials are hard to win over as brand ambassadors; a recent Gallup report found that in regards to the hospitality industry, only 20% are fully engaged (sharing positive feelings or reviews for a brand) while 23% are actively disengaged (sharing poor reviews). Hospitality brands have to consistently keep their promises, smoothly deliver services, and create authentic, personalized experiences to inspire customer loyalty.
Customer data-driven offerings like kiosks, branded apps, mobile check-in, and keyless entry simultaneously benefit customer and business. Innovative digital processes make the vacation experience at leading brands more convenient, relaxing, and comfortable. Streamlined service interactions (virtual concierge), advanced amenities (smart lighting and thermostats, streaming from devices to TV monitors) and sophisticated back-end processes (room availability, fraud prevention) all involve the intelligent capture, analysis, and use of customer data. Those same solutions will also reduce risk, revenue and property loss, energy use, and staff costs – all while enhancing the customer experience.
Experts predict that in a few years, hotels will leverage photo IDs along with facial recognition technology to help employees “recognize” guests throughout their stay. This is a powerful way to make customers feel valued. Looking ahead, biometric technology and identity verification will also help travel and hospitality companies build more seamless door-to-door systems, wherein cloud-based, common-use infrastructure connects a traveler’s verified identity to their itinerary, baggage routing, transportation, and hotel arrangements in such a way that they can move seamlessly from point-to-point, checking in quickly at self-service kiosks as they go. This vision of travel is infinitely more appealing than slogging from one check-in desk to another, and starting over each time with data entry, payment, and paperwork. While these innovations may not become widely adopted for several years, companies that lay the groundwork now will be poised for competitive advantage.
Vacation is supposed to allow us to escape everyday stress and relax. With advanced identity capture and verification solutions, hotels, rental agencies, and tourist attractions can start to deliver that smooth-sailing experience as soon as customers walk in the door.