By Adam Hoydysh, Vice President of Hotel Sales at Plum
At its core, great hospitality is centered around the provision of excellent guest service and the consistent curation of an experience that meets or, better yet, exceeds guest expectations. While the defining elements of that desired experience may differ depending upon the guest, hospitality in the modern age is largely centered around guest personalization.
The basic premise is that guests should have choices available to them, within every stay, that allows them to navigate a hotel property in a manner which appeals to their individual preferences. In some cases, this may call for a high-touch experience, developed through frequent, personalized and direct interactions with staff. In other cases, this may call for a low-touch stay designed for those guests who are more interested in an experience which is defined by seamless and efficient service — often of the self-service variety. In fact, over the last few years, we’ve witnessed a widespread consumer shift towards self-service automation through the likes of TV streaming sites (such as Netflix), the debut of Amazon Go’s first automated retail stores, Uber, Ritual, Uber Eats and so much more. For many consumers, this represents an exciting opportunity to experience a fast, efficient shopping or service process that puts them in control and maximizes their time at the simple touch of a button. In a recent survey, 66% of shoppers admitted they prefer self-service technology over interacting with a retail sales associate.
There’s no denying it — the self-service model is rapidly growing in popularity across industries and is, subsequently taking the hospitality realm by storm as well.
From hotel check-in and airport kiosks to car rental stations, keyless entry to hotel rooms, mobile concierge and more, the self-service revolution is demonstrating compelling staying power across various guest touch-points. While some guests will always prefer a more traditional hospitality model, providing guests with alternative options for how to interact with their hotels allows for a seamless, often digitalized and instantaneous experience that benefits guests and hotel staff alike. Moreover, while the self-service revolution began with an emphasis on mobile check-in/out and hotel apps, it’s quickly expanded into the realm of in-room appliances too. From in-room Nespresso machines to Alexa voice-activated assistants and on-demand wine (by the glass), hotels are aptly realizing the revenue opportunity presented by self-service, in-room offerings.
Consider this: reports show that US wine consumption sits at over 770 million gallons, with total US wine sales sitting at $62.7 billion in 2017. There are 4M luxury and upscale hotel rooms globally, and 90% of the guests who stay there are wine drinkers. 58% of this fine crowd drink wine weekly, and 78% monthly. There’s no denying it — wine remains a dominantly popular beverage choice amongst various generations.
However, some guests (depending on the nature of their travel) are less likely to stick around public areas (bars) and would prefer a self-service option. The hotel in-room wine experience has remained largely unchanged for nearly 50 years. Meanwhile, guest preferences have changed dramatically. Business travelers want to enjoy a glass of wine while they catch up on email or watch TV in the privacy of their room. Leisure travelers want to be able to take advantage of a resort property by enjoying a sunset on the balcony. This is where PLUM comes into play — offering by-the-glass, chilled wine to guests automatically, within the comfort of their hotel room.
Business travelers, as an example, often have strict itineraries that dictate the course of their trip. With meetings to attend and deadlines to meet, corporate guests are likely to show a preference for streamlined features such as mobile hotel apps, in-room coffee in the morning and perhaps an on-demand glass of wine at the end of the day. Providing luxury, non-essential amenities with the help of self-service technology allows for increased visibility, purchasability and, most importantly, convenience for each guest. However, does the increased propensity to buy stem from more than just convenience? In a recent study, it was found that when a liquor store changed from face-to-face to self-service, the market share of difficult-to-pronounce items increased by over 8%. The researchers concluded that consumers might fear being misunderstood or appearing unsophisticated. Not only that, but a 2004 experiment revealed that when using a self-service kiosk, McDonald’s customers spent 30% more on average. These examples are likely influenced by a few factors: decreased social friction (the elimination of any perceived judgment surrounding an order), complete control over the purchase and a desire for privacy. While not every guest will express the same purchase motivations or tendencies, the inclusion of self-service options simply allows each guest to choose their preferred purchase experience — representing an essential step toward hyper-personalization.
The self-service model also helps to reduce demand on room-service staff, allowing for a more streamlined service model. As we've already witnessed across other touch points (check-in/out, keyless entry, etc.), the embrace of new technology allows hotel staff to focus on the in-person touch points that matter most, while other low-touch touch-points are swiftly addressed via high-tech amenities. Within this structure, hoteliers also arrive upon an opportunity to further enhance the guest journey. With Plum, hoteliers can reward VIP guests and celebrate special occasions with complimentary wine, as well as instantly recover a service experience before it has a chance to become a negative review. Considering that companies lost $75 billion in 2017 from customers switching to competitors due to lousy customer service, any opportunity to prove attentive service and consideration to guests’ needs is pivotal. Think of this as another customer service insurance policy, by enabling hotels to instantly recover service such as noise, odor, or a broken remote control by granting a guest a complimentary Plum pour. And with seamless integration into your PMS and POS, the decision to enhance your in-room food and beverage strategy is that much easier.
With this in mind, it’s no surprise that hoteliers are looking for more opportunities to tap into the on-demand dynamic that so many modern guests seem to prefer. From seamless check-in to seamless, by-the-glass wine, self-service amenities can truly represent an integral, memorable differentiator for each guest and each stay.
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