It's a question of striking the right balance between high-tech and human interaction in your hotel operation, says Andrew Metcalfe.
The development of certain technology across the hospitality industry has accelerated over the last 12 months. Both hoteliers and guests have been quick to demand and adopt new solutions due to the pandemic, which luckily have moved the industry forward. If you are now convinced to take this direction, the next hurdle can be knowing what you really need to start your digitisation project and begin taking interactions online. So, what are the prerequisites and important steps on the journey?
What do you need in place to start?
First and foremost, whatever processes and systems you choose, they must be available online. Check how well the necessary functionality is set up to operate. Having this access means that not only will each piece of technology be easier to utilise, but it is also significantly more likely to consistently succeed. The ability to update a guest's name and email address from an application programming interface, for example, would be needed to enable guests to register on a webpage rather than at reception.
Assuming that these systems can be accessed via the internet, an essential building block to an enhanced digital offer is strong integration and communication between each one. If they aren't able to work together, information can be lost. So with each digital system, check the integration is thorough, stable and that data ownership is understood. For example, can both systems update the guest profile for a reservation post check-in, or just one? Maybe neither can or should? Of course, the more functionality you have from one system the easier this problem is. Fewer integrations simplify this type of project considerably.
How do you establish how technology enhances the guest experience?
When defining what you want the value-add to be for guests, you need a clear view of the processes to automate. Define your end goal and work back from that.
During this evaluation, keep in mind how it will enhance the guest experience, rather than how it will make it cheaper for you to operate. For example, the Covid-19 pandemic accelerated the need for check-in and check-out on personal mobile devices to avoid the risk of crowds building up in reception. Time saved not queuing is valuable to the guest.
Keep in mind how it will enhance the guest experience, rather than how it will make it cheaper for you to operate
How do you keep the back-up human interaction in place?
Unfortunately, it is a reality that technology can fail or doesn't cover all circumstances. Always keep in mind the need for human support and think through what staff need to do to enhance the guest experience. When your reservation has a complication that is out of the guest's control, it is important to know you have team members in place that can still support guests with a manual override.
How do you start leveraging this as a new sales stream?
One of the biggest challenges to marketeers on the internet is to obtain views on your content. Luckily your new digital experience should secure many of these. Think through how you could leverage technology sensitively to increase the chances of guests seeing your services and promotions. One pitfall is if a guest checks in on your new service during the taxi ride from the airport, sees a promotion, but has a question. If the team at reception know nothing about the offer, that is not great service. Having them well-briefed and able to act on promotions is a key consideration and will pay dividends in driving the return on investment in a more digitised offer and operation.
Andrew Metcalfe is chief technology officer of Guestline
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