The Digital Guest Experience Gives Guests What They Want
Jos Schaap | ROOMDEX
The concept of a digital guest experience is somewhat controversial to many in the industry. Afterall, the hotel business is unreservedly people centric. Hoteliers are in the business of making others feel comfortable. However, the process of interacting with guests has remained somewhat unchanged for decades. Many hoteliers assume an exceptional guest experience can only be successfully delivered and received as a face-to-face, or rather a human-to-human, interaction with guests. But the truth is that guests don’t stay at hotels in order to interact with hotel staff (spa hotels may be the exception). Guests stay at hotels because circumstances dictate that they cannot stay at their homes. So, in reality, a hotelier’s job is to provide a level of comfort at or above the comfort of home.
Digital guest experience: Raise service standards with new technology
Technology plays a huge role in our everyday lives. So much so that technology is often blamed for stifling meaningful human interaction. So, it is not surprising that the idea of digital automation entering their hotel experience is portrayed as undermining the delivery of customer service. Consequently, hotels have been legendarily slow to adopt to new technology believing their priority should be on maintaining good guest relationships.
This outward resistance to technological change has become something of an industry-wide, accepted truism. “[We are] Probably one of the last ones, as an industry, to adopt any new technologies,” says Daniel Tennant, General Manager at Aries Living. “Our roots are so deep with antiqued systems.”
But hotels need to ask themselves a question. What gives a modern guest comfort? Most of us feel more than a little uncomfortable if we don’t have our phones for an extended period of time. Therefore, if the hospitality industry is founded upon the ongoing provision of exceptional guest service, how can they expect to thrive without addressing the role of the digital experience in our lives and psyches? To best serve guests, they must invest in the service style that provides guest comfort.
Technologies that allow guests to register online, check-in, order room service, etc., doesn’t mean abandoning your guests to some impersonal “robo-hotel.” It’s not about replacing, or minimizing, person-to-person interaction –quite the opposite. The adoption of new technologies allows you to provide choice of service to your guest. Choice of service means flexibility and control – something we all appreciate. If done correctly, it can help to deliver greater personalization, a better service experience and enhance the overall guest perception of the hotel. And most importantly, your guests now expect it.
Digital guest experience: Offering Choice of Service
According to a Deloitte study more than two-thirds (67%) of hotel guests said they were most satisfied with the feeling of empowerment through technologies that allowed them the choice to drive their experience the way they wanted. “There is a new wave of clientele coming through that are used to ordering things online – banking, food, everything and anything,” Daniel Tennant continues, “We as an industry need to embrace new technology to service better that new waved of clientele. So often, we feel like we are giving up a level of service by going digital – but by giving the guest the choice of how they want to be served I think that is even better service. Choice is really about giving the guest the freedom to interact whether their preference is a face-to-face conversation or in a digital way.”
Offering guests choice of service is good customer service. It doesn’t change the basic values of hospitality. What it does do is enables your staff to continue delivering an exceptional service, but now with more efficiency. When gusts check in, they want to get to their room. They don’t want to be sold. Upselling of ancillary items can be done pre-arrival. That makes the front desk experience more efficient for both staff and guest. If the guest wants to check out late, being able to arrange for such a service digitally saves the front desk from having to interrupt a conversation to receive the guest’s phone call – more efficiency.
Digital guest experience: Covid and revenue opportunities
The Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis has had a significant impact on the hospitality industry. As the requirement for contactless service has becomes more prevalent, the digital experience that guests had a taste of pre-pandemic are now expected. They have become an important service component that hotels now need to provide. Not only are they more convenient, saving the guest time and make them feel safer but they also provide hoteliers with a means to increase revenue. COVID is discouraging travel, which drives occupancy down. Hoteliers thus lower rates to compete to acquire guests. To make up for this lost revenue, hoteliers now have a greater reliance on ancillary guest revenue. Digital interfaces let guests add services on their own time – not just at the front desk. A contactless digital experience is thus a plus for revenue generation as well.
While not every guest is the same, customers are increasingly relying on digital avenues. Technology has become an essential component in helping to deliver an exceptional guest experience. As hotels reopen and work toward recovering occupancy levels, technology will become more important than ever playing a key role in its recovery. Offering guests choice of service and showing them that you know them and care about them will not only make your business successful now but will deliver value far beyond the pandemic.