Evolution of Guest Experience
April 14, 2017With an increasing focus on guest experience across many business sectors, the hotel industry needs to stay at the forefront of guest service trends. But historic over-emphasis and investment in guest-facing technology alone, has not yielded the expected commensurate gains in loyalty and revenue. And in many cases these technologies were implemented at the expense of back of house results, and ability to attract next-generation customers and talent. So what differentiates an average hotel stay from a great experience? And what are the smart tech investments you can make to achieve the service levels needed to deliver great guest experiences, while maintaining costs and growing revenue? Here's a look at five questions hoteliers should consider when determining their technology investment.
- According to HT’s 2017 Lodging Technology Study, 57% of hotels plan to spend more on technology compared to the year before. While 52% of operators reveal that guest engagement/loyalty upgrades are a top objective, guest room technology and customer analytics received smaller allotments. How should operators look to balance investing in in-room technology and customer analytics along with systems that facilitate engagement and loyalty?
Hotel companies should not view this question as an either-or proposition. In the age of the Internet of Things (IoT), stand-alone gadgets that perform a single ‘cool’ function are no longer good enough. Consumers not only expect to connect to amenities via their personal device, namely smartphones, they expect that their preferences, and recommendations based on those preferences, to be presented back to them at every point of interaction. Legacy operations systems are simply not built to support this cycle of service. Without the data collection and security, ease of integration, and data analytics offered by the latest PMS, POS, RMS, and CRM systems in place, investment in guest facing technology is essentially building a bridge to nowhere.
- What areas are under-served with technology in hotels? What technology has the most potential to differentiate between an average and a great guest experience?
The industry has come a long way in recognizing the benefits of an external social media strategy, however the potential of internal social collaboration technology to improve interactions between employees, gain operational efficiency, and enhance the overall guest experience has not been fully realized.
Core operations systems with embedded social collaboration features present the opportunity to organize and share information in a central location which can help break down communication barriers between departments in the hotel. And the appeal of this type of technology to the ever-growing millennial workforce brings additional benefits by enabling this generation of hospitality professionals to promptly manage issues and exceptions in a style that is intuitive, thus improving guest service.
- What are smart tech investments hotel operators can make to achieve improved operations that will not only be cost-effective but also realize increased ROI?
Cloud-based applications that incorporate data science into day-to-day decision-making through a combination of big data and analytics are poised to make a dramatic impact on the optimization of both revenue and costs. Even without big data, science can allow hotel managers make smarter decisions faster by detecting misalignment of revenues and costs in real-time, as opposed to presenting this information only in historical reports. While revenue management systems have traditionally been the leader in this area, science is also being incorporated into CRM, HCM and workforce management (WFM) technology, helping hoteliers to reduce turn-over through improved hiring, manage staffing levels more cost-effectively, and present the most relevant offers to guests.
- What role can the cloud play in enabling hotels to better act on guest behavior while maximizing IT resources?
As mentioned earlier, legacy operations and revenue management systems are simply not built to deliver the personalized guest experience that today’s consumer expects. The flexibility and lower total cost of ownership offered by cloud technologies allows hotels to be more innovative in the ways they meet the needs of their guests. Cloud technologies enable the system and data integration, mobility, and analytics that can personalize a guest’s experience throughout every point of their interaction, beginning with researching a stay, check-in, customized offers during the stay, and check-out. These systems can be deployed faster than traditional systems with no need to purchase additional hardware, changes can be easily made in reaction to the needs of the business, and return on investment is higher because the technology vendor takes on the responsibility for system upgrades and enhancements.
- Leveraging mobile solutions for employee-facing and customer-facing applications are top objectives for hotel tech in 2016. What are some mobile best practices to deliver great guest experiences and streamline operations?
Successfully employing guest-facing and employee-facing mobile technology is crucial for hoteliers to keep pace with consumer expectations. Hospitality organizations should think long-term about whether their existing systems will be able to support this evolution of mobility. Relying on PMS, RMS and CRM systems that are flexible and easily integrated with third-party applications, or a hotel’s own custom application, gives hospitality organizations the agility to easily make updates to mobile capabilities as necessary. Mobile applications are also affecting how hotel employees communicate with critical business systems. Through the integration of mobile functionality with financials, maintenance, marketing, and other operation systems, hoteliers can further leverage mobility for improved guest experience by increasing staff efficiency.
- North America