The hospitality sector is being disrupted in a number of ways for all players – from start-ups to boutique hotels. Innovation is also coming from established companies who are preparing for and reacting to disruption. And as with all industries, technology is at the centre of big changes.
Recent research outlines 92 per cent of hoteliers believe that by 2020 guests will expect their stay to be personalised around a set of choices they make before they arrive. However, 52 per cent of hospitality organisations haven’t yet implemented a strategy for leveraging technology to enhance the guest experience in this way. Technology is at the centre of experiential innovation and the opportunities for the hospitality leaders to emerge are huge. Some hoteliers are already on the front foot and using technology to transform customer service, redefining the way they engage with guests to create an optimum experience. Hilton Hotels, for example, has rolled out engaging features in their app, HHhonors, including smartphone based check-ins and room key functionality. The Digital Key can also be used to get access into other areas of the property available to guests including the gym, pool and parking garage.
The power of personalisation
Hotels are using new technologies, drawing upon the efficiency of smartphones and tablets, enabling guest convenience and comfort. A personalised customer service has always been important in the hospitality sector – this hasn’t changed. For instance, the Ritz-Carlton’s three steps to service include:
- A warm and sincere greeting
- Use the guest’s name. Anticipation and fulfilment of each guest’s needs
- Fond farewell. Give a warm goodbye and use the guest’s name
These steps place the customer at the centre. However, with the volume of their guests’ data companies now have available, personalisation is getting easier and so must be implemented for businesses to remain competitive with emergent leaders. Hotels should now be using video and data analytics as a minimum to enable recognition of guests from previous stays and provide a tailored service to each customer, ready before they get to the concierge desk.
The journey is changing
The customer journey is starting earlier and it’s getting increasingly seamless. Guests typically book online. The ease of a few clicks in an app is making the booking experience easier and more integrated with a traveller’s lifestyle. New mobile behaviours are creating a new journey for consumers. What used to take considerable time and effort in terms of visiting a travel agent and looking through endless brochures, can now take a matter of minutes via an app or mobile-optimised website. Consumers are used to this service and expect their preferences and digitally-savvy needs to be met at every step of their journey.
Congruently, hospitality businesses can and should be extending a mobile-centric experience throughout all guests’ visits. Through digitally driven, app or web interactions and some business intelligence, hoteliers can discover to the minute when a guest is arriving and ensure their staff are ready to greet them, by name – and even with their favourite drink. Tablets, for example, are taking staff out from behind the reception desk and delivering a slicker experience on arrival.
IoT and BI delivering competitive advantage
The Internet of Things (IoT), the concept of connecting any device with an on and off switch to the internet, combined with business intelligence will really change the hospitality sector, enabling switched-on companies to raise the game in total venue management and guest experience. The hospitality sector caters to millions of travellers daily. Each traveller has their own set of expectations and the onus is on corporates to meet these expectations in order to get them to return and raise their reputations and profits.
Hence, increasingly, hospitality corporates are turning to analytics and business intelligence to help keep their customers happy. Real-time insights on guests can enable businesses to dramatically improve the guest experience. Comprehensive guest profiles allow for a more personalised service. For instance, instead of having staff fixed in certain places in a restaurant, the use of intelligent 360 degree cameras can use data from ‘hot spots’ to tell restaurant managers where an overcrowded space is and when a table hasn’t been attended to for a while. By implementing smart sensors, hotel companies can more effectively manage energy usage and assets. Sensors can be used in guest rooms to measure natural light and dim artificial lighting as a result, to start heating as guests arrive at their floor, or lock windows if the guest has left the room, for example.
Incorporating IoT and smart sensors delivers business intelligence that can help cut costs and improve customer service. Hotel managers can detect issues within rooms such as a burst water pipe that could cause damage to the room and beyond, impacting costs and making interactions with guests timelier. IoT can detect change in the environment and enable staff to resolve issues efficiently to deliver an optimised guest experience.
The hospitality sector is waking up to the many opportunities technology can bring to their business and significantly improve guest experiences. For some companies, they’re already advancing their technology and adapting to the evolving landscape. However, other players in the industry are lagging behind. By 2020, Millennials are projected to spend $4.1 trillion annually, according to Accenture, becoming the largest sector of consumers with disposable income. With 52 percent of Millennials ranking far above average for technology adoption, hospitality businesses risk falling behind customer expectations if they don’t evolve and adapt to give the people what they want – a special experience.