Brand standards reach across all areas of a hotel, including – and especially – technology
Guests may stay at a property to get away from it all , but that doesn’t mean they’re willing to forgo connectivity.
Hotel brand standards have continued to adapt with technology. These days, however, when it comes to options like high-speed internet access, some are finding that those “options” aren’t so optional after all.
“Industry experts agree that for a guest’s hotel stay, connectivity is now a standard amenity that has become as vital as the other basic needs like hot water, complimentary breakfast, and free parking, if not more so,” said Christian Nascimento, Vice President, Product and Premise Services, Comcast Business. “Guests are now evaluating the availability and quality of connectivity as a factor when choosing a hotel.”
It’s not just that guests want “some” access, either. Regardless of the type of hotel, “Guests want the equivalent or better than their at-home connectivity speeds and, therefore, standards aren’t specific to a type of brand or current/future properties,” Nascimento said. “It’s required of all. In some cases, we’ve seen differences/revisions in standards. For example, some luxury brands have backup or redundant circuits to ensure uninterrupted service and new construction hotels have updated standards for the cabling requirements of each room.”
It’s a lot to consider, and it’s not a one-and-done. Brand standards are living and evolving, Nascimento said, and given the current rapid pace of technological change, he and others recommend revisiting standards annually to ensure relevance and alignment with the brand’s long-term goals.
LISTENING TO GUESTS, HEARING THEIR DESIRES
OK, so the clock is ticking for new brand standards in technology. Where to even start?
Diane Beecher, CEO and Senior Strategist, The Brand Consultancy, said that when it comes to aligning technology with a brand, for those wanting to drive growth, brand still has to come first.
“We define a brand as the reputation you want to earn,” she said. “If you’re Tru by Hilton, for example, and you’re putting your stake in the ground as a brand that is simplified, spirited, and grounded in value, then the technology you use and how you integrate that technology into your hotel has to align with the reputation you want to earn. If you put in the latest technology but it’s not intuitive and guests get frustrated trying to use it, then that’s not being simplified. Or if the latest technology costs too much and makes you raise your room rates – then how can you be a hotel that is grounded in value? It’s important to look at everything you’re doing across your brand with this filter in mind.”
Technology, Beecher said, is an enabler to the right guest experience. But many focus on the technology itself, “and I think that’s a miss.” With Tru by Hilton, for example, The Brand Consultancy’s research showed that guests would appreciate fast and free Wi-Fi, as well as DIRECTV with over 150 channels.
“So that’s where we focused,” Beecher said. “Instead of offering everything, we offered 55-inch TVs in every guest room (much larger than comparable hotels), along with the fastest complimentary Wi-Fi in Tru’s hotel class. And this focus paid off: Tru is one of the fastest-growing brands in the mid-scale segment – ever.”
Nascimento, too, mentioned the importance of listening to guests and, of course, ensuring the right foundation is in place to meet their desires.
“While new technology offers unlimited opportunity in scope and results, it’s as good as useless without the necessary underlying infrastructure,” he said. “Smart hospitality providers understand that a solid foundation that addresses performance, reliability, and affordability will enable them to grow their business faster and more securely and position them to take advantage of future technology advancements.”
Comcast Business, for example, offers networking solutions that can help hoteliers better manage multiple properties, and the X1 for Hospitality video solution to provide a superior “free to guest” entertainment experience. Further, the recent addition of Deep Blue as a portfolio company now incorporates award-winning Wi-Fi network planning, design, and implementation, he said. Hoteliers are taking note; earlier this year, for instance, Comcast Business announced it had entered into a three-year agreement with Choice Hotels International to install high-speed internet access at its franchised hotel properties nationwide.
EXPANDING STANDARDS BEYOND WI-FI
It must be mentioned, however, that brand standards for technology can relate to much more than Wi-Fi, TV, or even room access. One company, for example, offers a ticket management platform allowing guests to communicate directly and seamlessly with staff through whatever method they choose – SMS, Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp, email, etc. – without having to download anything additional on their devices. The solution also can be used for marketing, promotions, and feedback surveys. That’s a long way from the traditional phone call between the front desk and guest room through a landline not long after check-in.
Gal Bareket, Routier CEO, said hotels have long relied on post-visit “How was your stay?” emails, but those can be too little, too late – or can be lost in overburdened inboxes and spam filters.
Real-time access on the guest’s own terms, on the other hand, improves guest experience, increases positive reviews, builds loyalty, and allows the hotel to optimize operations. Routier has developed a Unified Performance Index (UPI) using data from the platform to create benchmarks and business targets. The Pod Hotels, for example, announced in a release that working with Routier had enabled its staff to directly connect and engage with up to 63 percent of guests, respond to needs instantly, and increase guest satisfaction levels. Using the UPI had even bolstered healthy competition between the Pod Hotels properties, and the ticket management platform had helped staff save about 22 minutes per day per team member through the automation of processes and streamlined communication.
The right technology, then, can help guests receive the experience they hope for, help hoteliers deliver the level of service they desire, and help streamline the communications and processes in between.