Utilizing new solutions to improve the guest experience
How can hotel businesses of all sizes use data-driven strategies to enhance the guest experience, tune into and meet new consumer needs, and differentiate their brand to drive loyalty and increase repeat business?
Guest experience is neither about the product nor the service a hotel or hotel brand offers – it’s far more all-encompassing than that.
While the product (the physical offering, the quality of the hotel, its rooms, its restaurant and bars, etc.) and the service (delivery to the guests, warm welcomes, well-anticipated guest needs, etc.) are important elements, the guest experience has the potential to lift both to a higher dimension.
Guest experience is about how guests interact with the hotel brand – from starting a search for a hotel booking, all the way through to checking out from the stay.
Good guest experience ensures a relevant and appealing offer, ease, and accessibility for customers, visibility, and clarity of choices enabling consumer confidence and the flexibility to get what they want, how they want it, and when they want it. Importantly, it’s a core driver for brand affinity and loyalty.
In today’s market, there are three main drivers for change when it comes to improving guest experience:
1. BRAND DIFFERENTIATION
This entails improving brand appeal and standing out from the competition. Going beyond products and services, guest experience leaves a lasting impact. Arguably, brand differentiation is the most important of all three drivers due to the recent proliferation of hotel brands in the market, as it’s how a hotel or brand stands out beyond the key consumer criteria of location, price, and quality.
2. CONSUMER DEMAND
Guest experience is being prioritized across multiple sectors, meaning consumers now are more demanding and more discerning. Technology has empowered consumers to engage with businesses in new and different ways.
3. BUSINESS EFFICIENCY
In a world where labor availability and cost challenges are much higher, the ability to automate the end-to-end business processes around delivering guest service through digital technology offers a tremendous opportunity for up-side efficiencies.
While technology has improved the hotel booking process exponentially in recent years, technology that improves the guest experience is being implemented less readily. The levels of capability are similar, but the technology is available to empower customers to have the experience that they want. And what’s important here is that it’s through digital channels that customers increasingly want to control their purchases and experiences.
According to a recent AHLA report, “Travelers today are inundated with choices. With myriad options at their fingertips, they’ve become increasingly selective about the properties they stay at and the experiences they choose. Factor in the growing influence of digital technologies, and it’s clear that the demand for personalized experiences accessible with a tap or swipe is more prevalent than ever.” At the heart of this evolution lies the need for a cohesive and connected technology platform.
Further, the report explains, “shifting guest preferences have opened new avenues for technology adoption, creating more opportunities for growth in the industry. By adapting to the new digital terrain, hotels can offer an exceptional guest experience, cementing their place in a constantly changing market.”
However, it’s important this isn’t just seen as an opportunity to create a digital app for guests.
The true benefit and power derives from enabling guests to interact with the hotel and brand through their preferred means, whether that’s a digital app or existing platforms such as WhatsApp or other messenger apps, telephones (in-room or mobile), on a website, or simply walking up to the front desk for assistance.
Consequently, the business needs to be designed to operate with customer interaction arriving from various sources. So, what’s also vitally important is that this is linked to automated processes that route the messages to the relevant person to quickly solve that query. Enabling immediate, real-time relevant responses.
As an article in The New York Times explains, “A recent study from the industry magazine Hospitality Technology and the University of Nevada’s William F. Harrah College of Hospitality in Las Vegas, surveyed 100 hotel operators and noted that adoption across the industry of self-service features like check-in kiosks and mobile room keys is booming. Proponents say the guest benefits behind these investments are numerous, from personalizing the hotel experience and anticipating guest needs to reducing their ‘friction’ points and freeing up staff.”
LET THY BUSINESS PROSPER
As stated recently in Forbes, “The customer experience has always been tied to profits, but advanced technologies are taking hospitality to new heights in business resilience. From the traveler’s perspective as well, digitalization has never been more welcoming.” Utilizing such technologies delivers far greater insight data about guest behavior.
This can then be used to drive greater efficiencies in the operational processes of the hotel, as well as shaping how and what’s offered to guests to further improve their brand experience.
For example, if guests can inform the hotel about when they plan to arrive and leave, then the checking in and out processes ought to enable housekeeping to schedule labor as and when rooms need to be made ready for availability – thus enabling a streamlining of resources by engaging the labor when it’s needed and delivering a better service for the guests by having rooms ready on arrival.
Offering alternative solutions for guests, such as daily room cleans, or a free minibar, allows an experience guests can tailor and creates insight data that can inform housekeeping services and consumer preference for shaping future engagements.
Such customer-insight data is invaluable. It delivers the ability to understand customer needs, preferences, behavior, history, value, attitude, sentiment, and more – and also leverage that data to trigger and/or respond in a way that’s relevant, whether that’s offering them something appealing and relevant or providing helpful information at all stages of the customer journey. This is where hotel businesses can start to really elevate their guest experience.
Clever implementation of technology – including customer data platforms and multimedia marketing automation systems – streamlines processes and enables real-time actions directly in response to consumer wants and needs, as well as offering a better guest experience and improved customer data on their wants and needs.
This brings us back to the factors that are driving the need to improve guest experience; It’s through this clever implementation of technology where you really start to build brand affinity and loyalty and stand out from the busying crowd.