Hotel Tech for a Touchless New World

COVID-19 has pushed us all into a world of caution. Social distancing regulations and fear of infection have impacted our daily lives as we avoid physical interaction. Even as cases drop and official restrictions ease, a level of cautiousness will likely remain with us for some time. Hotels and other businesses are operating under new guidelines that include sanitization, physical distancing and contact tracing protocols, possibly permanently.

Businesses across all industries are turning to technology to help streamline new processes and maintain customer service. While it seems contrary to the notion of hospitality, right now it is important to reduce physical touchpoints during a hotel stay to help keep guests and staff safe. Modern hotel technology makes this possible through automation that also augments and personalizes the guest experience.

Over the past decade, more and more hotels have been implementing mobile technology to improve workflows and the guest experience. Now, in our touchless new world, such innovation is more crucial than ever.

Self check-in

First impressions count so check-in is an important touchpoint to get right. Guests expect an efficient, personable welcome; a bad one can taint the rest of their stay.

While the check-in process traditionally involves physical interaction between the guest and hotel staff, online technology has spurred consumer demand for self-service applications and many hotel brands have already met that demand with a mobile self-check-in option.

Integrated with the hotel property management system (PMS), mobile self-check-in applications provide guests with an efficient yet personalized check-in process while reducing time at the front desk. In fact, when integrated with online payment and keyless entry solutions, self-check-in apps allow guests to bypass the front desk entirely.

A “touchless” check-in process has never been more relevant than it is now. Self-check-in solutions not only help keep guests and staff safe during the pandemic, but improve efficiency and personalization through data automation too.

Mobile housekeeping app

Although there are less guestrooms to clean at most properties due to low occupancy levels brought about by COVID-19, new housekeeping procedures to mitigate the spread of the virus have made housekeeping responsibilities and schedules more complicated.

Right now, many travelers are wary about physical contact with other people and surfaces. To make guests feel more comfortable, some hotels are offering guests a choice between varying levels of housekeeping service. Some hotels have halted housekeeping service altogether during a guest’s stay to protect the health of both guests and housekeeping staff. Many properties are enforcing a 48-hour or longer room closeout between stays to allow for deeper cleaning and decontamination.

While COVID-19 is still a threat, staying on top of cleaning protocols, schedules and housekeeping requests is of utmost importance. Equipping housekeeping staff with mobile access to the housekeeping report ensures staff are efficient and informed at all times while they work.

Integrated with the PMS, a mobile housekeeping app improves internal communication and workflow by allowing housekeepers to view the live occupancy status of rooms (due in, occupied, do-not-disturb, checked out), and front-desk agents to see which rooms have been cleaned, inspected and are ready for guests in real time. Housekeepers can attach notes and maintenance alarms to rooms as they work, to help keep track of special housekeeping requests, maintenance issues or sick/quarantining guests.

Mobile messaging

Mobile messaging provides a way for hotels to offer guests a convenient, open line of personalized communication, without physical interaction. Rapidly growing in popularity well before COVID-19 hit, mobile messaging solutions for hotels are now truly an answer for the need of the hour.

With an impressive open rate of 98 percent, text messaging is an effective and efficient way to keep guests informed about COVID-19 protocols and hotel services. For example, an automated pre-arrival message could let guests know you are looking forward to their arrival, include a link to a dedicated URL containing relevant hotel information, and invite them to let you know if they have any questions or special requests.

As a COVID-19 precaution, hotel information folders have been removed from many guestrooms because these high-touch surfaces are difficult to clean. In many cases, properties are shifting this information online. An automated text message sent to guests upon check-in can link to online hotel information, ensuring guests are aware of house rules, the Wi-Fi password, etc., and remind guests that they can easily reach out via text messaging if they need anything.

During their stay, guests can use mobile messaging to make requests without having to make physical contact with the front desk, and on the day of departure, self-check-out instructions can be communicated automatically.

Direct integration between the mobile messaging platform and the PMS facilitates the personalization and automation of messages. In this case, reservation data is sent from the PMS to the messaging platform in real time to automate routine message delivery, and to match incoming guest inquiries with reservation data for more efficient and personalized responses and resolution. This can make a significant positive impact on productivity and customer service, not only when occupancy is high, but also when operating with skeleton staff as business begins to recover.

Smart room tech

Light switches, thermostat controls and TV remotes are high-touch points for guests that can be avoided through the use of smart room technology. Powered by IoT (Internet of Things) technology, smart room functionality can be controlled via mobile app or voice-activated digital assistants like Alexa for Hospitality. Guests can close the drapes, turn on the lights, adjust the room temperature, select entertainment programming, order room service and even turn on the coffee machine using their own smartphone or simply by voice command.

Not only does smart room technology offer an elevated level of convenience that modern travelers desire, but reducing physical contact with high-touch surfaces will make guests feel safer while COVID-19 is still out there.

Smart room technology is a significant investment and doesn’t suit all lodging operations, but it makes sense to consider such solutions for our touchless new normal and beyond. In the meantime, make sure guests know that all high-touch guestroom surfaces are disinfected after every stay.

Many aspects of daily hotel operations have changed in the wake of COVID-19. As long as the virus is a threat, operational protocols that enforce physical distancing and thorough sanitization will be our new normal. From self-check-in to mobile messaging, modern technology can help hotels improve efficiency and customer service as they adapt to new processes and prepare to welcome both guests of today and tomorrow.

How Hotels Can Come Out Stronger from COVID-19

COVID-19 and the travel restrictions and lockdowns required to reduce the spread of the virus have brought about an unprecedented drop in occupancy for hotels and other lodging operations all over the world. Some properties have had to close out floors, suspend certain services such as dining and event services, or temporarily shut their doors. While the novel coronavirus has had a profound impact on daily operations, try to take advantage of this forced downtime to reflect on your business and the changes you can make to ensure your hotel is well positioned to maximize revenue when the gates of travel open again.

Review Your Marketing Strategy

There are a lot of predictions about what the new normal of travel will look like after COVID-19. As borders reopen and fears subside, will travelers still travel like they used to? There’s a general consensus that domestic travel will see an increase, while business and international travel will decrease—at least for a while.

Recovery of the travel industry will be fluid and uneven, so it will be more important than ever for hotel marketers to adopt a flexible marketing strategy based on close analysis of their reservations data and market. As the world recovers from the pandemic, hotels should prepare to adjust their marketing spend and channels to align with shifting market segments.

What is certain during these uncertain times is that maintaining communication with customers is crucial. It’s important to reassure potential guests by clarifying your property’s COVID-19 status and policies, and to stay top of mind for guests looking forward to traveling again once this is all over. While marketing messaging during COVID-19 is a topic that deserves a blog post all of its own, now is a good time to evaluate the systems you have in place to reach out to guests. For example, if you aren’t already, seriously consider automating customer communications such as reservation confirmations and pre- and post-stay emails to take advantage of these key touchpoints to build the guest relationship and generate revenue through upselling and cross-selling opportunities.

Take a good look at your website and make sure content is current, updating text and images yourself where you can. If your budget allows, consider getting that website redesign underway. Look at creating fresh photo and video content for your website and to use for future ad campaigns and on your property’s social media accounts. If you haven’t yet started a blog for your property, now might be the right time. A blog is a great way to stay connected to your customers during these uncertain times, and provides good content for your property’s social media accounts and e-newsletters too.

Read Your Online Reviews

Spend some time reading through (and responding to) recent online guest reviews to become more aware of what your guests love about your property, and what they don’t. Reviews shine a light on the areas that really need improvement—which can sometimes differ from the areas we think need attention. Let positive reviews provide encouragement during these tough times, acting as a reminder of what you are fighting for.

If your property’s online reviews are looking a bit thin, consider ways to generate more. From asking at check-out to sending post-stay review requests, review management can be handled manually or via automated solutions that make generating and responding to reviews easy.

Online reviews were critical to a hotel’s reputation before COVID-19 and are likely to be even more important after. Hotel and room cleanliness, for example, has always been a significant rating factor within guest reviews and, going forward, will carry even more weight. Paying some attention to your property’s reviews and review management strategy now can help put your property on a stronger foot when the industry starts to recover. 

Get to Know Your Hotel Operating Systems Better

Your hotel operating systems—including your property management system (PMS), revenue management system (RMS), point-of-sale (POS) software, customer relationship management (CRM) solution, among others—are designed to drive revenue and efficiency, and they will be key to maximizing both in our post-pandemic industry.

Make use of this time to delve deeper into your hotel systems to discover ways of doing things better. Explore features and reports you are unfamiliar with and consider how they might help make your workday easier or provide deeper insights into your business. What would you like your systems to do better? What cross-system integrations would improve workflows and the guest experience at your property? Now is a good time to reach out to your technology vendors with questions and customization requests. If any of your systems are holding you back, dedicate some downtime to researching alternative solutions. Although you might be hesitant to invest in new technology right now, contact solution providers, ask questions, and be ready to go with your top choice when brighter days come.

Cross-train Your Staff

As roles across departments have become quieter these days, consider using this time to cross-train your staff. The flexibility afforded by cross-training staff is always beneficial to a business’s bottom line—both during tough times and when business is going well.

The decision to cross-train staff within or across departments depends on each business and your employees’ strengths and skill sets. Giving employees the ability to step outside their primary roles when needed not only maximizes flexibility and efficiency in scheduling staff, but results in a more productive, engaged and cohesive team that delivers a better guest experience.

Reassess Your Expenses

The COVID-19 crisis has already driven most hotels and businesses across industries to reassess their expenses, looking for ways to reduce costs. While it may never have been so urgent to cut costs as it is now, identifying wasteful or excessive practices has always been key to maximizing profits.

Look for ways to become more cost efficient going forward without negatively impacting the guest experience or brand image. Assessing staff scheduling efficiency, cross-training staff, identifying opportunities for automation, sourcing F&B supplies from fewer vendors and reducing frequency of deliveries, implementing energy-efficiency controls, and sourcing cheaper office supplies are some examples of how and where costs could be minimized without affecting quality of service.

Find Ways to Go Greener

For the world’s population the novel coronavirus is a health tragedy, but for the planet, COVID-19 has brought about a much-needed breather—from us. Satellite imaging has shown a significant reduction in pollution all over the world as a direct result of lockdowns and travel restrictions.

Climate change and the need to live and operate our businesses in a more sustainable way has been front of mind long since before this pandemic hit. Recent research showed that sustainable travel options were becoming increasingly important to today’s travelers. Tomorrow it will be even more important.

If you haven’t already given it much thought, consider ways you could go greener at your hotel and how you can promote your sustainability efforts. Some methods require little upfront investment, like installing energy-efficient lightbulbs, implementing towel and linen reuse programs, and replacing single-use packaging (water bottles, mini toiletries, salt-and-pepper packets, etc.) with refillable solutions. Other ways, such as adopting alternative energy sources like solar and wind power, and implementing automated energy management systems, involve much more significant upfront costs, but dramatically reduce operational costs and your environmental footprint.

These are the toughest times for the hotel industry in recent history, but try to stay positive and focused on the horizon. Use this time wisely to take a close look at your business and how you can emerge from this crisis even stronger.

8 Key Performance Indicators Hoteliers Should Be Tracking

Running a hotel is a complicated job with a never-ending list of responsibilities. It can be easy to get caught up in the day-to-day tasks that keep your property running smoothly and forget about taking time to assess your business’s performance. But, as they say, you can’t improve what you don’t measure – so start measuring.

Here are eight important key performance indicators (KPI) every hotelier should be tracking:

Financial KPIs

Average Occupancy Rate (AOR) >> The AOR measures the percentage of rooms that are occupied over a specific period. It is calculated by dividing the number of paid rooms occupied by the total rooms available (for the desired period) and multiplying that figure by 100.

Occupancy is an essential indicator of hotel success. Increased AOR typically means increased revenue, so you should pay careful attention to this figure. Check out our past blog post for ideas on increasing occupancy at your property.

In addition to providing insight into hotel performance, knowing your AOR is critical for operations. This metric can help you staff your hotel appropriately and manage inventory effectively.

Average Daily Rate (ADR) >> The ADR measures the revenue generated by each room on average. It is calculated by dividing total room revenue by the number of rooms sold. You should be comparing your ADR to the average costs per room to ensure profitable pricing decisions.

For tips on improving ADR at your property take a look at this past post.

Average Rate Index (ARI) >> The ARI indicates how your ADR compares to that of your immediate competitors. It is calculated by dividing your ADR by your competitors’ average ADR. This figure can help you determine if, and how, you should be adjusting your pricing.

Revenue Per Available Room (RevPAR) >> RevPAR is often considered the most important figure for analyzing hotel success. Although similar to ADR, it includes the rooms that are sitting empty in the calculation (RevPAR = total room revenue / number of available rooms).  Because this ratio accounts for both revenue and occupancy, it serves as a good snapshot of success and profitability.

Revenue Per Available Customer (RevPAC) >> RevPAC (calculated by dividing the total revenue from hotel guests by the number of hotel guests) reflects the average revenue generated by a single customer. This figure accounts for ancillary revenue sources (from spa treatments to food and beverage purchases to pet fees) in addition to room revenue.

Check out our past blog post for ideas on increasing ancillary revenue, and therefore RevPAC, at your hotel.

Customer Acquisition Cost >> This metric indicates how much cost is invested in acquiring each new customer. You can compute it by summing the total amount spent on sales and marketing and dividing that figure by the number of clients acquired through those efforts. Calculate the CAC for individual channels to determine which ones are worth continued investment.

Guest Satisfaction KPIs

Online rating >> In the age of the internet, hoteliers no longer have to wonder how their guests felt about their stay; online reviews provide explicit and measurable feedback. You should be aware of the number of reviews and overall rating your hotel has on sites like Google and TripAdvisor, and making efforts to improve both.

Read this blog post for tips on improving your ratings online.

Guest engagement >> People engage with the brands that they trust and love, so how much engagement you get online can be a good indicator of overall guest satisfaction. Track the number of likes, comments, and shares your content is getting on social media platforms for a sense of how contented and loyal your guests are.

Running a successful business requires constant self-assessment and adjustment. Track, and regularly assess, these KPIs so you can run a more efficient and profitable property.

Going Desk-less: The New Hotel “Front Desk”

Traditionally an indispensable point of contact between a hotel and in-house guests, the front desk has always been the place where guests check in, make requests, stop to chat, and check out. But not anymore. From mobile concierges to chatbots, today’s hospitality technology makes it possible for hotels to dispense with their physical front desk.

In fact, the mobile self-check-in process, combined with keyless entry (via keypad or mobile key systems), allows guests to bypass the front desk entirely upon arrival. Self-check-in kiosks too, allow guests to check themselves in without interacting with staff.

While plenty of research shows that hotel guests want mobile and self-service technology that improves efficiency (no-one wants to wait in line), studies also show that guests desire authentic travel experiences—of which human connections are essential.

It’s important for lodging operators to stay current and use technology to improve operations and customer service, but when it comes to hospitality, technology should augment human interaction, not replace it.

Japan’s first robot hotel, Henn-na Hotel, illustrates this point beautifully. The high-tech property recently ditched half its robots because of frequent malfunctions and technical shortcomings resulting in frustrated guests. The hotel found that their robots just didn’t work as well as humans.

A hotel’s front desk customarily provides the first opportunity for the property to make a personal impression, but it can also be confining. Tied to a physical front desk, customer service suffers, especially during busy periods as the queue grows, the phone won’t stop ringing and smiles begin to wane under pressure. On the other hand, eliminating this key touchpoint with self-service solutions causes hotels to miss out on a valuable opportunity to make a personal connection with guests—the kind of connection that builds loyalty.

As always, success lies in finding the balance. Hotels can break free from the constraints of the physical front desk without losing their human touch. Here’s how:

A Welcoming Space

Think of how you might welcome a friend at your home, one you haven’t seen in a while. It would probably go something like this: you greet them warmly at the door, take their bags for them, invite them to sit down and offer them a drink. Contrast that welcoming scenario with this one: you stay seated at your table waiting for your guest to approach you, and then you spell out the house rules and tell them where their room is.

If you think about it, the latter scenario is similar to the way many hotels welcome their guests, but which scenario is more hospitable?

Hotels can greet guests in a more personable way by reducing or eliminating the focus on the front desk. A front desk is a physical barrier between hotel staff and guests, and reinforces the transactional element of the stay. Transforming a desk-based lobby into an inviting lounge area creates a more welcoming space and experience.

From comfortable sofas to indoor plants to complimentary tea and coffee, think about how your lobby can be made both welcoming and functional. Done right, your lobby has the potential to become a space your guests can enjoy, not just pass through. Read our tips for making the most of your lobby for inspiration.

If you’re not ready to eliminate your front desk entirely, consider downsizing your desk and moving it out of the central space. That way, staff can work on administrative tasks during downtime, ready to approach and assist guests as needed.

Mobile Technology

Shifting focus away from the physical front desk is of course dependent on the property’s front office software, particularly in regard to check-in/out and request resolution processes. For a successful desk-less “front desk,” mobile-friendly solutions are key.

Modern property management systems (PMS) are optimized for mobile devices, including tablets and smartphones, allowing staff to access and update reservation and hotel data from anywhere.

With a tablet or other mobile device in hand, roving hotel personnel can greet guests in the lobby, invite them to put their bags down and take a seat, offer them a cup of tea or coffee, and then continue to check them in, tell them a bit about the property and make any local recommendations. Or show them personally to their room and continue registration there, making sure everything is to their satisfaction. Such a check-in process results in a more natural, fluid welcome than one conducted across a desk, and is much more befitting of a hospitality business.

WebRezPro PMS includes electronic signature capture for a paperless check-in process, allowing guests to sign check-in receipts or registration cards electronically using a tablet or smartphone. Receipts can then be emailed to guests for their records.

Wireless EMV card readers for guest payments, keypad locking systems or mobile keys, and mobile ID scanning apps go hand in hand with mobile-friendly PMS solutions for a completely streamlined desk-less check-in experience.

When it comes to guest requests, they can be logged and resolved on the go, without having to return to the front desk. Armed with modern mobile solutions, hotel personnel can essentially take the front desk with them wherever they go for improved efficiency and customer service.

Attentive Personnel

Getting rid of your front desk is a bold but exciting move that results in a more personable and memorable stay experience. But it only works with a welcoming, comfortable space, the right technology—and attentive personnel.

Removing the front desk will catch some guests off guard, especially those from older generations, so it’s critical that staff are always available to greet guests as soon as they arrive. No guest should arrive confused, wondering where to go. Even the most meticulous staffing schedule can fall short during periods of high occupancy, but guests can still be invited to take a seat and help themselves to a drink while they wait—a much more appealing scenario than standing in a queue.

Roving personnel should be available to greet guests and check them in, answer questions, respond to requests and make local recommendations. Even properties with a self-check-in option should have staff at the ready to welcome all guests with a smile upon arrival and provide assistance as needed.

While technology is essential for streamlining hotel operations and enhancing the guest experience, it can never replace human hospitality (as Japan’s Henn-na Hotel has shown). Hospitality will always be about people and hotels will always need their human frontline—they just don’t need the desk.

Data is All Around: How to Harness it for Hotel Success

From check-in to check-out and beyond, every action and interaction in a hotel generates data. But don’t let that daunt you. With the right systems in place, the right data can be harnessed in real time and accessed as needed to improve the guest experience and your property’s bottom line.

What data and what for?

With all that data around, how do you know what’s actually useful? While the needs of every property are different, there are fundamental pieces of information that every property should be using for the good of their business.

Let’s use an example of a typical guest life cycle to identify those valuable nuggets of data at every touchpoint.

>>Research. Our soon-to-be guest, Harriet, is doing some research online to find the best place to stay on her upcoming trip. She’s looking on her favorite OTAs, reading some reviews and checking out websites of the hotels that sound good.

Here is where those first nuggets of data can be found along the guest journey. With the help of a website analytics tool like Google Analytics, your website can tell you how well your promotional efforts are doing and whether your branding and content is hitting the mark, through metrics like traffic figures, acquisition channels, bounce rates and conversions.

Recommended Technology:

> Mobile-optimized website

> Website analytics tool like Google Analytics

>>Booking. Harriet likes what she sees on your website and decides to book online through your user-friendly website booking engine. Reservation data captured at this point includes guest contact information, room selection, payment method and perhaps even add-on services and preferences—and is essential for providing even basic customer service.

Reservation folio data should also be consolidated with guest profiles, building stay history and a record of other valuable information such as preferences, requests, anniversaries, etc. that can be used to enhance the guest experience now and in the future.

Let’s step back and get an even wider view. Through integration with your online booking engine (OBE) and other distribution channels (the GDS, OTAs and channel managers), your property management system (PMS) can give you a clear breakdown of where exactly your bookings are coming from. Knowing your most successful channels is key to optimizing your distribution strategy. Not to mention, integrating your channel partners with your PMS ensures inventory and pricing are automatically up-to-date across all channels.

Reservation data is also vital for compiling hotel statistics and performance metrics, including booking trends, occupancy trends, Average Daily Rate (ADR) and Revenue Per Available Room (RevPAR). Your PMS automatically collects this data and generates reports that help lodging operators make informed pricing and operational decisions.

Speaking of pricing (and your wider revenue management strategy), revenue management software (RMS) integration with your PMS greatly simplifies (and improves accuracy of) forecasting, pricing and inventory control, allowing your PMS to push reservation data to your RMS, and your RMS to update accepted pricing in your PMS.

Recommended Technology:

> PMS

> Website booking engine (with PMS integration)

> Payment gateway (with PMS integration)

> Distribution channels (with PMS integration)

> RMS (with PMS integration)

>>Pre-arrival. Harriet is vegan, so she emails your property to ask about menu options at your property’s on-site restaurant. She also wants to know if she can make a dinner reservation ahead of time because she and her husband are celebrating their second wedding anniversary. The information garnered through such correspondence is like gold!

Not only is this a prime opportunity to demonstrate your excellent customer service with prompt assistance, but this personal data (special dietary requirements, anniversary, and interest in your property’s dining facilities) represents an opportunity to offer true personalization of the guest experience and should absolutely be saved in Harriet’s profile for future reference.

Not all guests reach out on their own accord before their stay, but your property can actively seek profile data through automated pre-arrival emails or messaging generated from your PMS or customer relationship management software (CRM). In addition to reminding customers about their upcoming stay and providing helpful information about hotel amenities and local attractions, pre-arrival communications can offer upsells (room upgrades and ancillary services), and invite customers to contact your property with any questions or requests.

Your PMS is key to ensuring Harriet’s room is ready on time too. Housekeeping scheduling relies on check-in and check-out data, and room preparation requirements are determined by folio information such as number of guests and special requests. For maximum efficiency, most PMS automatically share pertinent reservation data with the housekeeping department via a housekeeping report, which also allows cleaning staff to update room status in real time. Harriet, your room is ready!

Recommended Technology:

> PMS

> CRM (with PMS integration)

>>Arrival. Harriet and her hubby arrive at your property, a little weary from their travel but happy to be there. While you most likely have Harriet’s main contact details (email address, phone number, address) from when she made the booking, now is the chance to confirm the info you have, and politely garner additional details that could help you provide more personalized service. For example, her preferred payment method and her husband’s name. Would they mind providing you with their mobile number, just in case? Are they interested in a discount coupon for the spa next door?

Front desk staff should be on alert for additional profile-worthy information guests volunteer via questions about the property and local area. Harriet’s husband asks where he can get the best cup of coffee in town and his love of coffee should be noted.

In the case of returning guests, your PMS will ensure they don’t go unrecognized and the information in their profile can help hotels enhance their experience, from a warm “welcome back” to a personalized welcome gift waiting in their room.

A bottle of local wine and a hand-written note congratulating them on their anniversary awaits Harriet and her husband when they get to their room, and they Instagram it immediately!

Recommended Technology:

> PMS

> CRM (with PMS integration)

> Payment gateway (with PMS integration)

>>Occupancy. During Harriet’s stay, numerous interactions and transactions generate data that can be used to personalize her experience and contribute to a broader view of what your guests want.

Harriet and hubby both order vegetarian items from your restaurant’s menu, cocktails and the vegan dessert to share. In addition to recording transactions for reporting purposes—for example, for menu and inventory management—your POS system has conveniently posted the restaurant charge to Harriet’s reservation folio (through an interface with the PMS) and her F&B preferences and price points can also be noted in her profile.

Later that evening, they call down to the front desk for a couple of extra pillows, which are promptly delivered—and Harriet’s preference for extra pillows recorded in her profile to anticipate her needs for future stays.

The following day, Harriet and her husband stop by the front desk on their way out for the day and ask if you have any recommendations for a quick stroll and a good place to have lunch before they head to the museum to check out a temporary exhibition about whales (turns out Harriet loves nature—another valuable fact to note). Knowing they are celebrating their anniversary, you recommend a particularly romantic stroll along the river that leads to a vegetarian café that also serves awesome coffee.

Transaction and profile data collated during occupancy is not only key to providing personalized guest service, but for determining high- and low-demand services and items, pricing, department needs, package design and other operational decisions.

Recommended Technology:

> PMS

> POS system (with PMS integration)

> CRM (with PMS integration)

>>Departure and post-departure. It’s time to say goodbye (for now) to Harriet and her husband. With all relevant data at your fingertips, your PMS makes the check-out process a breeze, showing any outstanding charges and generating a check-out receipt that itemizes everything clearly for the guest.

It’s apparent that Harriet and her husband have really enjoyed their stay—wouldn’t it be great if they left a review? If your PMS is integrated with a CRM or reputation management software, your property can politely request guest feedback via completely automated post-stay emails. Modern CRM and reputation management systems can even analyse reviews to identify amenities your guests like and dislike, and help prioritize operational improvements (this is called sentiment analysis).

Post-stay email campaigns designed to bring Harriet and other guests back can be targeted and triggered based on guest profile data, including stay history (dates, rates, room types) and interests.

At the end of the day, all transaction data (check-ins, check-outs, guest charges, payments, etc.) needs to be centralized for an accurate, efficient night-audit too. Your PMS has got it covered.

Recommended Technology:

> PMS

> CRM (with PMS integration)

> Payment gateway (with PMS integration)

Data is key to guest satisfaction and the overall health of your property. At the heart of operations, your PMS automatically captures the data you need to provide great guest service and track your property’s performance through a range of reports. When integrated with your other hotel systems (CRM, RMS, POS, payment gateway, distribution channels, etc.), your PMS becomes part of a powerful data eco-system that shares data between departments in real time, increasing productivity and transparency for more personalized service and more profitable operations.

Data is all around—use the right hotel technology to harness it for success.

WebRezPro PMS currently offers integrations with over 90 hospitality solutions. Check out our Quick Guide to PMS Integration to see how you can make your data work more efficiently for your property.

Connecting Technology for a Better Human Connection: How Hotels Can Simplify Guest Messaging

Just as communication between friends and family has evolved due to the rise of mobile technology and social media, so has communication between businesses and their customers. Consumers expect to be able to connect with businesses as easily and conveniently as they connect with family and friends, and that’s why more and more hotels are implementing mobile messaging options for communicating with guests.

From SMS to popular messaging apps (like WhatsApp and Messenger) to guest messaging platforms designed specifically for the hospitality industry (like Whistle), lodging operators have various options through which to offer guests the convenience and personalized service of mobile messaging.

As a guest engagement channel, mobile messaging comes with many advantages. It’s an instant, personable and conversational way of communicating with guests, and portrays a more human side of business compared to traditional methods of communication like email. It’s a well-received form of communication too, with an open rate of at least 98 percent.

Mobile messaging also provides lodging operators with a record of chat history—in other words, valuable data that can be analyzed at both an individual level (guest profile data) and on an aggregate scale.

But perhaps the most important reason for implementing guest messaging is that it’s simply the way people want to communicate. Research shows that 90 percent of consumers want to use messaging to communicate with businesses. Hoteliers have found that guest messaging increases service recovery opportunities and results in higher guest satisfaction. Messaging provides guests with a convenient, less confrontational method of reporting problems and making requests in the moment, curbing negative reviews. It’s proven to boost ancillary revenue too.

The adoption of guest messaging should no longer be a matter of if, but when. But, as with the implementation of any new process, thoughtful consideration must be given to the challenges of adopting guest messaging within your own operations to ensure its efficiency and effectiveness.

Adopting Guest Messaging the Right Way

While implementing messaging technology itself is relatively simple, ensuring that it fits in with your day-to-day operations is a bit more complex. Dealing with guest requests and complaints through any channel involves various hotel departments and requires systems and processes to be defined, implemented, monitored and analyzed—and mobile messaging is no exception. Therefore, the success of guest messaging depends on how well it is integrated with your other hotel systems.

When you think about the practical implications of managing mobile messaging at your property, questions probably pop into your mind, like, “How can we quickly identify who is making the request?” and “How will staff find the time to manage yet another channel?

A typical guest enquiry almost always involves departments beyond the front desk. When front desk staff receive a request or complaint, they need to identify the guest and then communicate the request to the relevant department, be it F&B for room service, maintenance for a leaky faucet, or housekeeping for extra towels. And then they need to follow up to ensure the request has been fulfilled.

Without a properly integrated messaging system, it’s easy to see how the burden on front desk staff during peak season could be unmanageable. But when your guest messaging solution is integrated with your property management system (PMS), fulfilling guest requests and resolving complaints becomes much more efficient, and communications more personalized.

Combining the power of guest data with the convenience of mobile messaging creates a robust and efficient guest engagement tool that is hard to beat. Through direct integration, your PMS communicates guest reservation data to your guest messaging platform in real time, allowing your messaging platform to send personalized pre-arrival, mid-stay and departing messages automatically. Fulfillment of guest enquiries becomes more efficient and personalized too, with profile data automatically pulled alongside the message thread.

“Faster response time and increased satisfaction!”

Whistle has allowed our Guest Experience team the opportunity to reach out to and assist our guests in a faster, more organized manner. By having the guest profile pulled next to their text message thread, our Guest Experience team does not need to spend time searching for reservation information about the guest while speaking to them. This has allowed for faster response time and increased satisfaction!

The benefit of having Whistle and WebRezPro PMS integrated is the seamless interaction between the two systems. Whistle is able to pull guest information and have it side by side with the guest’s messages. Additionally, our team is able to schedule out custom, property-specific, automated messages increasing our efficiency while also providing our guests with the proper information at the best time!

– Kerri Coughlin, Guest Service Director, Locale

When guest messaging is viewed as part of an integrated system rather than yet another service channel to manage, it offers real potential to elevate the guest experience and improve operational efficiency and staff productivity.

WebRezPro PMS currently offers integration to a growing list of mobile messaging partners, including Whistle and Twilio. Contact us to find out more about integrating WebRezPro to your preferred guest messaging platform.

Hotel Amenities: What Today’s Guests Look For When Booking Accommodation

To win the business and loyalty of guests, hoteliers have always needed to offer more than a simple place to sleep. Whether it was valet parking, room service, or an on-site spa, hotels relied on extra amenities to appeal to customers. And that hasn’t changed. In fact, now that people can find and compare accommodation so easily on the internet, guests are more discerning than ever. You need to provide quality features and services if you want to stand out from the competition and give customers a reason to return.

Just like guest expectations for communication and decor have changed over the years, their expectations for amenities have evolved as well. Here are a few things guests are looking for today:

Free WiFi

When it comes to booking accommodation, the most sought-after amenity is free, high-speed internet. Today’s travelers are incredibly reliant on their phones (and other mobile devices) to research activities, plan itineraries, and keep in touch with friends and family. If you don’t offer complimentary WiFi, guests will likely keep looking for a property that does.

Complimentary breakfast

Whether it’s a traveler on business or a family on vacation, people like the comfort of knowing the first meal of the day is taken care of. So consider offering complimentary breakfast for your guests. It won’t go unappreciated; After WiFi, free breakfast is ranked the second most important amenity by travelers.

Luxury in-room essentials

It’s the little details that make a guest’s stay feel luxurious.  When it comes to in-room amenities, that means ensuring things like linens and toiletries are of the highest quality. Swap out polyester sheets for high-thread-count cotton, and equip rooms with soft, over-sized bath towels. When stocking the bathroom, choose high-end hair products and artisanal soaps. Your guests will leave feeling pampered and excited to return.

Mini-fridge

Mini-bars are on their way out. They’re expensive to monitor and maintain, and often go unused by guests. Many hotels are opting to equip rooms with an empty mini-fridge instead. Hotelier’s don’t have to worry about stocking or tracking the use, and guests can bring in snacks and beverages they’ve purchased elsewhere. It’s a solution that makes everyone a winner.

Flexible food options

Like mini-fridges, room-service is being reconsidered by many hoteliers. In its stead, some properties are opting to provide grab-and-go food options in their lobby, giving guests the flexibility and convenience they desire. They can pick up a burrito on their way out the door, or take a salad back to their room to enjoy in comfort. And as an added bonus, this cafeteria-style approach minimizes costs for you.

Streaming services

In-room entertainment is still a big priority for travelers. Guests want access to TV facilities (especially millennials), but pay-per-view movies aren’t going to cut it anymore. Most guests have a subscription to one streaming platform or another, and they want to continue watching their favorite television shows while traveling. Consider installing smart TVs that allow guests to connect their devices and access their own content.

Shared spaces

A recent trend that we’ve blogged about before is the millennial-led demand for shared-living spaces. Travelers today are prioritizing experiences and looking to socialize. Creating versatile spaces where guests can work, read a book, and mingle, will help foster the environment this new generation of travelers is seeking.

Amenities matter. They’re what elevate the customer experience from good to excellent. Make sure you’re doing everything you can to win your customers’ bookings and earn their loyalty.

5 Hospitality Trends to Look Out For in 2019

A new year is beginning, and it’s the perfect time to take stock of what’s working, what isn’t, and start making a plan for finding success and wowing customers in 2019. Need a change but lack inspiration? Here are a few hospitality trends that will dominate in the new year:

More Mobile

The transition to an all-mobile world continues. It seems like every year there are new steps hoteliers must take to stay mobile friendly. In the beginning, that just meant ensuring websites were optimized for mobile devices. Oh, how far we’ve come. Moving into 2019 and beyond, mobile will be an important part of all aspects of the guest experience. Many hotels will allow guests to make and manage bookings through hotel apps, check-in and out on their mobile devices, and access rooms with a mobile key. Rooms will be equipped with smart technology that allows lighting, temperature, and entertainment to be controlled via personal devices and room service orders and other requests will be made over text messaging. Mobile technology has found its way into every aspect of our lives, and that includes travel. So, consider ways to make your business more mobile friendly. This is a trend that isn’t going away.

Health and Well-Being

Moving into the new year, wellness tourism (travel with the intent to maintain or improve health) will be even bigger than it was in 2018. In fact, the industry is forecasted to reach $919 billion in revenue by 2022. With numbers like that, there’s good reason to incorporate health and wellness into your hospitality business. And there are a variety of options for accomplishing this: from installing fitness centers, health spas or saunas, to hosting retreats and serving healthy food options. If you don’t have the necessary facilities on-site, consider partnering with a local business. You could provide a health and wellness package that includes passes to a nearby studio.

Social, Social, Social

This will likely come as no surprise, but social media will continue to play a significant role in 2019. This year we will see a shift towards more ephemeral content, with live-streaming and social media stories gaining momentum across many popular platforms. And behind the scenes, social listening will become a more prevalent marketing practice—allowing businesses to monitor online chatter about their brand for more effective lead generation and reputation management.

Cool Tech

The futuristic tech that we’ve blogged about in the past will begin to gain traction in the hospitality industry this year. It’s predicted that chatbots will be involved in more than 85% of customer service interactions by the year 2020—which isn’t surprising. AI can provide 24/7 service while significantly reducing cost. And there is little customer resistance as consumers adjust to the use of chatbots and other digital assistants in all aspects of their lives.

Though still in its infancy, the use of robots in hospitality will also continue to climb this year. What began as an exciting novelty, has become an essential piece of the customer service puzzle in a few larger hotels across North America and Asia. Like chatbots, they have the potential to maximize service while reducing staffing costs.

Other tech trends to look out for this year include the use of biometrics and virtual reality.

Adults-only

While many hotels invest in amenities that cater to the whole family, there is a growing subset of properties doing just the opposite. Adults-only properties (all guests must be 16 years or older to stay) are seeing an upswing in popularity recently that will likely continue into the new year. As more and more adults seek out the tranquility of a kid-free holiday, middle and budget properties are participating in what used to be the exclusive territory of luxury resorts in the Caribbean.

The hospitality industry is always evolving. It’s important to stay abreast of changes in design, operations, and technology, so you don’t get left behind. Keep these current and emerging trends in mind when looking to make changes this year.

A Hotelier’s Guide to Recruiting, Hiring and Retaining Employees

Your employees are the backbone of your business. That’s true in many industries, but the hospitality industry in particular. They’re the ones that facilitate bookings, welcome guests to your property, ensure their stays are comfortable, and make their time at your hotel a memorable one. So it’s imperative you find (and hold on to) quality staff members.

Here’s a quick guide to help you find the right people, bring them on board, and make sure they stay:

Recruiting

Marketing >> Recruiting talent is a lot like making bookings. You need to get your brand out there and seen by the people you’re hoping to connect with.  And much like marketing collateral, it needs to stand out. Job descriptions should be specific and comprehensive (so you get relevant applications tailored to the posted position) and have a little flair (to give applicants a taste of your company culture). In addition to listing on places like LinkedIn and other job boards, be sure to post on social media platforms as well—if you’re working hard to curate exciting social media feeds, they’ll serve as an excellent space for recruiting new talent.

Referral programs >> Nobody knows your property like your employees. They’re experts at understanding if someone would be a good fit for your business. Consider implementing a referral program that rewards employees for bringing in new hires. They’ll have already done the vetting for you and likely ensured the candidate understands the details of the job. Referred hires eliminate a lot of guesswork for both parties.

Applications >> Millennials make up a vast majority of new hires today. And their expectations are different than other generations. If you want them to apply, it needs to be possible to complete the application process entirely from a mobile device.

Hiring

What to look for >> Traditionally, hiring practices placed a significant emphasis on experience. While experience can be valuable, it’s not necessarily the most important thing—especially in the hospitality industry. Providing excellent customer service is all about personality and competency. Look for people who are personable, confident decision-makers, team-players,and display a growth mindset. You can teach the details of the job. You can’t teach attitude.

Interviewing >>  To better identify the characteristics you’re looking for in an employee, consider alternative interviewing styles. A formal Q&A sit-down isn’t the best way to see how someone handles situations or interacts with other people. Instead, you might use assessment activities (individually or in a group-interview setting) to see their communication and problem-solving skills in action.

Retaining

Employee turnover is a big problem in the hospitality industry. American hotels see, on average, a 73% turnover rate each year. That’s a big deal. Not only is it costly and time-consuming to continually hire and onboard new staff, but guest satisfaction is also likely to suffer when your property is understaffed and regularly training new people. So it’s essential you make employee retention a priority.

Professional development >> Employees are more likely to show loyalty to a company they feel they have a future with. Show them you’re invested in their professional development by discussing their goals within the company and mapping out what they need to learn and do to get there. Provide opportunities for staff to undergo ongoing training (both internally and externally), so they don’t get complacent. If an employee feels they don’t have room for growth, they’ll likely see employment at your property as a short-term situation.

Employee benefits >> Happy employees are loyal employees. So, make sure you’re treating them well and showing you care. In addition to things like vacation days and benefits packages, you can offer discounted meals at your restaurant, flexibility in scheduling, and other perks that align with your company culture.

Team culture >> It’s important to make your staff feel like an essential part of the business. Foster a team culture at your property by sharing and creating company goals. Ask for input and then act on it. When staff members feel a sense of ownership at work, they’re more likely to remain loyal to the business and go above and beyond in their roles.

A hotel can’t be successful without hardworking and committed employees. Make sure you’re doing everything you can to recruit,hire, and retain the talent you need to be the best lodging operation you can be.

Everyone Is On Mobile. Why Aren’t You?

What you need to know about adopting a guest messaging platform for your hotel.

***Guest post from Whistle, a WebRezPro partner***

Hotels are in a bit of a technological limbo. We are one of the few industries that still use FAX machines while providing guests with cutting-edge technology like digital keys. In the end, the decision to innovate comes down to the benefits a new service brings to the hotel—the direct impact on guest experience, not how shiny or expensive the new software is. So, what do you, as a hotel, need to consider when bringing on a guest messaging platform?

Your Guests

When guests look for hotels, they’re trying to find the best experience; how far they will be from their destination, what amenities are offered, and more. Guests often need to speak with hotel agents for specific information, but don’t always have the time to wait on hold or dig through your website. Guest Messaging Platforms give guests the ability to send a quick message to your staff, while allowing them to go about their day. The best part is that they don’t have to download another mobile app, they continue messaging your hotel the same way they already message friends and family.

Problem resolution or service recovery is also much simpler with messaging; survey metrics will rise considerably after you start using a messaging system in your hotel. Often, the primary challenge is not the actual resolution of an issue, but rather, those who score your hotel low tend to not report the problems in the first place. With a messaging service in place, it is easy to proactively identify and address any service concerns or guest dissatisfaction, resulting in a positive impact on your scores and loyalty.

Your Staff

Your staff will find that they are able to work more efficiently with messaging services in place. Prior to your guests’ arrival, your team will more accurately plan around given arrival times, work out any logistical barriers, and satisfy any pre-check-in requests, ensuring your guests start their stay on the right note.

Complaints are easier and less stressful to manage now. Your team will have more time to find solutions, and better solutions mean happier guests. Your staff will thank you for having no more angry patrons yelling in the lobby!

Your Revenue

Messaging services will help your team build relationships with your guests and generate more ancillary revenue. By proactively ensuring guest satisfaction, your team will increase the likelihood of guests returning. Your hotel will be presented with more opportunities to keep your current guests happy—and it’s cheaper to keep them happy!

Choosing a Service

What do you need from a messaging service? We suggest reviewing the following:

Price – Fees vary between guest messaging platforms. Look for companies that fit your budget, and watch out for setup/installation costs and hidden fees.

Features – No two guest messaging platforms are the same; find the feature set that matches your needs. Some common questions to ask the provider are:

  • Do you charge for user accounts? 
  • Is there a way to automate messaging?
  • Can we communicate with international travelers?
  • Which third-party systems do you integrate with? 
  • Do you offer a way to verify and collect messaging consent? 
  • Do you offer product training? 
  • What type of analytics or reporting is offered? 

 

Impact – It is very important to find a platform with a proven track record. Ask for case studies, testimonials, references, and online ratings. Make sure your guest messaging platform will yield the highest return in value.

“An overwhelming success for our hotel… we couldn’t be happier.”

“The WebRezPro/Whistle Integration has been an overwhelming success for our hotel.  Beginning within minutes after the customer makes a reservation they receive ‘immediate gratification’ with a welcome SMS message to let them know their reservation is complete.  This helps us quickly establish a direct and personal line of communication with our customers so that we can easily assist them with any of their travel plans. 

As a small, boutique hotel our front desk offers limited hours of availability and now we can clearly communicate reminders about check-in times and guests can easily alert us when/if they plan to arrive beyond our normally scheduled times which allows us to easily alter our schedules accordingly. 

Once a guest checks-in, Whistle quickly delivers answers to commonly asked questions such as Wi-Fi code, etc.  From time to time as information changes we can easily update our canned messages in Whistle without any expensive printing costs or communication delays.  Really, I just can’t say enough about the WebRezPro/Whistle Integration, we couldn’t be happier.”

— Topher Swanson, Co-Owner, The Fred

Whistle

Whistle is the number-one rated Guest Messaging platform. With over 85% of travelers carrying their smartphone, Whistle allows hotels and guests to communicate via SMS Text Messaging and Mobile Messaging pre-, during, and post-stay. Whistle enhances customer service through real-time guest engagement, helping boost service scores while streamlining internal communication and operations through team messaging.

For more information, please visit: www.TryWhistle.com