5 Hospitality Technology Trends for 2020

The rise of mobile devices may appear threatening to an industry where face-to-face interactions and human connections are its defining characteristics. Even most movies and books recognize this, with characters meeting and developing relationships with each other on planes, trains, in taxis, and in hotel lobbies. Human interaction is integral to the travel experience.

However, technology is equally important in maintaining guest satisfaction through increased efficiency and personalized service. As a result, time is freed up for hotel staff and guests to participate in other services and activities that enhance the hospitality experience. The following mobile hospitality technology trends decrease the amount of time spent waiting in line at the front desk and elevate the guest experience to the next level.

Mobile Device as Door Key

People are more prone to make sure they have their mobile devices rather than their room key, so combining the two into one ensures that guests don’t need to spend their limited holiday time waiting to receive their door keys or replacements for their lost keys.

When mobile key solutions and smart technology systems are integrated with the property management system (PMS), guests can enjoy seamless access to their room by using their mobile phone as their door key. Integration with the PMS automates mobile key delivery upon check-in and deactivation of the mobile key upon check-out.

Integrating mobile key platforms with the PMS allows for a completely mobile self-check-in process for guests wanting to skip the front desk entirely.

Broaden your Bandwidth

Door keys and checking-in/out are not the only purposes for which guests wish to use their mobile devices while travelling. Being able to stream shows and movies, browse the internet, and access emails and apps quickly and for free are just as important to guests during their stay, so make sure that your bandwidth is adequate enough to accommodate this.

Make your rooms mobile-friendly by including amenities like casting devices or smart TVs and integrating internet systems with the PMS to allow your guests to cast and stream their favorite content on the room TV from their mobile devices.

Paperless Check-In and Check-Out

Paperless check-in allows for a mobile front-desk check-in experience, allowing guests to sign check-in receipts or registration cards on an electronic signature capture device such as a tablet or smartphone. This paperless feature not only frees up your guests’ time and your staff’s time, but it saves on paper and printing costs and reduces your property’s environmental footprint too.

Mobile Guest Engagement

Respond to and solve your guests’ needs and issues while they are staying with you, not after they leave. Engaging your guests through SMS messaging allows for a proactive response rather than a reactive response and creates a deeply individualized style of service and memorable experiences for your guests. Plus, resolving potential issues before your guests leave avoids negative online reviews (and guest experiences). These interactions also aid in getting to know your guests and further build loyalty since you can record their preferences, special requests, and needs in their guest profiles for future stays.

Mobile Housekeeping / Maintenance Reports

Improve not only staff productivity but also guest service by using the PMS housekeeping report on the go. Fully integrated with the PMS, mobile housekeeping reports allow housekeepers to view live room and occupancy status, and to update room status and add notes and maintenance requests in real time as they work, streamlining internal communication and ensuring timely resolution of maintenance issues (e.g. chipping paint, ragged bedding, discolored carpet, etc.).

While technology can distract from the human connection and interactions that are essential to the true travel and hospitality experience, using it in these productive, efficient ways allows for elevated, personalized service. Investing in these trends means investing in customer satisfaction and building loyalty to the travel experience you offer.

Unlocking Mobile Keys for Independent Hotels

The mobile revolution has and continues to impact the hospitality industry in a big way. According to the J.D. Power 2017 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Survey, incorporating mobile technology into the guest experience results in higher guest satisfaction. This is no surprise considering the ubiquity of smartphones. From Googling the answer to a burning question to online shopping to sharing our experiences with the world, our smartphones allow us to satisfy our desires instantly, on the go, and have become a convenience few of us think we can live without.

When it comes to hotel stays, smartphones are unlocking a new level of self-service convenience for guests with mobile bookings, direct messaging, self-check-in and more. According to recent research by TripAdvisor, 45 percent of connected travelers would like hotels to provide a mobile app with booking functionality (yet only 16 percent of properties do), and 34 percent of connected travelers want self/mobile check-in (yet only 11 percent of properties actually provide this).

Often going hand-in-hand with self-check-in, mobile key technology (or keyless entry) is increasingly in demand by today’s guests (especially millennials), and offers significant advantages for hotels too.

What is Mobile Key?

Mobile (or digital) key technology allows guests to unlock their hotel room via an app on their smartphone. Facilitated through NFC (near field communication) technology or Bluetooth, mobile key works by the guest simply holding the authorized smartphone close to the door lock, or touching a button on their smartphone screen. Guests can even unlock their door from anywhere inside their room (like from the bed), which is handy when receiving room service.

Starwood Hotels began rolling out mobile keys back in 2014, quickly joined by the likes of Hilton, Marriott, Choice Hotels and InterContinental Hotels Group. According to Hilton Hotels, guests who use mobile keys are more likely to rate their efficiency of arrival almost 10 percentage points higher than those that check in at the front desk, and leisure travelers who use mobile keys rate their overall stay experience 5 percentage points higher than those who use traditional check-in.

Why Do Guests Want It?

Why do so many guests want self-check-in and mobile keys? The answer is quite simple: to skip the queue. Just think of the popularity of self-check-in at airports and ticket-printing kiosks at movie theaters and train stations — the same logic goes for hotel check-in. Fuelled by mobile technology, our culture of immediacy has whittled away our level of patience and given rise to the “silent traveler.”

Efficiency has always played a significant role in guest satisfaction and, thanks to the rapid advancement of hospitality technology today, the level of attainable efficiency is higher than ever. Mobile key technology affords a seamless check-in experience that enhances the entire guest experience.

Guest demand for self-service convenience doesn’t mean that guests don’t want to interact with hotel staff; many travelers will always prefer dealing with people over technology. But it’s important to offer a choice – the modern traveler wants to be in control of how they interact with hotels.

Advantages for Independent Hotels

It’s not just guests of big brand hotels that want (and expect) more self-directed experiences. Mobile technology is becoming a standard across the board. Luckily, the transition to a mobile key system has many benefits for independent properties.

Streamlining the check-in process frees up time for hotel staff to interact with guests away from the front desk, in a more natural way. And authentic experiences are a significant motivator for customers choosing an independent hotel.

It also shouldn’t be understated that offering keyless entry can save money as well as aid in efforts to become more eco-friendly. It is estimated that a 200 room property goes through 12 000 plastic keys in one year. That is a lot of wasted money (and non-biodegradable material!). Once you factor in the economic and environmental cost of key-encoding software and the envelopes keys are handed to guests in, it is not difficult to understand the momentum behind keyless entry technology in the hospitality industry.

Transitioning to new technology can be unnerving.  The time and cost associated with replacing existing locks might be a deal-breaker for an independent property. However, with WebRezPro’s interface with Lock Up, adoption is easy because properties won’t have to change existing key card locks.

People do everything from their phone these days—and they love it. Consider adopting mobile key technology to give your guests what they want and increase efficiency at your property.

Mobile Musts for Independent Hotels in 2017

Two years ago we wrote about mobile technology independent lodging operators should be seriously considering at that time and since then, mobile has become even more ingrained in the hospitality industry. So we thought it was about time to revisit and expand upon our original post as mobile technology continues to influence the way consumers plan, book and experience travel and, in turn, evolve the way travel experiences are marketed and delivered.

Here are our mobile musts for independent hoteliers in the year ahead.

Mobile-Friendly Website and Bookings

We feel a bit like a broken record including this one on the list as it really goes without saying, but it’s surprising how many properties are still without a mobile-friendly website and booking engine.

Sixty percent of all travel-related searches begin from mobile devices, but 76 percent of consumers won’t even bother using a website from their phone if it isn’t mobile-friendly. And close to half of travelers who book travel online will do so using a mobile device. It simply hurts to think about how much business a property without a mobile-friendly website could be losing.

A single responsive design optimizes your website for all devices, from desktop computers to smartphones. Read these mobile-friendly web design tips to maximize conversions across devices.

Mobile PMS

With cloud hospitality software so readily accessible to independent properties of all types these days, there really is no excuse not to mobilize your property management system (PMS). Freeing hotel staff from the front desk and office, a mobile-optimized PMS offers very practical advantages, allowing authorized personnel to access guest, reservation and reporting data on the go for greatly improved efficiency, guest service and competitiveness.

Mobile Communications

Well and truly in the mobile era, we humans consistently turn to our mobile devices as the preferred method of communication and accessing information. When it comes to building customer relationships, it’s always been vital for businesses to be accessible to customers through the platforms their customers use and prefer, and today that means mobile.

Email – With 66 percent of all email in the US now opened on mobile devices it’s more important than ever to make sure your guest email communications, from reservation confirmations to marketing campaigns, are mobile optimized.

Social Media – There are now 1.86 billion monthly active Facebook users worldwide, of which 1.74 billion access Facebook monthly on mobile. Clearly, to engage a significant chunk of your (mobile) audience, social media is the place to be.

If your social media strategy needs some guidance, read our recent post, 7 Smart Social Media Practices for Hotels in 2017.

Mobile Messaging – Enthusiasm for texting-based chat with hotels is growing among consumers, with more than 90 percent of one study’s respondents from the US and UK saying it would be either “very” or “somewhat” useful. Whether in the form of SMS text messaging, messaging apps such as WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, or within hotel apps themselves, mobile messaging makes a lot of sense for independent hotels as a customer service platform.

Mobile-Friendly Rooms

Today’s guests don’t go anywhere without their mobile devices. While traveling, they expect to be able to browse the Internet, access their favourite apps and stream their favorite shows from their smartphone or tablet, just like they do at home.

To meet the modern guest’s expectations, independent properties must ensure that on-property and in-room technology is up to scratch. Numerous surveys have shown that Wi-Fi is the most important hotel amenity to guests, with many business travelers considering free Wi-Fi a deciding factor when choosing where to stay. Make sure your bandwidth is robust enough to handle the needs of your guests. Nothing is more frustrating than a slow or unreliable connection!

Other mobile-friendly amenities include plenty of wall sockets, smart TVs or casting devices, and charging stations.

Personalization

Mobile technology in hospitality is unlocking a new level of service personalization. Hotel apps, mobile communications (email, social media and messaging) and mobile booking engines are providing new avenues through which to gather rich guest data such as guest preferences, requests, accepted offers and on-site purchases that can be used to personalize the guest experience and build loyalty.

Don’t let this valuable opportunity to get to know your guests slip through the cracks. Make sure relevant guest data coming through mobile channels is recorded in guest profiles in your PMS or CRM (either manually or, better yet, through direct integration) for personalizing service and future offers.

While big brands are beginning to implement cutting edge technology like mobile keys, chatbots, and mobile-controlled room lighting and temperature, travelers don’t yet expect that level of technology from independent properties from which a more human connection is still expected and appreciated. However, it is essential for independent hotels to deliver the level of technology and amenities that their guests expect and can gain real value from. Going forward, mobile will continue to play an increasingly important role in travel. With the above mobile musts in place for 2017, your property is firmly on the right track.

Mobile Messaging: The New Way to Communicate with Guests

The pathways of communication between businesses and consumers have changed a lot in recent years. It wasn’t really that long ago when our only options for contacting a business were by phone, post or by physically popping in. Nowadays, in addition to these traditional methods of communication, most businesses also engage with customers via email and social media. In fact, digital has fast become the preferred method of communication between consumers and businesses.

Because communication is key to building customer relationships, it’s important for all businesses to be accessible through the platforms their customers use and prefer. This is especially true for the hospitality industry, which is now beginning to connect with guests via mobile messaging.

Mobile Messaging Makes Sense for the Hotel Industry

Just about everyone texts, from teens to grandmas. Why does everyone do it? Because it’s the quickest and most convenient way to get your message across to someone who isn’t right in front of you. Eighty-five percent of international travelers travel with a mobile device, so it makes sense for lodging operators to use mobile messaging to connect with guests.

Because texting is so simple and quick and well within our comfort zone, many guests prefer to engage with hotels this way rather than calling or visiting the front desk, which requires more effort.

The convenience that mobile messaging offers guests motivates them to be proactive in requesting information and services to enhance their stay, improving the guest experience and boosting ancillary sales too.

Mobile messaging also offers guests with complaints a convenient and less confrontational avenue through which to voice their concern in the moment — rather than very publicly online after their stay.

If managed right, mobile messaging has the potential to increase customer satisfaction and reduce negative guest experiences by helping hotels build trust with guests, learn more about them, and develop stronger customer relationships.

How Hotels are Using Mobile Messaging to Engage Guests

Currently, most hotels are focused on using mobile messaging primarily as a service channel rather than a promotional one, and are achieving excellent results. Text messages can be used to confirm reservations, let guests know when their room is ready, welcome guests to the property, offer additional services, receive guest requests and to thank guests after check-out. Using mobile messaging to communicate with guests in this manner is an efficient and effective way to personalize the guest experience.

Aloft Hotels’s cute spin on texting for room service gained a lot of attention when it was launched last year. The Aloft TiGi (Text it. Get it.) Emoji Room Service Menu allows guests to order room service kits (like the The Hangover consisting of two bananas, Advil® and two bottles of vitaminwater®) by simply texting the corresponding emojis on the menu to the hotel’s dedicated TiGi number.

In addition to SMS, properties are taking advantage of popular messaging apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, using dedicated accounts. Starwood Hotels uses WhatsApp, BBM and iMessage to allow guests to contact concierge services before, during and after their stay, while Hyatt Hotels uses Facebook Messenger to talk to customers.

After setting up a dedicated phone number, properties using SMS or a messaging app such as WhatsApp can get started by promoting the service alongside contact information on their website, in guest email communications, at the front desk, and on in-room welcome notes.

Some major hotel brands offer a messaging platform as part of their mobile hotel app. As well as mobile booking, rewards account access, mobile check-in and mobile room keys, the Marriott Mobile App offers Mobile Requests, which allows guests to send text-style messages to the front desk.

Mobile Messaging Tips for Independent Hotels

Mobile technology is a way of life now; it’s only natural for the hotel industry to embrace it. For independent lodging operators who are considering adding mobile messaging to their customer service channels, we have compiled some tips to consider before getting started.

Encourage guests to opt in.

As mentioned above, properties should promote the fact that they are accessible to customers via mobile messaging — on their website, in emails and on property. Encourage guests to make the first contact through this channel; if they reach out, you can be confident they will appreciate further messages that will enhance their stay.

Guests’ mobile phone numbers should be recorded in guest profiles, allowing for proactive contact for future stays.

Make a mobile messaging management plan.

Mobile messaging has high potential for guest engagement, so it is vital for the channel to be managed effectively.

One of the first things to consider is that mobile messaging is all about convenience and speed of response, so a member of staff should be assigned to monitoring and managing incoming messages and conversations at all times during advertised business hours. Aim for fast response times under 10 minutes.

Mobile messaging is designed to be a more efficient mode of communication, but this isn’t necessarily so when messages get complex and the back and forth goes on and on. Therefore, it’s important to know when to switch to phone or email for more complicated issues.

If the responsibility of monitoring and managing messages is to be shared among staff members, consider training to ensure timely responses and service consistency.

Use a personal yet professional tone.

Texting is much more private and personal than tweeting or posting on social media. Communicating with customers in this way is a privilege, so make sure hotel messages are friendly, personalized and professional. Avoid sending text messages that sound canned — this can be achieved as simply as using personal sign-offs and emojis.

Collect data.

Because mobile messaging offers such a high level of accessibility, it has great potential for helping properties get to know their guests. Valuable customer data can be gathered from messages, especially those that shed light on a guest’s needs and preferences. Relevant information like allergies, transportation requests, amenity enquiries, etc. can be recorded in guest profiles in the property management system (PMS) or CRM for proactive personalization of future stays.

 

While mobile messaging shouldn’t replace a property’s other customer service channels like email and voice, offering guests this additional avenue of communication makes a lot of sense today. If managed well, mobile messaging can be a very successful channel for personalizing and enhancing the guest experience — it’s no wonder more and more lodging operators are embracing this option.