By Paul Payette
First impressions are critical to setting the tone for hotel stays. After a year of non-travel, guests are returning to their preferred hotels but are greeted by an entirely new feel—with masks, social distancing and even technology changing their expected experience. This resets the views of returning guests and opens up a new opportunity to reimagine the guest journey and how that impacts loyalty.
Why focus on loyalty? It costs five times more to acquire a new guest than it does to keep a loyal one. Going back to the way things were is probably not the best bet, and digital transformation of the experience will exceed expectations over the long run. Let’s consider the touchpoints where hotels can implement emerging technology to create positive “re-impressions” and keep guests coming back.
The start of a tech-forward, guest-focused journey
The guest journey begins when a traveler researches and books their stay, most likely on their phone. In order to start the stay off on the right foot, does the hotel website or app communicate up-to-date health and safety policies, loyalty perks and amenities, including tech upgrades? Do you share local information including which restaurants are open or what entertainment is available? Put guests’ own tech to work from the moment they make a reservation.
A smart and safe welcome
The next chance to make a great re-impression is in the lobby. While some hotels are testing self-serve kiosks, akin to the tech many guests use at airport check-ins, and grab-and-go marketplaces, others are using a variety of robot concierge systems to give guests recommendations, transport luggage and deliver morning coffee and newspapers. Additionally, loyalty members and guests that have already downloaded the hotel app can bypass typical lobby interactions altogether with mobile check-in, digital keys and more.
Great service, even in the room
Limited physical touchpoints shouldn’t equate to a lower quality of service, and contactless tech upgrades, like casting and virtual assistants, can keep that “high touch” feel. Guests can avoid contact while connecting to the TV via casting to watch their preferred content in their preferred language. An in-room virtual assistant allows guests to use voice technology to make requests, book amenities, play music and even adjust the thermostat and lights.
Connect and upsell around the hotel
On average, a loyal guest spends 82% more than a new one. How can hotels advertise and upsell to guests when interactions are limited? Beacon technology uses real-time, location-based offers to drive guests to restaurants and shops. For example, a guest that passes by the hotel coffee stand might get pinged for his or her favorite drink when ordering a breakfast pastry.
Digital signage can be a great tool for sharing personalized recommendations, along with current happy hour and spa specials. Let guests scan a menu or special offer via a QR code to quickly and simply get what they need. For those summer travelers, apps can allow guests to order drinks or snacks to their cabanas or lounge chairs at the pool. Keep guests in the loop no matter where they are on the property.
Think guest first, mobile first
What does almost every guest have in common? A mobile device. Hotels can and should take advantage of the fact that every guest comes equipped with data-producing, uniquely identifying tech. Why not embrace BYOD (bring your own device), streamline the experience and offer guests one central, mobile hub where they can interact with every aspect of the hotel? With a good WiFi connection, guests can have control over most of the touchpoints of their hotel stay. Most guests would engage more with loyalty programs they can easily access from a smartphone.
When hotels rethink the guest experience and give guests a great “re-impression” to traveling, they build stronger relationships and retain guests. In turn, loyal guests become a valuable asset to hotels: booking more nights, capturing higher spend and recommending the brand to family and friends.
Paul Payette is VP, strategic relations at Nomadix Inc. He is a hospitality veteran with more than 20 years of experience growing global business and leading sales, strategic partnerships, marketing and strategic planning.
This is a contributed piece to Hotel Business, authored by an industry professional. The thoughts expressed are the perspective of the bylined individual.