ALEXANDRIA, VA—When guests travel, they don’t want to just visit a city or town, they want to experience it.
Now, a new app is making it easier for innkeepers, bed and breakfast owners, and hoteliers of all sizes to give their guests a better way to find those experiences.
“Guests trust hoteliers to recommend the best places to dine, be entertained and shop, which creates a major opportunity to make their stays more memorable,” said Steve Short, founder/CEO of the Frictionless Guest App. “The Frictionless Guest App is built upon the idea of enhancing the guest experience by providing trusted recommendations, which will translate into long-term loyalty.”
The app allows guests 24/7 access to local information provided by the property operators. “They simply add attractions that they recommend, along with short descriptions of why they are appealing, and their guests can immediately start using the app,” he said. “This can usually be accomplished in about a day and only occasional tweaks are typically needed after that.”
Short created the app based on his own experiences. “When my wife and I have the opportunity for a long-weekend B&B getaway, we love finding a small town that gives us the chance to visit a few historic sites and mix in as many ‘real’ local spots at our own pace,” he said. “But since I’m the one responsible for suggesting what we might do during our trip, I’m always frustrated with the time I spend trying to find these places.”
He continued, “In my travel research, I often found that there was way too much information available—online, printed, etc.—with way too little value, and I’m usually skeptical of the reviews, ratings, etc., that I get from these sources. Based on this experience, I realized that there was a void that needed to be filled in the marketplace.”
He came up with the name Frictionless because he felt there was too much friction when he was looking for the right places to dine, be entertained and shop. “The ultimate goal is to reduce the friction for guests, while also reducing friction for the innkeepers,” he said. “For example, the app is available 24/7, which allows B&B owners to free up internal resources to focus on other operational priorities. In addition, the Frictionless Guest App helps them move away from relying on printed materials, such as brochures, maps and in-room reference guides.”
Michelle Heurung, innkeeper at the Lamberson Guest House in Galena, IL, is an early user of the app. “It is so nice to be able to suggest that they read about previous guests’ favorite choices in town,” said Heurung. “There is a great map for them to utilize in determining which restaurants and shops are closest to them at any time. I love the idea of being able to stress to my guests ahead of their arrival which restaurants would require a reservation; often, folks aren’t aware of how busy it gets here in Galena during the warmer months and in the fall, and they would have arrived without a reservation. I think this app is the perfect way to make sure my guests are all set with all of their vacation plans in advance, from dining to historical tours and more.”
Guests have told her how much they love the app. “Just the other day, I had a couple staying with me who had a lot of questions on what to do while in town and wanted to know what my favorite spots are. I always like to suggest places that my other guests have enjoyed, as well as places I like to go myself,” she said. “They were able to log in to the app and see their options, and later told me what a great help it was in planning their day.”
The main purpose of the app is to improve the guest experience, build the loyalty of the relationship and enhance word-of-mouth marketing by giving guests something they value during their stays. “We have innkeepers who are creating reciprocal relationships with area businesses,” said Short. “By having a direct connection with other local businesses, it’s possible to build a network within the community that provides a wide range of great eating and entertainment options they can recommend to their guests. And, once the word spreads throughout their networks, they are likely to see more guests coming through their doors, as those within their network reciprocate.”
He continued, “Overall, we believe that hospitality providers should put the quality of their recommendations and the credibility of their property above the desire to earn revenue from the app. This is integral to the goal of building valuable relationships, where they first need to provide guest value to receive longer-term loyalty.”
While Heurung has only been using the app for a relatively short time, she has ideas she thinks will enhance her guests’ experiences. “I love the idea of asking shops in town to offer a discount or incentive to my guests to stop in and shop,” she said. “I plan to start on that in the next couple of weeks. A guest would be able to look through the various incentives and plan their shopping around that. Not only will this bring more business into the shops on Main Street, but it would also encourage guests to return to the Lamberson Guest House for access to those special deals in town.”
The app was designed for all types of properties, regardless of size and ownership. “The Frictionless Guest App is actually ideal for any hospitality provider—inns, B&Bs, multi-property hotels and even Airbnb/VRBO property owners—who wants to ensure that their guests enjoy their stays,” said Short. “The solution works well for individual property owners, and can easily scale up for larger hoteliers with multiple properties. Essentially, the size of an operation has no bearing on the suitability, usability or effectiveness of the solution.”
Smaller operators might be most suited to it, according to Short. “Smaller operators have many operational challenges that take up much of their time. This includes everything from cleaning the rooms to food service to managing employee payroll, taxes and beyond,” he said. “[It] allows smaller operators to be more efficient when it comes to catering to guests’ needs. Innkeepers also often rely on ‘word-of-mouth’ referrals for getting more bookings. We believe that the Frictionless Guest App will help enhance overall guest loyalty, which will translate into guests recommending a property to their social circle and booking return stays.” HB