Guest Service and Customer Perception

By Lily Mockerman Founder, TCRM | October 22, 2017

When beginning the search for a room, guests already have certain ideas of the class of hotel they’ll consider, amenities that they expect, and the price they’re willing to pay. They also have an idea of how the room will be used, special considerations they will require, and how they want the experience to play out. Hoteliers need to be able to anticipate these guest expectations, even though the value perception for one guest is totally different than another, to be able to not only meet them but exceed them, and to align prices with the potential guest’s budget.

As in so many industries, hoteliers must remain cognizant of the often-dramatic changes in customers’ desires. Some of the major, recent shifts are the need for flexibility, knowing how technology can draw a guest, and replacing outdated amenities with local experiences. Let’s explore what some of these trends look like in today’s world.

Today’s guest wants flexible check-in and check-out, guestroom furnishings which can be adjusted to the guest’s reason for travel, and food and beverage options. I foresee this customer expectation of flexibility as changing a hotel day from the standard 3 p.m. to noon the next day, to booking by period – 24 hours, 12 hours, etc. The guest room landscape will also change to having flexible seating and flexible flat surfaces (tables/desks/shelving). Customer expectations have already changed the food and beverage area, resulting in options for lobby food and beverage service, grab-and-go offerings, and flexible hours of operation.

The luxury chains will be the first to adopt many of these expectations. Luxury properties must adjust to keep the top-paying guests satisfied, which then filters down through the scales as luxury sets the pace for emerging guest trends. As changes are adopted by upper or midscale classes, the change ripples both upward and downward as other chains rush to keep up.

In addition to flexibility, continuously updating technology is essential. In one survey, 65% of U.S. hotel guests felt that technology was key to their experience. When accustomed to being able to click through their day at work and at home, guests may not be willing to have to navigate their stay in a “pencil and paper” manner. Of course, free Wi-Fi is a given, but wider range access points and upgraded upload/download speeds are becoming the norm. In fact, Wi-Fi is such a basic expectation these days that perhaps some of the guests surveyed had not even considered it when contemplating “technology, ” leading to what would seem to be a low 65% rating. Today’s traveler carries, on average, three to five devices, so the strength and bandwidth of the internet connection becomes essential.

For example, I was traveling for a conference and stayed with a major brand hotel. Unfortunately, they were having issues with their Wi-Fi, which brought my work, involving webinars and VOIP conference calling, to a standstill. I was forced to cancel the remainder of my reservation and pay more for another hotel in a heavily compressed city, simply to have access to these basic technological needs.

Coming up in January 2018...

Mobile Technology: Relentless Innovation

Technology has become a crucial component in attracting and retaining hotel guests, and the need to enhance a guest’s technology experience is driving a relentless pace of innovation. To meet and exceed guest expectations, 54% of hotels will spend more on technology in 2018, and mobile solutions in particular will top the list of capital investments. Many hotels are integrating mobile booking, mobile keys, mobile payments and mobile check-in into their operations. Other hotels are emphasizing the in-room experience, boosting bandwidth and upgrading flat screen TVs to more easily interface with guest mobile devices. And though not yet mainstream, there are many exciting technology developments on the near horizon. The Internet of Things (loT) is taking form in some places, and can be found in guest room control systems, voice activation systems, and in wearable sensors that can be used for access and payment options. Virtual reality headsets are available at some hotels so guests can enjoy virtual trips to exotic locations or if off-property, preview conference facilities and guest rooms. How long will it be before a hotel employs a fleet of robots for room service, or utilizes a hologram as a concierge, or installs gesture-controlled walls that feature interactive digital displays? Some hotels are already using augmented reality for translation services, or interactive wall maps, or even virtual décor. This pace of innovation is challenging property owners and brands to stay on top of the latest technology trends while still addressing current projects. The January Hotel Business Review will explore what some hotels are doing to maximize their opportunities in the mobile technology space.