Hospitality Brands Can Tap Technology to Create Emotional Connections with Guests

By Lisa Ross President & Partner, rbb Communications | March 11, 2018

Increasingly, in our tech-savvy world, hospitality brands are seeking to use digital tools to enhance the customer experience. Technology integrations are helping streamline things like check-ins, room service, amenities bookings, and more, but that "efficiency" may come at a price. Incorporate too much tech, too fast, and brands run the risk of ending up "disconnected" from their customers. Real human interaction can be powerful in creating emotional connections and brand loyalty. Technology too, when used correctly, can strengthen connections with consumers. The challenge is finding the proper balance to not lose the personal touch that constitutes hospitality.

Transforming the on-property experience with digital tools

The hospitality industry has a unique opportunity to leverage technology in a way that engages guests online as well as in person. By bringing the online and physical world together in real time, hotels can turn negative sentiment into a positive experience and convert a positive experience into an unforgettable one.

How? By using tools that enable them to "listen" to their guests in real time, before, during and after check-in, then reacting to rectify or amplify the situation.

Brands and on-site staff can utilize social listening to learn more about their customers' experiences at different touchpoints and ensure that their stay is positive and memorable. From the moment a guest checks in, they may engage on social media by taking videos, tagging the property in photos and sharing their experience online with friends, family and beyond. These social engagements are the standard by which people judge a property, and those in a guest's close network-usually like-minded and equally engaged-are all potential customers.

While this type of social sharing is taking place, brands typically interact online by clicking like, retweeting, or sharing posts, but if that's all, they could be missing the boat. These surface-level interactions from brands are important, but alone, they are not enough. There is an even bigger opportunity to make a human connection in real time. For instance, if a guest checks in and posts or tweets about how much they love their room, a simple social media response is unlikely to alter the experience. Conversely, if that same person receives something to further elevate their happiness like a bottle of wine or dessert with a note, "Thanks for sharing the special features of our property with your friends," the hotel or brand may have gained a guest for life. This also applies to addressing unpleasant situations. If a guest shares negative comments about having noisy neighbors and not being able to sleep. A socially-conscious brand will be aware and can quickly address it.  With poise and personality, an offer to change rooms or provide a complimentary poolside cabana can flip the guest's experience upside down. This level of personal engagement coming from online listening enhances the guest experience on-property and, in today's world, is an experience deemed social-media-worthy enough for a post that will inspire other potential guests.

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Coming up in March 2019...

Human Resources: An Era of Transition

Traditionally, the human resource department administers five key areas within a hotel operation - compliance, compensation and benefits, organizational dynamics, selection and retention, and training and development. However, HR professionals are also presently involved in culture-building activities, as well as implementing new employee on-boarding practices and engagement initiatives. As a result, HR professionals have been elevated to senior leadership status, creating value and profit within their organization. Still, they continue to face some intractable issues, including a shrinking talent pool and the need to recruit top-notch employees who are empowered to provide outstanding customer service. In order to attract top-tier talent, one option is to take advantage of recruitment opportunities offered through colleges and universities, especially if they have a hospitality major. This pool of prospective employees is likely to be better educated and more enthusiastic than walk-in hires. Also, once hired, there could be additional training and development opportunities that stem from an association with a college or university. Continuing education courses, business conferences, seminars and online instruction - all can be a valuable source of employee development opportunities. In addition to meeting recruitment demands in the present, HR professionals must also be forward-thinking, anticipating the skills that will be needed in the future to meet guest expectations. One such skill that is becoming increasingly valued is “resilience”, the ability to “go with the flow” and not become overwhelmed by the disruptive influences  of change and reinvention. In an era of transition—new technologies, expanding markets, consolidation of brands and businesses, and modifications in people's values and lifestyles - the capacity to remain flexible, nimble and resilient is a valuable skill to possess. The March Hotel Business Review will examine some of the strategies that HR professionals are employing to ensure that their hotel operations continue to thrive.