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 January 2019...

Mobile Technology: The Future is Now

Mobile Technology continues to advance at a relentless pace and the hotel industry continues to adapt. Hotel guests have shown a strong preference for mobile self-service - from checking-in/out at a hotel kiosk, to ordering room service, making dinner reservations, booking spa treatments, and managing laundry/dry cleaning services. And they also enjoy the convenience of paying for these services with smart phone mobile payments. In addition, some hotels have adopted a “concierge in your pocket” concept. Through a proprietary hotel app, guests can access useful information such as local entertainment venues, tourist attractions, event calendars, and medical facilities and services. In-room entertainment continues to be a key factor, as guests insist on the capacity to plug in their own mobile devices to customize their entertainment choices. Mobile technology also allows for greater marketing opportunities. For example, many hotels have adopted the use of “push notifications” - sending promotions, discounts and special event messages to guests based on their property location, purchase history, profiles, etc. Near field communication (NFC) technology is also being utilized to support applications such as opening room doors, earning loyalty points, renting a bike, accessing a rental car, and more. Finally, some hotels have adopted more futuristic technology. Robots are in use that have the ability to move between floors to deliver room service requests for all kinds of items - food, beverages, towels, toothbrushes, chargers and snacks. And infrared scanners are being used by housekeeping staff that can detect body heat within a room, alerting staff that the room is occupied and they should come back at a later time. The January Hotel Business Review will report on what some hotels are doing to maximize their opportunities in this exciting mobile technology space.