How to Improve the Guest Experience by Investing in Tech That Saves Power and Money
By Nancy Snyder Senior Manager of Hospitality Sales, Legrand North America | March 03, 2019
As smart home technology continues to permeate households across North America, consumers are growing accustomed to automation and voice-activated controls to adjust their interior environment. It's no surprise that consumers are looking more and more for hospitality settings to mirror these conveniences for a top-of-the-line guest experience.
However, in addition to remaining attractive in the eyes of discerning guests, hoteliers and hospitality executives will find an additional and very compelling business benefit to incorporating tech upgrades into hospitality spaces: hotel properties that incorporate Internet of Things technology and high-quality, tech-forward tools experience significant reductions in energy consumption, saving resources, money and time to increase net profits.
Here are seven categories for hotel decision makers to consider investing in from a technology perspective to enhance the guest experience and, ultimately, improve the bottom line.
1. Plug Load Control
Energy efficiency is one of the most challenging topics that hotel owners deal with on a daily basis. Outlets are always drawing on power unless they are directly shut off; so, controlling plug loads is one key approach for hoteliers to manage electricity consumption and reduce energy bills. It's also important for future-proofing buildings against changes in electrical codes (for example, California code already dictates that half of the receptacles in a hotel or motel guest room must be set to switch power off no longer than 30 minutes after the guest room has been vacated).
Hoteliers should look for scalable, retrofittable control systems that keep plug load devices accessible for quick use when needed (i.e., not buried behind a wall or in a ceiling or hard-wired into the electrical circuit, but rather, wiring devices that have plug load control relays inside of them; the latter can be easily moved around for future space reconfigurations and are easy to retrofit and maintain).
2. Automated Check-in
Another way hoteliers can reduce the bottom line is with tablet and iPad check-in. This streamlines the check-in process, making it quick and easy. As the first touchpoint of the hospitality experience, check-in is an important area for hotels to invest in. Automatic check-in demonstrates efficiency and reflects an investment in technology, an impression that guests will carry with them throughout their stay.
Investing in tablets for check-in does involve a significant upfront cost for hotel owners, but the long-term savings from reduced staffing in the lobby will ultimately exceed this initial investment. Hotels with iPad check-in also do not experience the strains of reduced staffing due to last minute employee conflicts that inevitably pop up from time to time. As long as the iPads are charged and the Wi-Fi is working, the check-in experience is never compromised.
Skeptics may say that iPad check-in lacks the personal touch that a front desk manager can provide. However, it is important to keep in mind that consumers are used to self-service stations everywhere: at grocery store check-out, the doctor's office, the airport and more, increasing their expectations for similar efficiency across all aspects of their lives including travel. Additionally, iPad check-in allows for more staffing allocation in other aspects of the hotel, such as a spa room, which can create a more luxurious experience.
3. Abundant Charging Solutions in Public Spaces and Restaurant Areas
For hoteliers seeking a less expensive upfront investment, look no further than the hotel restaurant or bar. Hotel eateries are a lucrative revenue stream for owners; getting guests to stay longer and order more food and beverages makes them even more fruitful.
According to a 2017 Harris Poll survey, 46% of hotel guests would spend more time at a hotel/motel indoor common area if there was easy access to an outlet for charging. More power outlets and USB charging in restaurant spaces means guests are more likely to order refreshments, snacks and meals while they are working or spending time with coworkers or friends at the restaurant/bar. Both standard and USB outlets should be installed for maximum device accommodation, including both USB-A outlets, which are the standard USB ports that are most regularly used for devices, and USB-C outlets, which are the new, smaller ports being adopted by mobile device manufacturers for the latest smartphones, laptops and tablets. Hoteliers should install all of these outlets at each restaurant booth and in multiple places below the bar to ensure guests don't leave dinner early to go upstairs and charge their phones, laptops or tablets.
To further the appeal of the in-hotel restaurant, hoteliers can invest in tablets for automated ordering. Self-serve features like this can reduce restaurant staffing costs, while guests appreciate the ability to place food and beverage orders immediately upon sitting down and with on-screen visuals of all of the items on the menu.
4. Smart Temperature Controls
Heating and air conditioning are two significant sources of expense for hoteliers. Interior temperatures can be managed through a variety of structural means: insulated walls, windows with thick or tinted glass, etc. However, a major unknown for hoteliers is how individual guests will manipulate their room temperature; some may blast the AC, and others may turn up the heat. But inevitably all guests leave the room with the AC or heat on high, resulting in expensive bills.
It's certainly not in the hotelier's best interest to reduce guests' abilities to manipulate the temperature, as that would negatively impact the hospitality experience. However, there are some IoT investments hoteliers can make to encourage guests to keep hotel rooms at more moderate temperatures and better control the temperatures of unoccupied rooms.
First, remote controls for heat and cooling make it easier for guests to adjust temperature so that when a room becomes too hot or cold, they don't have to get out of bed to turn down the heat or air. Voice-activated temperature control is an even more tech savvy way to enhance the guest experience.
Secondly, motorized window treatments can provide smart temperature control in addition to added convenience for guests. Roller shades can be programmed to close once a room is unoccupied, covering the windows that cause frequent heat loss and gain.
Both solutions involve upfront investments that are ultimately exceeded by energy savings.
5. Adaptive Lighting
Like temperature, lighting that can be easily adjusted improves the hotel experience and can also lead to reduced energy costs. Late at night or early in the morning, guests may desire dimmer lighting which actually requires less power. Investing in adaptive lighting, even voice-activated light dimmers, is a great way to promote tailored guest experiences and save on energy bills. To save even more energy, hoteliers can even invest in lighting that can be programmed to turn off when guests are not in the rooms.
6. Smart Toilets and Showers
Smart home technology has officially expanded into the bathroom, and the products on the market are growing in popularity among consumers. Smart toilets offer users benefits such as seat and foot warming and automatic or voice-activated flushing. Smart showers offer precision temperatures, voice-controlled water pressure, and luxurious spray features for a spa-like experience. Investing in smart bathroom technology is a bold way to impress guests and provide them with the most memorable and relaxing experiences that cutting edge smart home technology can offer.
In addition to truly aweing your guests, there are innumerable sanitary benefits to incorporating smart home technology into hotel suite bathrooms. Smart toilets not only automatically flush but also self-clean, and even self-deodorize, reducing the amount of time needed from cleaning staff to sanitize the bathroom. Additionally, smart toilets monitor overflowing. If a hotel bathroom experiences a serious overflow, multiple rooms can be damaged, costing thousands of dollars. Smart toilets virtually eliminate this scenario. Smart showers provide similar benefits; they prevent overflows and water damage, and they can additionally self-adjust to reduce water pressure when possible to save on water bills.
Integrating smart showers and toilets into hotel bathrooms is certainly one of the most expensive tech upgrade options in terms of upfront costs. However, it's still scalable; hoteliers can start by upgrading the premium suites only, test-running the cost effectiveness of the upgrade and marketing these suites as an ultra-luxurious experience. Upgrading the entire hotel with smart bathroom technology would significantly increase the value of the property - and each nightly rate - in addition to saving on water bills, power bills, and cleaning staff expenses.
7. Reliable Brands with High-Quality Products
No matter what category you choose to invest in, it is important to ensure that the upgrades involve high quality products from trustworthy brands with strong records of accountability, quality and longevity. The last thing hoteliers need is a quick fix that stops functioning almost as quickly; for switches and outlets alone, 61% of hotel guests say they notice if these items don't function well (Harris Poll, 2017). Investing in brand-name quality from the start means less money spent on replacements, less time spent re-installing or checking on product functionality, and most importantly, less chance of guests discovering and complaining about faulty technology.
For hotels with smart products that collect guests' personal information or user data, security is an important concern for executives as well. Third party agencies can protect against information leaks or alleged misuse. Trust and a history of accountability are particularly important when hiring these agencies.
To find the ideal brand partners, hotel executives should interview multiple vendors for each category. It is also important to avoid "vendor lock" and make sure contracts are crystal clear on expectations, responsibilities, and partnership duration.
Integrating technology upgrades into a hotel can be a large investment upfront, but the long-term cost savings make it lucrative and profitable. Also, the benefits to guests can help hotels stand out in an increasingly competitive hospitality space. Charging, check-in, temperature, lighting, and smart bathrooms are great places to start investing in reliable brand partners to create a fully integrated, accommodating hotel experience for guests that yields even greater profits.
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