Guest Self-Service Applications
By Michael Kasavana NAMA Endowed Professor, School of Hospitality Business, Michigan State University | July 10, 2011
While standard hotel guestroom technology may include a television, telephone, clock radio, internet access, electronic lock, valuables safe, and a refrigerated mini-bar, guest self-service applications --centered on hotel and concierge services-- are becoming part of the amenities landscape. Hotels are redefining self-service in order to offer more choices designed to enhance the guest experience. Self-service as a market trend has gained momentum as guests increasingly expect and prefer self-service functionality within hotel guestrooms as opposed to a limited set of offerings dependent upon hotel staff. Self-service applications enable guests to request services, control transactions, research opportunities, create reservations, arrange transportation, and schedule activities. It is for these reasons that self-service applications are often described as "guest facing forward" applications.
Self-service applications may be resident on an in-room device (e.g. television, PC, or tablet PC) or downloadable to a guest's mobile device (e.g. PDA, iPhone, or PC). Despite the functional platform, in-room applications tend to rely on lodging technology infrastructure and thereby may not incur significant incremental cost to deliver a plethora of self-service options. The goal of these self-service efforts is to empower clientele in a way that enhances the guest experience.
Most businesses report that self-service applications lead to a reduction in operating expenses while markedly improving customer satisfaction. Similar to other retailers, hoteliers appreciate the extended coverage, lower costs, and reliability of automated transactions found in in-room unattended applications. As a result, opportunities to conduct on-premises applications are welcomed alternatives; even for an industry that prides itself on personal, quality service.
While current technology is sufficient to effectively initiate guest-operated functionality, integration with a hotel's property management system (PMS) and/or point-of-sale (POS) system provides a basis for monitoring and tracking service follow-through. Aggregated guest self-service transactions can be used to form the basis of a data warehouse of preferences, purchases, and services as well as staff response times. A data mining analysis can then be applied to correlate self-service outcomes with guest satisfaction, improved productivity, and strengthened profitability.
Hotel Guest Cycle
The hotel guest cycle is defined by guest-hotel interactions in pre-sale, point-of- sale, and post-sale phases of occupancy. In each phase the hospitality industry has discovered ample opportunity for self-service applications. Pre-sale phase devices have received significant attention in the form of remote (off-premises or online) and on-site (lobby kiosk) self-check-in processing. Similarly, a guest who completes a hotel stay, can access an account folio for onscreen review and self-check-out. Pre-sale and post-sale applications have become relatively standard offerings.
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