Mobile Technology - Changing the Way how Guests and Staff Interact

By Michaela Papenhoff Managing Director, h2c | January 08, 2012

Mobile isn't "producing"? Mobile is too small to invest money now? It is not a priority task on your list? Ian Carrington, Google's search engine director of mobile, made it very clear to the Travolution Summit audience in October 2011: "No mobile strategy, no future", he said. This statement is backed by the fact that searches from mobile devices account for 14% of Google's traffic; up from 10% in the previous year. 50% of the web interactions via a mobile phone start with a search query – have you thought about the impact on your search engine optimization/ search engine marketing strategy as search results are not identical with a "normal" web search?

This year, combined shipments of smartphones and tablets will outperform those of PCs. Next year, the growth of smartphones and tablets is expected to almost double vs. 2011 (Source: Morgan Stanley, The Economist). Gartner expects Android to continue outperforming Apple's iOS by almost triplicating its worldwide mobile communication device sales in 2015. Priceline is expecting a 50% increase of smartphone users over the forthcoming 12 to 18 months (that's why they have launched HotelTonight – a same-day booking app for the iPhone). The most recent PhoCusWright European Consumer Travel Report revealed that although today mobile phone users are using their phone mostly for sending SMSs, making photos/ videos, emailing and browsing the Internet, mobile hotel search and mobile bookings are expected to double over the next 12 months.

How does mobility impact hospitality?

Look at the graphic below. The impact of mobility on hotels is multi-faceted: sales and marketing, operations, guest services and customer retention management are the most relevant areas that require restructuring as the mobile strategy of your hotel/ hotel chain is evolving.

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The question who should be involved in a mobile strategy development process is not always easy to answer as mobility spans across all guest touch points at the hotel (points of sale), distribution channels, hotel operations, pre- and post-stay guest communication activities and other guest relations subjects such as reputation management. Mobility affects the search, shop, buy and retain process in all areas and guest interaction actually overlap throughout the value chain where every guest touch point adds to the entire experience (see graphic on mobile guest interactions below). Although maybe a challenge to hotel management, it should not turn out to be a threat: internal communication and coordination with other departments are more crucial than ever. Open discussions with all parties involved, the definition of clear responsibilities and procedures how to go ahead are a good basis for success, e.g. involving sales, marketing, revenue management, operations, IT and most likely accounts (e.g. for future mobile payment options). Once the mobile strategy brainstorming has been finalized, a task force should be made available to structure the ideas and oversee the implementation process. The management's major task is to translate the vision into opportunities, set the directions (e.g. KPIs) and instill the mobile "spirit" so that the team knows where to head to.

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Coming up in April 2019...

Guest Service: A Culture of YES

In a recent global consumers report, 97% of the participants said that customer service is a major factor in their loyalty to a brand, and 76% said they view customer service as the true test of how much a company values them. And since there is no industry more reliant on customer satisfaction than the hotel industry, managers must be unrelenting in their determination to hire, train and empower the very best people, and to create a culture of exceptional customer service within their organization. Of course, this begins with hiring the right people. There are people who are naturally service-oriented; people who are warm, empathetic, enthusiastic, pleasant, thoughtful and optimistic; people who take pride in their ability to solve problems for the hotel guests they are serving. Then, those same employees must be empowered to solve problems using their own judgment, without having to track down a manager to do it. This is how seamless problem solving and conflict resolution are achieved in guest service. This willingness to empower employees is part of creating a Culture of Yes within an organization.  The goal is to create an environment in which everyone is striving to say “Yes”, rather than figuring out ways to say, “No”. It is essential that this attitude be instilled in all frontline, customer-facing, employees. Finally, in order to ensure that the hotel can generate a consistent level of performance across a wide variety of situations, management must also put in place well-defined systems and standards, and then educate their employees about them. Every employee must be aware of and responsible for every standard that applies in their department. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.