Mobile APPs and Their Impact on Hospitality
By Nur Hassan Director of Information Technology, Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills | January 26, 2014
Currently, we are living in a digital era filled with apps and mobile devices. Since 2011, mobile devices, including smart phones and tablets, have outperformed PCs in terms of sales. In 2007, when Steve Jobs introduced the "iPhone", it revolutionized the smart phone industry. The iPhone became the catalyst for the technological change. Since then, mobile applications have exploded. To this date, there are more than one million apps available through the Apple store and another million on the Android Google play store, which are now available for almost everything.
Our team at Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills has been able to understand the impact of mobile applications at very early stages. We knew where the technology was headed and wanted to leverage it for our guest experience. It was important to be able to make our mark early on with this, in order to get advantage over our competitors and provide an enhanced guest experience.
The main objective was to give our guests the tools to communicate with us through digital methods. We anticipated that Generation Y was more inclined to use digital devices as a form of popular communication. This led us to a pivotal advance in 2010, when we decided to build a guest service app for our hotel. We incorporated iPad2 devices in each guest room as an amenity. Our expectations were for this app to service as a 'digital butler.' This convenience has allowed guests to take full advantage of all the amenities that our hotel has to offer. Our goal after this advance was to design a user-friendly interface at the front end for the guest and on the opposite parallel end to have a live interface with our multiple systems (Property Management System, Point of Sale System, and The Spa System).
Throughout this process, we did face multiple obstacles before reaching our goals. It took over a year to find a suitable partner that could fulfill our specific requirements. The idea was to build a custom app with a live interface. After careful consideration, we chose Intelity to partner with by building a guest service app. With the iPad already in place, this gave us another opportunity to partner with local businesses. The partnership provided a platform for them to advertise directly to our guests in that area, and the opportunity to generate revenue. After all these challenges, we did become hugely successful, which enabled us to pay for our iPads and the guest service app within the first year of its release.
After the successful launch of our Four Seasons Los Angeles hotel app, we reviewed the data with a detailed study. It was discovered that more than 51% of our guests used the services app. Our top request was room service, closely followed by a wake up call. Now that we had this information, we wanted to advance it one step further. We wanted our guests to download the Guest Services app on their personal devices. This would allow them to take full advantage of the amenities through the app without having to be physically in the hotel.
Until this point, 95% of the guest experience in hotels has started from the point where the guest would physically enter the building or space where the hotel is occupied. The run of the mill experience starts from valet service, leading to the front desk check-ins. Now, this digital convenience has entirely changed the entire equation and made it into a tailor-made algorithm for each guest. With the mobile app, it gave our guests the advantage to take control of the hotel amenities before they even arrived on the property. They have the ability to order room service, book a spa appointment, and even order their next meal while they are off of the property. Guest experience now starts before check-ins.
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