A Symbiotic Relationship: How Mobile Technology Impacts Both Guest Experience and Hotel Operations

By Bernard Ellis President & Founder, Lodgital Insights LLC | January 25, 2015

According to a recent study by Deloitte entitled Hospitality 2015: Game changers or spectators?, mobile applications will be a key area for technological development in the industry over the next year. As more consumers than ever before are equipped with smart phones and tablets to aid in booking travel, hoteliers are finding new ways to interact with guests and build brand awareness via mobile devices.

Guest-Facing Technology

Over the past few years, we have witnessed the emergence of the "always on" consumer. This individual craves access to information, products and services with only the touch of a finger, and they are constantly connected via multiple devices throughout the day. While this group of consumers represents a great opportunity for hospitality organizations in regard to marketing and communication methods, it also brings about a significant challenge in meeting service expectations. Hoteliers that wish to remain competitive and relevant must adapt to deliver the level of accessibility these potential guests anticipate through their mobile device.

Because of this shift, many large hospitality organizations have already taken steps to utilize guest-facing mobile technology. Hotel chains have launched applications that allow guests to manage preferences and reservations directly from a mobile device. This resource enables them to check-in and make arrangements for additional activities, such booking a table at the hotel's restaurant, all before arriving at the property. With a guest that expects instant gratification and craves constant connection, applications such as this help hoteliers to maintain brand relevance by providing them fast, easy admittance to the data and services they seek.

In addition to developing mobile applications, websites must now be mobile friendly in order to meet the needs of guests. If an application provides limited functionality, the consumer will then attempt to access the hotel's website through the browser on their mobile device in order to complete the actions they desire.

Consider this illustration. A woman in her late twenties and her husband are traveling to stay at a large resort for a long weekend. On the drive there, the woman downloads the hotel's mobile application in hopes of making an appointment at the spa. This particular app allows them to check-in while on the move, but unfortunately does not provide direct access to the spa's booking system. The woman then visits the hotel's website, but finds that it is not mobile-enabled and will still require her to call the spa. Instead of calling to book her appointment for the next day, she elects to wait until they arrive at the property. Keeping in mind that this woman represents the next generation of consumers, she views phone calls and emails as more time consuming than new methods of communication. Upon speaking with the concierge that evening, she is informed that the spa is closed for the day, and she will have to either call or visit the front desk in person the next morning. Frustrated at the length of the process and her inability to achieve direct access to the spa, the woman decides not to book an appointment after all. This means that the hotel missed out on an opportunity for ancillary revenue, simply because of its inability to accommodate the mobile guest.

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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.