The 21st Century is Transforming Integrated Hospitality Technology

Exciting Changes Are in Store

By Luke Pfeifer Director of Product Management, Agilysys | January 07, 2018

The 21st century guest is quite different from prior generations. Even Baby Boomers can be incredibly tech-savvy. Guests today not only expect quality, but they also expect high-caliber service to go with it. Studies show how service innovation has evolved over the years from a generic approach to a differentiation approach, and finally, shifting into what we know today as an integrated approach. Integration emphasizes the necessity of both technological and human aspects. It helps drive much of today's guest service approach for hospitality operators and their technology partners.

Implementing such an integrated approach requires a deep understanding of emerging trends, effective marketing initiatives, guest engagement, staff management, service delivery methods, distribution channels, systems connectivity and feedback. This article provides research insights into creative innovation, focusing on the applications of guest service via technology. It introduces some of the latest advances, opportunities and challenges related to hospitality technology and guest service innovations.

Relentless innovation has revolutionized our industry. This innovation has not only happened on the frontline, which guests directly observe, but they also throughout back of house systems. In some hospitality services, guests interact with the latest self-serve gadgets in the lobby, or use their own handheld devices to check-in and make plans for dinner. In addition, hoteliers in many instances are using loyalty programs and incentives to learn more about their guests including their behaviors outside the property. The challenge for hospitality operators is finding the optimum mix of digital and human interactions - whether technological or non-technological - to create a personalized guest experience that is as hands-on or hands-off as a guest would like, while respecting their privacy.

Web App or Native App

Many hoteliers know that having a mobile-optimized website and booking engine leads to mobile purchases. When on the go, prospective guests expect to find the information they want or perform the action they want, with a glance and just a few clicks. Optimizing guest experiences with a mobile friendly format has become critical to attracting new, and retaining existing, patrons. For the guest, interacting with the property must be simple.

Is it Worth Providing a Mobile Experience? - Absolutely, but extending that mobile experience to a native app may or may not actually make a difference. Consider whether your guests will actually download another app. Sure, airlines can do it, but the number of apps a typical user decides to install on their phone is in the dozens, not thousands. Maybe your most frequent guests will download, but consider what percentage of your guest population is comprised of those repeat guests. Most are prone to overlook apps from individual properties. For the vast majority of hotels, and even boutique hotel groups, mobile web is preferable. A recent study shows more than 70% of smartphone users prefer booking on mobile websites rather than via apps. Know your guests and how they prefer to interact. It may not be worth the effort and expense to invest in a native app at this time.

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Coming up in February 2019...

Social Media: Getting Personal

There Social media platforms have revolutionized the hotel industry. Popular sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and Tumblr now account for 2.3 billion active users, and this phenomenon has forever transformed how businesses interact with consumers. Given that social media allows for two-way communication between businesses and consumers, the emphasis of any marketing strategy must be to positively and personally engage the customer, and there are innumerable ways to accomplish that goal. One popular strategy is to encourage hotel guests to create their own personal content - typically videos and photos -which can be shared via their personal social media networks, reaching a sizeable audience. In addition, geo-locational tags and brand hashtags can be embedded in such posts which allow them to be found via metadata searches, substantially enlarging their scope. Influencer marketing is another prevalent social media strategy. Some hotels are paying popular social media stars and bloggers to endorse their brand on social media platforms. These kinds of endorsements generally elicit a strong response because the influencers are perceived as being trustworthy by their followers, and because an influencer's followers are likely to share similar psychographic and demographic traits. Travel review sites have also become vitally important in reputation management. Travelers consistently use social media to express pleasure or frustration about their guest experiences, so it is essential that every review be attended to personally. Assuming the responsibility to address and correct customer service concerns quickly is a way to mitigate complaints and to build brand loyalty. Plus, whether reviews are favorable or unfavorable, they are a vital source of information to managers about a hotel's operational performance.  The February Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to effectively incorporate social media strategies into their businesses.