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 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.