Setting the Stage for the Technology-Infused Hotel Experience

By Randa Tukan Senior Vice Principal & Director of Interiors, HOK | January 28, 2018

Many hotels and hotel brands are creating smartphone apps to help guests manage their experiences while on the property. Yet according to the J.D. Power 2017 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index study, the use of mobile technology is not growing as quickly as expected. The percentage of guests using mobile apps to place online reservations rose by only 11 percent from 2014 (14 percent) to 2017 (25 percent). Only 19 percent of all guests downloaded the hotel brand's mobile app, and 70 percent of these people were reward members.

Does this slow rate of adoption signify a lack of brand loyalty? Or does it reflect the limited amount of app storage space available on mobile devices? After all, travel-related apps are competing for valuable space on our smartphones. Travelers are using all the apps required to continue conducting their business as usual while they are away in addition to those needed for their transportation, entertainment and financial services.. To stand out in this crowd, hotels need to create apps with features that are undeniably essential for enhancing the guest experience. This is no small feat, as apps, can easily become deemed irrelevant and risk deletion.

There is some debate in the hospitality industry around whether the front desk staff and concierge role could actually be replaced by apps. Many insist that hospitality intrinsically remains a service industry, and that maintaining the human connection will always be key to creating positive and meaningful guest experiences.

To make this determination about the future of mobile technology, we first must consider the entire spectrum of the guest experience. This experience can be divided into two specific categories: needs and wants.

The Needs

"Needs" are the more tactical requirements of the guest experience. These include actions like checking in, checking out, adjusting room temperature, wake-up calls, view, type of room, requesting a different pillow or gaining advance knowledge about local food options. Guests often try to emulate their daily in-home conveniences at the hotel.

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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.