New Tech – Friend or Foe for Independent Hotels?
In a world where the expectations of hotel guests are higher than ever, comfort, convenience, and customer service are all being enhanced by new technology. Over the last decade, the way in which customers travel, experience the hotel, and share their thoughts on the stay has changed beyond recognition. Hoteliers of every size and pedigree need to adapt to these changing expectations. Especially, if they wish to remain relevant in this relentlessly fast-paced, online-obsessed world.
However, an excessive focus on technology and efficiency can be counter-productive. While cost savings are always welcome in the constant battle to remain competitive and still make a good profit, efficiency and convenience shouldn’t be your only consideration.
Inevitably, the drive for efficiency through technology reduces the human interface element of a guest’s experience. This can lead to them forming a very different impression of your establishment then you would wish for.
Balance is critical
Holidaymakers are looking for a more personal experience. If a family saves all year for their annual holiday, they want it to be memorable, not efficient! However, they will still expect all the conveniences of modern life to be easily accessible. This requires hoteliers to find the best balance between personal service and convenient technology that supplements it.
Here’s where the good news comes in for independent hotels. Travellers are on the constant lookout for “Instagram moments” that they can capture and share with their friends. So, you can use your personal touch to secure a major competitive advantage over the big chain hotels. Look at all the “touchpoints” where your guests interact with you and your staff. How can you make the experience one that will entertain, educate, or inspire?
If you can make sure they know they’re dealing with an owner invested in their experience, rather than a corporate office thousands of miles away, then you will win fans for life. Even better, when they share that experience with others – it’s the kind of marketing that money can’t buy!
Finding your “technology sweet spot”
How do you find the right balance for your establishment? Some things you’ll only learn by experimentation. There is a way to safely deploy innovation in a way that will ensure you add to, rather than detract from, the all-important ambience of your hotel. Especially, with many new technological developments more accessible and affordable than ever.
Here are some new technology ideas for you to consider to implement in your hotel:
- Give guests the ability to order room service or reserve a table at the restaurant via the screen in their room
- Offer an online live chat feature for guests
- Offer fast and free WiFi that is personalised with your own brand
Rather than focusing on the benefits to you and your organisation that can be gained from the implementation of smart technology, it helps to consider what guests really want – and then consider how you can turn that to your advantage.
For example, booking a restaurant reservation on screen adds convenience for your guests. But they still get the personal experience of being greeted and waited on at your restaurant. Ordering room service through the entertainment system in the room removes the worry of making a bad decision when on the phone, or of a simple misunderstanding because of accents.
Become more accessible with technology
Many websites now feature a live chat option. It provides a useful resource for website visitors and a great way for you to create a connection with a potential customer. However, a live chat feature on the in-room entertainment can help you to be more attentive with very little effort. Instead of having to search for an employee if they have a question or problem, guests don’t need to leave the comfort of their room.
We even learned of one hotel that offered a WhatsApp concierge number to guests when they booked! This is a simple and low-cost way to make it really easy for visitors to access your services anytime they need it. All you need is one (robust!) phone that can be used by whoever is on the front desk. Backed up by the WhatsApp web client so you can have multiple persons manning the live chat service if it gets really busy.
An increasing number of front desks are also including an option to use a tablet to check-in/out or leave feedback. This can be convenient if someone is in a rush or simply prefers to do it this way. Whereas others will avoid these and interact with the person manning the desk instead.
Add your brand for a personal touch
Just because you deploy technology doesn’t mean the experience has to be devoid of personality for the user. There are several ways you can insert your company persona into the tech you are adding. One great way to do this is to personalise the WiFi sign-up page for guests. This gives you more than just a place to use your branding, it also allows you to make the experience more personal while collecting useful data you can then use for upcoming promotions and campaigns. You can even use the WiFi process to prompt guests to connect with your social channels or leave reviews.
Why not give it a try with our Guest WiFi marketing solution?
Door locking is another area where technology is taking over. We’ve experienced the inconvenience of a hotel room key with a ridiculously large keyring or a card “key” that mysteriously vanishes the moment we go out for a walk. If you offer guests the ability to unlock their room door with an app on their phone, you’ve just removed one more worry from their lives and made their stay more enjoyable as a result.
Bringing it all together
When it comes to technology, the seemingly endless list of options can seem bewildering or even intimidating for independent hotel owners. From giving guests the ability to connect their own devices for in-room entertainment to room service robots. No area of the hotel experience is immune to innovation.
It’s best to seek to offer the “best of both worlds” – new technology options for those that prefer them, and traditional human help for those that don’t. You know the strengths of your own establishment. And if you follow these steps to deploy new technology in a way that complements rather than detracts from them, you’ll be able to reap the rewards in your hotel accordingly.