At the end of the day, every hotelier’s most important objective is to make guests feel at home and provide them with an outstanding hotel experience.
Many factors play a part in your ability to do this, such as a property’s decor, staff’s professionalism, and room cleanliness.
Increasingly, technology also has an important role to play here.
But what does that role look like? How can technology actually improve a hotel guest’s experience? And what modern hotel tech tools are worth investing in?
To answer these questions (and more!), let’s now briefly explore some hotel technology history and examine the modern solutions that are most effective at helping hoteliers improve the guest experience today.
Since hotels first emerged they’ve been continuously striving to improve the guest experience by adopting new technology.
This started with things that today are seen as a given. For example, around 1910, electricity started becoming widely available in properties across the U.S. In 1947, the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City was the first to install TVs. Phones became common in hotel rooms in the 1950s. Finally, free Wi-Fi throughout the hotel industry went mainstream in the early 2000s.
The rise of the internet brought new chances for hoteliers to create a wide range of novel tech-driven services and customizations. As a result, new software solutions and native apps began popping up for every step in the guest cycle.
At the same time, new technology tools also began to emerge that could make back of house operations more efficient and secure.
Today, both types of solutions are commonly deployed at hotels and other lodging properties around the world to make running a hotel easier than ever.
Pre-Covid, most guest-facing tech was seen as more of a nice-to-have than a must-have despite its numerous benefits. Many brands were beginning to offer more of it, but it rarely represented a unique selling proposition (USP) that guests would actively seek out.
Take online check-in as an example. In the past, it usually required downloading a hotel’s custom-built native app and creating a user account. This often resulted in a lower guest adoption than most hotels would hope for.
During the pandemic, things changed completely. Contactless services became much more popular since face-to-face interactions were suddenly deemed unsafe. That’s when most guests first began looking for, and even expecting — digitalized hotel services. And as more properties began offering them — travelers came to appreciate the new tech-driven alternatives. In many cases, they even began to prefer them.
Today’s advanced hotel tech can have a massive effect on your property. It can even make the difference between your hotel’s success and barely getting by.
The four key areas where the technology can have the most impact include:
Now that you know all about the new opportunities and benefits hotel technology has given us over time, let’s look at nine modern solutions that bring big results.
Contactless check-in solutions create a quick, easy and secure check-in experience for guests. Before they ever set foot on the property, guests receive an email and text message to check-in for their hotel stay (similar to the experience with most airlines today). Then, all they need to do is check-in via their preferred device at their convenience.
This check-in flow saves time for both travelers and staff because fewer people queue at reception.
A solution like Canary’s Contactless Check-In also gives you the chance to gather guest emails and/or phone numbers, so you can get in touch with them during and after their stay. That’s especially helpful for guests that booked via OTAs, since these platforms don’t share travelers’ contact information with hotels.
Contactless checkout lets guests handle final formalities on their own time without having to wait at the front desk.
There are three big benefits for hoteliers that can come from the proper implementation of a contactless checkout solution.
Guest messaging lets you quickly and easily communicate with your guests and ensure their stay is going well. Even better, modern messaging solutions enable you to automate responses to the most common guest inquiries to reduce the burden on your front desk agents.
Both direct and broadcast message capabilities are included in these solutions and the most advanced will enable a hotel to message with guests via SMS and WhatsApp using their existing landline number.
Many hoteliers today opt to use automated upselling solutions that share personalized recommendations and offers with guests so they can further curate their stay. Add-ons to promote could include late check-out, airport transfers, spa bookings, room upgrades and any other goods or services you provide.
Automated, digital upselling solutions also allow hoteliers to push special offers to guests at key moments of high buyer intent throughout the entire guest journey.
For example, you may wish to offer early check-in a few days before a guest’s arrival and pitch a restaurant booking or in-room dining experience while they’re in-house.
Digital upsell solutions can help hoteliers significantly improve the guest experience and drive revenue at the same time.
According to the Pew Research Center, only 58% of Americans consciously try to carry cash at all times. That means just over half of your guests would be able to leave cash tips. And while the others would probably like to do so as well, it may not be possible if cash is the only option.
The best way around this conundrum is to use digital tipping at your property. It lets guests reward your team members for great service with just a few quick taps on their smartphone. Digital Tipping can bring up to a fivefold increase in the overall amount of tips your employees receive, which can boost morale and reduce staff turnover. On top of that, digital tipping can be a huge time-saver since the funds are automatically distributed to the correct departments or individuals via a payroll integration.
If you want to offer a fully contactless arrival experience, implement mobile room keys. That way guests get a link to their mobile key after check-in and can immediately access their room and other hotel facilities with their phone. This adds to the convenience you offer during the arrival process, saves your front desk staff time and reduces the plastic waste and cost incurred by plastic key cards. All you need for this is an integration between your check-in solution and smart lock system.
Having a secure payment process builds trust with guests and protects your hotel from chargebacks, fraud and other issues. With that in mind, it’s important to note that paper and PDF credit authorization forms are no longer PCI compliant and are frequently targeted by bad actors.
To avoid any issues, opt for a digital authorizations solutions that replace these forms and ensure all data is transferred and stored securely.
Canary’s Digital Authorizations can help reduce fraud and chargebacks by up to 90%. Digital Authorizations also collect and store extensive evidence that can help you win a dispute if/when a chargeback is initiated.
It may not always be top of mind, but improving the experience around administrative tasks at your hotel can go a long way in shaping a guest’s opinion of your property.
Signing contracts can be a huge pain since not all of your guests use digital signatures. Instead of making them print, sign, scan and email a contract, why not let them do it all online? Digital contracts are faster and easier for them and your team because there’s less back and forth and the overall processing time is slashed.
Many people have them in their homes today: voice assistants that allow them to control the lights or TV or other internet-connected devices. According to a study by Capgemini, 62% of consumers expect to increase their use of these touchless technologies even as we leave the pandemic behind us. Unsurprisingly, many travelers expect a similar level of tech while on the road.
Think about which aspects of your rooms guests may want to customize and how you could let them do that. For example, you could use voice control for the blinds or the thermostat. Or implement a hotel web app that lets guests manage things like the lights, curtains, temperature or TV from their own mobile device.
Guest demands regarding technology are changing. As a hotelier, it’s critical to stay on top of them and adapt your hotel tech stack accordingly. Yes, that takes time and effort, but keeping up now is way better than playing catch-up later.
That means keeping your systems current and making the most of the many advantages they offer. Regularly review what’s available, what could make sense to implement at your property, and then, update the tech solutions you use accordingly. This allows you to offer the modern guest experience travelers want and can bring better ratings, more business and higher revenue.
On the other hand, if you fall behind, the experience you offer will feel outdated and less enjoyable to guests, eventually resulting in lost business. You’ll also have a harder time catching up when you do decide to go for new tech. A lot of changes will suddenly become necessary at once and make the transition more difficult than it has to be for you and your team. That can lead to hiccups in day-to-day operations and negatively impact your guest experience.
And as we established at the beginning of this article, the guest experience is the most important thing you offer. It should be the last place where you cut corners.
That’s why investing in cutting-edge tech is not just a vanity endeavor. It’s the best way to keep up with constantly changing guest expectations.
And there’s one thing you can be sure of: new trends, technological advances and world events will continue to shape what travelers need and demand. In short, your guests will keep evolving, and so should you to provide them with an outstanding guest experience.
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