Smart technology has become an ever-present fixture in the daily lives of consumers around the world. Practically anywhere an internet connection is available, it’s more than likely that smart technologies of some kind or other are helping people complete purchases, access important information and move more efficiently through the world. With consumers more reliant on and comfortable with digital environments and tools than ever, it’s high time that the hospitality industry fully embrace smart hotel technology to improve the guest experience from pre-arrival through post-checkout.
There are a variety of smart hotel technologies that can augment the guest journey and provide consumers with a more positive experience at a hotel, resort or other lodging property. Whether luxury or limited-service, every type of hotel of every size can benefit from the adoption and deployment of smart hotel technology solutions.
Each of the above technologies uplevel the guest experience at various points in the hotel guest cycle and help improve guest satisfaction scores.
Here is what you need to know if you’re planning to deploy these types smart hotel technologies at your hotel.
What is smart hotel technology?
Before we define “smart hotel technology”, it may be helpful to define “smart technology” first.
The term smart technology originated with the use of “smart” as an acronym for “Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology.” However, over time, the term “smart” when applied to technology has come to mean something closer to “enhanced,” with a true definition being harder to pin down. The key fact to remember about smart technology is that its principally designed to help streamline an experience of some kind using a combination of automation and digital environments.
Let’s now look at each one of the top types of guest-facing smart hotel technology in detail.
Contactless check-in (sometimes called “mobile check-in”) has seen a vast increase in adoption over the past few years at properties around the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As its name suggests, contactless check-in technology enables a guest to check in to their hotel with minimal (if any) physical contact with staff.
Various contactless check-in solutions have been launched onto the market in recent years, and hoteliers would be wise to look for those with low barriers to entry for guests (i.e., web-based technology as opposed to native apps that need to be downloaded).
Contactless check-in solutions not only enable hoteliers to more effectively adhere to ongoing COVID protocols and deal with future variant outbreaks, they enable them to optimize the check-in process to capture more customer information, even from guests who booked through OTAs.
Additionally, a contactless guest experience is a streamlined and frictionless guest experience, which results in higher satisfaction scores and more return guests.
Much like contactless check-in, contactless checkout is a smart hotel technology that enables hotels to more easily adhere to COVID protocols and empower guests to take the action they wish to take, when they want to take it.
Contactless checkout is a popular solution for improving the guest experience among hoteliers for a variety of reasons.
First, it enables guests to easily request a late checkout, enabling guests to stay comfortably in their rooms and the housekeeping department to better prioritize.
Second, guests can be prompted during their checkout to leave a review, which is immediately received by hotel management. If the review is poor, front desk staff still may be able to turn that frown upside down before the guest leaves the property. This is a promising way to ensure that hotel reviews stay positive with high star ratings.
Digital Credit Card Authorizations & Contracts
Believe it or not, many hotels are still using PCI non-compliant paper and PDF credit card authorization forms. Still. In 2022, this is happening. Obviously, this is a huge security risk for both hotels and guests as credit card authorization forms are full of sensitive information. Furthermore, PCI non-compliance often leads to an increase in fraud and chargebacks, costing a property valuable revenue.
A smart hotel technology solution that enables hotels to say so long to paper forms forever is digital authorizations. Digital authorizations are fairly straightforward for guests and staff and provide an extra level of security and peace of mind for both.
Essentially, digital authorizations simply enable hoteliers to send each guest a unique link that lets them enter their credit card information through a secure online form. Authorizations are then collected and managed in a secure digital dashboard as opposed to binders full of paper. Guests love knowing their sensitive information is secure, and digital authorizations is a great way to ensure they do.
Upselling additional amenities and services to guests is one of the best ways for hotels to maximize their revenue and improve the guest experience at the same time. Room upgrades, a bottle of wine from room service, late checkout, parking are all effective money-makers. However, how you choose to upsell these services can have a dramatic impact on the revenue streams they provide.
For instance, front desk staff are often busy enough as is answering guest questions and checking people in and out. Relying on them as salespeople, a job they are not primarily trained to do, is likely to result in lackluster results.
Smart hotel technology tools that enable you to upsell amenities and services digitally are much more effective at boosting ancillary revenue than front desk staff. These types of solutions can be used to push upsell options to guests when they are at their highest buying intent at various points in their journey.
According to industry reports, “89% of consumers say they prefer texting with businesses over any other mode of communication.” Accordingly, it’s easy to see how a guest’s ability to text message with hotel staff could have a huge positive impact on their experience at a property.
Smart hotel guest messaging solutions will meet a few key criteria, including:
The ability to broadcast messages to all guests at once to alert them about on-property updates
AI replies to common questions so staff can deal with more unique guest requests
Conversation histories organized, viewable and managed from a simple dashboard
Works seamlessly with existing mobile messaging apps like SMS and WhatsApp
Uses the hotel's existing phone number (even if it's a landline) to cut down on any confusion for guests
To create an outstanding guest experience, you need outstanding hotel staff. However, retaining that staff has become harder and harder for hotels as the industry continues to muddle through a historic staffing crisis in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here too, smart hotel technology solutions can help.
Digital tipping is becoming increasingly common in various service industries, since fewer people are carrying cash than ever. Hoteliers that implement a digital tipping solution at their properties can expect to see up to a 5X increase in the tips collected by staff.
Smart digital tipping solutions will be designed for flexible deployment and able to integrate seamlessly throughout a guest management system or implemented as a standalone solution. Digital tipping enables guests to provide tips to hotel employees (as individuals or whole departments) at any time during the guest journey from check-in to checkout.
A smart solution will also work seamlessly with all currencies and enables hotel guests to quickly and easily offer tips to staff members without the need to download an app to their mobile device.
Mobile keys are another smart hotel technology that can make a big positive impact on guest experience. Much like contactless check-in and checkout, mobile keys minimize the need for physical contact between guests and hotel staff, and streamline the guest journey.
Protip: Forward-thinking hoteliers should look for systems that offer contactless check-in and checkout that integrate with mobile keys.
At first, the entire concept of room-service robots may just seem like something dreamed up in a 1960s cartoon about the future, but today they are very much real. According to a recent report in Business Insider, “Hotels across the US are using room-service robots to deal with staffing issues caused by a perpetual labor shortage.” These robots perform basic functions like delivering food or other items to guest rooms. Though limited in capabilities, these robots are a 100 percent reliable source of labor that will ensure you maintain a high level of service at your property and add something truly special to guest experience.
Smart hotel technology comes in all kinds of forms to solve all kinds of problems. Though the above list is not exhaustive and there are certainly additional smart technologies that can improve the guest experience, those covered in this blog post are the most effective at delivering an immediate positive impact on the guest experience at any type of property.
The technology revolution is upon us and its way past time the hospitality industry joined in.
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