Hotel technology, in essence, should be aimed at enhancing the stay of your guests but never be overwhelming and complex. In the attempt to offer more guest services and please the customer, hoteliers often fall into the trap of installing expensive technology that finally remains unused and gains no revenue. This is harmful for the business's bottom line and the overall guest satisfaction alike.
The one simple reason for this is that people love stay-enhancing technology but only if it takes no extra efforts to use it. They also love their own mobile devices and wear at least one while travelling. Putting those two things together is called BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and stands for the utilization of someone's own device to access data or applications.
Tablets - in the room or in the pocket?
When you deliver services to your hotel guests' phones and tablets, you get benefits and solve problems that in-room technology could not:
- Your hotel technology is available away from the property. Guests can access your services remotely, e.g. check-in before they arrive, or book a table in the restaurant, although they are coming late for dinner. Or, order room service while going back to the hotel, so that dinner or drinks can wait for them right on arrival. Nice, isn't it? Definitely convenient.
- You do not invest in expensive devices and are not responsible for their condition. There is no need to buy and periodically replace tablets in the rooms or kiosks in the lobby in order to provide advanced digital hotel services. You could spend that money for upgrading your door locks to offer keyless entry, instead.
- No "abandoned apps" frustration. Travel apps are reported to be among the most often abandoned applications - such that users download on their devices and then forget they even exist. This is disappointing for app developers and users alike, with the first seeing many downloads but not enough usage and the latter feeling overwhelmed by too many applications and icons to browse through. Secure access via Internet browser is the better solution for both sides.
- No safety concerns. Guests prefer to use their own devices as they trust them more. It is simple - I would rather enter passwords on my personal phone, or iPad, or whatsoever, instead of typing them on a device that will be used by someone else in a few days. In this regard, if you offer me to pay online, I would definitely prefer to login to PayPal, for example, from a device I know and own.
Un-complicating digital services
No doubt, today's hotel guests want more technological solutions. Gone are the days when the "satellite TV" tag could earn you a booking. Today no "free wi-fi" tag, coupled with actual free wi-fi, can often mean less business. Internet and mobile have changed our lives for good. Now that in-room phones have been made unnecessary by Skype or Viber, news go viral in minutes thanks to social media and selfies get hundreds of likes seconds after being taken, it's easy to join the online craze. All you have to do is to provide a link (URL) where guests can login and access all your offers. You may get surprised by the variety of services you can offer and execute online thanks to cloud computing - from booking modification and expense tracking to room service orders sent directly to your kitchen and charges added to the guest's folio. There is only one rule - keep it simple!
Two clicks away. Maybe three...
...if the final result is highly desirable. Customer satisfaction strongly depends not only on the quality of service but also on the ease to obtain it. What does it matter how brilliant your chef is if it takes mastering a whole new device to book a table in your restaurant or to order room service? The thing is, when implementing guest operated technology, you should consider the ease of use and this is never equal for everyone. Of course, many will succeed with that self check-in kiosk in your lobby instantly, but some will struggle. The user interface of any customer-facing technology should be ultimately easy. And here we come to the question, what would be easy for everyone?
What we know, we don't fear
It's a fact - we all feel comfortable with our own personal devices. We know our smartphones and tablets, trust them, use them hundreds, maybe thousands times a day. The browser is our best friend when we need information. In this familiar environment, it is easy and convenient to check for available services, make orders, pay securely, track expenses and so on. Internet connections can be found almost everywhere in the world in the form of mobile networks or free / paid wi-fi spots and people are most likely to connect their devices for other purposes anyway. So, your customers are out there, with their always-connected devices in hand. What are you waiting for, then?
There is a major shift in the way hotel guests use hotel technology today. While many in-room amenities like telephones and alarm clocks are becoming completely meaningless and TVs are rather turning into big multifunctional screens, the guest's mobile phone, tablet or computer remains the one device that customers would not replace. Yet. In this situation, it is much more reasonable to extend your services to those devices and facilitate their usage by adapting your current technology - HD television, improved bandwidth, convenient charging stations, all-platform software (not OS-specific), compatible door locks. Then, with the help of a browser and the power of cloud computing, you can have your web-based guest portal where all your services are easily accessible and bookable, prior, during and after the stay of your guests.