You only get one first impression and that’s why they’re so important. Everyone knows this, especially in hospitality where we’ve created a whole new phrase for this—sense of arrival—which encompasses a bit more in terms of theming, ambiance, landscape, check-in and specific operations around that key part of the guest experience.
What we’re seeing in this post-corona era is the guest’s demand for frictionless hotel journeys. This isn’t necessarily contactless as was the rage for the past two years, although there’s significant overlap. What the guest of the future wants is for hotels to continue to remove transactional touchpoints so that there’s less friction towards the customer maximizing their time away from home.
A great question to ask in 2022 is whether or not you actually need a physical check-in desk. The technology exists for contactless, mobile check-in. The tech also exists for setting up a guest’s digital wallet on their phone as the room key itself. For the mid-stay, there’s message apps to replace the function of an in-person concierge or the need to physically go down to ask a clerk about certain amenities. And there’s also tech for folio settlement at check-out.
Really, the only reason the front desk is still around is because it creates an impression, supposedly adding to the peace of mind as part of the sense of arrival. But wouldn’t it reduce the overall friction if guests were nudged to check-in via their mobiles, then were greeted by a clerk holding a tablet connected to the PMS who could also offer a welcome refreshment or help with the bags. If you completed the check-in experience this way, you could also demolish the front desk to make space for a larger lobby bar area or some other exciting touchpoint.
That’s but one profound instance where technology can be set up to solve a big, labor-reliant challenge such as long wait times to check-in during peak hours. The aforementioned guest messaging apps, when connected to work order systems and supported by chatbots to handle the simple questions, can do a ton more to remove friction during the stay by making it very easy for customers to get the answers they want right from their rooms, as well as speedier service delivery.
We see this as a huge trend for the year ahead, with creating a frictionless first impression as the highest priority given the current state of mind of travelers. Many of whom are still stressed out about the pandemic and all its latest variants, while others haven’t journeyed far from home since the world ground to a halt two years ago. For this cohort, good first impressions are also first assurances, and having everything handled in as smooth a manner as possible will help these people relax, boosting guest sentiment, and possibly onsite spend, in the process.