We’re writing a quick one on this subject matter because you’ve likely heard about it or have it somewhere on your roadmap to investigate for implementation. Here’s why you should make mobile check-in, check-out and room keys a priority for 2022.
Guest behavior will never be the same from the pandemic; the world has irreversibly changed. Many of the influences on new demands for hotels are now being driven by short-term rentals and alternative providers, and not just leading brands. That means it’s just as much defense as it is offense. For the next two business quarters, flexibility is necessary in accommodating guests who prefer new methods of interacting with a hotel versus those that still want more traditional service.
What we’re finding is that demand for a mobile-first hotel experience is sharply on the rise—check-in, check-out, room entry, folio settlement and virtual concierge all done from the phone. It’s just too convenient for many guests who are so accustomed to using their phones for everything else. For further insights into the ‘why’ and ‘how’ for this necessary tradition over the next few years, we interviewed Robert Stevenson, CEO at INTELITY, to discuss mobile app solutions and how brands can future proof their properties for the decade ahead.
“Some hoteliers are hesitant to allow travelers to complete everything from their phones because we believe, besides the security implications, that it’s removing the ‘human touch’ from the service equation,” noted Stevenson. “In reality, it’s the opposite. With a frictionless app you’re giving guests what they want right away. Then with full support from GEMS (Guest Experience Management System), service delivery ticks up due to better back-of-house communications.”
Besides service, you must now factor in the growth and permanency of home sharing accommodations, namely Airbnb. As more and more travelers from all demographics come to accept the experiences offered by these alternate lodging providers as the norm, the more all travelers will come to expect the same service offerings from traditional hotels. And these short-term rentals already handle most procedural aspects of the experience from the phone, making these guests wonder why they ever needed a front desk in the first place. No front desk means no waiting in line to check-in, more anonymity and, above all, more convenience.
“Top brands are embracing how a mobile-first hotel can boost the guest experience because staff are freed from lots of minute tasks, making service delivery faster and more accurate,” continued Stevenson. “Mobile apps don’t eliminate the rapport-building aspect of front desk operations, but only the transactional conversations.”
This is a good term to think over for the post-pandemic era. By ‘transactional’, we are referring to those parts of a conversation that are mechanical and don’t engender the guest to the brand. “Will that be cash or card?” is one such example. By automating these, you free up your team to really connect with the customer on an emotional or ‘human’ level. And indeed, you can quantify the inconvenience for the guest from these transactional conversations by comparing satisfaction scores, brand loyalty and ancillary revenue capture whereby guests spend more due to the frictionless nature of a branded app.
Then consider three other benefits from eliminating these transactional elements:
- Less time needed for some of the tedious aspects of the job, increasing productivity elsewhere while also allowing associates to spend more quality time in a less harried state with guests;
- Heightened motivation due to the more non-repetitive nature of each front-line role, resulting in reduced staff churn and presenteeism where employees are physically present but disengaged;
- Ability to maintain service standards and amenity offerings with fewer associates overall, which is critical for rapid upswings in occupancy like during travel recovery scenarios.
Speaking broadly, this is the direction that we’re heading. We need tech to meet guest expectations, compensate for labor shortages and improve service. What are you waiting for?