According to Global Hospitality Insights 2015 by Ernst & Young, new advances in technology continue to alter the relationship between hotels and guests. User-friendly and powerful smartphones and tablets are changing travelers’ online preferences and habits, redefining how they research, plan and book a trip. Today’s travelers are more experience-focused than ever before. Empowered with more knowledge and social media, they are pushing hotels for improved products and services in their travel experience.
To match the growing demands of these travelers and guests, hotels are rethinking all aspects of the guest experience. One of the simplest ways in which hotels are achieving enhanced guest experience is by tapping into the power of automation.
Automating operations has a direct relation to increased staff productivity and elimination of multiple errors caused due to manual methods of managing operations. Improved staff productivity translates into more face-time with guests and with reduced errors, there are lower chances of having an unhappy guest. Automation is a boon, especially for independent hotels that are short-staffed but have more scope to personalize the service.
Let’s take an example: A guest makes a booking and your staff has to draft an email reply to confirm the reservation and then enter it on a spreadsheet. On the check-in day, the guest is about to arrive in 20 minutes. The front desk executive knows that the guest is about to arrive and the housekeeping staff is busy making the room. The housekeeping has to come down to inform the front desk executive about the status of the room. In the meantime, if the guest arrives, he has to wait for things to be done before he can check in. Consider another scenario where the front desk executive is unaware of the room status and gives the room key to the guest and on arrival, the guest discovers a wet towel on the bed and leftovers on the table. Such a situation is a definite ‘No’ for any hotel as it can lead to guest dissatisfaction and snowball into negative reviews online, often resulting in the hotel losing out on future guests.
On the other hand, compare this situation to an automated process where the guest automatically receives a confirmation mail upon booking the room, eliminating the need to draft an email. The front desk executive can assign the room in the system before the guest arrives and the housekeeping staff can update the status of the room directly on the system leaving no chances for errors or confusions. The staff will be more freed up and they can utilize this time in engaging with the guests instead of being restricted to their desks when the guest arrives.
This is just a basic example of how automation using hotel software can impact the guest experience positively. There are many operational benefits of automating hotel functions; real-time inventory updates, enhanced online visibility, elimination of paperwork, error-free execution and improved staff efficiency.
Enhancing experience at various stages of the guest lifecycle
The guest lifecycle is divided into four key phases – pre-arrival, arrival, during the stay, and departure. Automation can play a role at each of these stages.
Pre-arrival: This is the primary stage where the guest discovers your hotel and makes a booking. Hotel reservation software like Hotelogix helps in making single or group reservations and collects all the guest information at the time of booking. Moreover, corporate clients and travel agents can have a separate login to make bookings directly.
This simplified process saves your staff time and effort taken in updating every change in inventory. The system can integrate with email sending platforms to trigger automatic e-mails to the guest. The housekeeping function is also integrated into the system so that the front desk executive can assign and monitor housekeeping duties from a single point, whereas the housekeeping staff can update the status in real-time, eliminating to and fro between the departments. Advance payments can also be collected at the time of booking through the help of payment gateways integrated with the software.
Arrival: When the guest arrives, since the system has already taken all the required details of the guest earlier, the check-in can be done quickly. Hoteliers also have the option to split the reservation, add room sharers or move the room as per the situation. It’s that simple.
Guest preferences are also fed in the system to help the front desk executive provide services as per their requests. In this example below, the guest requests a bottle of wine on arrival. The system records a message for the front desk executive, making it easier for him to direct the request to the concerned department. Without automation, there could have been chances of missing the capturing of this information and not delivering the service as expected, spoiling the experience for the guest.
These little things can help make or break the guest experience. Automation helps avoid delays, errors and saves the staff a lot of time. A lot of hotels that have adopted automated technology are saving their staff 3-5 hours daily.
Freed up staff time can be utilized to build engagement with guests and assist them during their stay. This can translate into many recommendations and guests will acknowledge the fact that the staff was always available and were not just sitting behind the desk throughout the day.
New-age hotel software has also made it possible to check-in the guest via tablets, further enhancing the guest experience.
During the stay: When the guest is in the property, he or she will most likely use various amenities like the spa, restaurant, bar and more. Automating billing at such outlets using POS software that is integrated with the hotel management system helps in billing to the guest’s account directly. This can avoid a lot of confusion and errors during the final settlement.
For example, if a guest staying at your property uses the spa service but the staff forgets to add it to the room charges, it can lead to loss of revenue. With the help of an integrated POS system, transactions from various outlets are directly billed to the room.
Some hotels are replacing paper menus with tablets to elevate the guest experience. They use apps to showcase new offers and discounted meals in restaurants. Property management systems can be integrated with these devices to deliver quality experiences.
Departure: During the check-out, it is important to keep the process smooth and really quick! Automated systems enable quicker consolidation of invoices from all departments and help close the check-out without making the guest wait too long.
Automated systems also integrate better with other services which play a role in improving guest experience. For example: Post-departure engagement can be automated if a PMS is integrated with services like Review Express from TripAdvisor where emails to collect reviews from the recently checked-out guests can be automatically sent. Here again, the hotel can save their staff time and effort spent in getting reviews from the guests.
Automated technology helps hotels deliver what they promise to their guests at the time of booking. As a hotelier, if you have dedicated your life to serving guests, using automated technology can make your journey a lot more simpler.
"The correlation between automating operations and improving guest experience",