by Binu Mathews, CEO of IDS Next
For hoteliers, guest loyalty has become an increasingly elusive concept. A decade ago, brands would have focused on instilling loyalty through things like rewards programs or points. Now, it is more about creating an inspiring, fun, and authentic experience across the entire guest journey.
Jeff Bezos once said, “We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little better.”
As it turns out, the recipe for loyalty in this modern, digital landscape is equal parts simple and complex for hoteliers. The basic premise is this: satisfaction and, in turn, experience, is directly correlated to the cultivation of loyalty. So, how are hoteliers staying innovative and differentiating themselves from competitors?
Here are four tangible ways hoteliers are working to elevate the guest experience and keep guests coming back for more.
The Power of Personalization
Personalization has become something of a buzzword in our industry, but rightfully so. As digital mediums and conveniences continue to transform standards, the opportunity (and subsequently, the expectation) for personalization grows exponentially. Let’s consider the following statistics:
- 75% of consumers are more likely to buy from brands that recognize them by name, recommend services based on past purchases, and knows their purchase history
- 86% of consumers report that personalization plays a role in their purchase decisions
- Personalization can deliver five to eight times the return on investment
Some hoteliers focus on trying to delight their guests with personalization — providing unique experiences to “wow” them. In most cases, success requires investing in personalization capabilities, which is critical for maximizing the value of the vast amount of data that is available on individual guests’ preferences. To compete effectively and meet guests’ expectations for personalization, hoteliers are using emerging technology at the front lines, as well as in the back office, and at all the touchpoints in-between. This is particularly important for attracting and retaining modern travelers who have grown up using technology and expecting a seamless, intuitive experience.
To allow for more valuable personalization and engagement, hoteliers need to collect and centralize guest data from all hotel systems into the PMS. Adopting a cloud-based, mobile PMS can also be an added advantage to ensure employees have quality and easy, anytime anywhere interactions with guests. These touch points allow hotel employees to gather important data points from the guests while simplifying their workflows and enabling a productive and engaging experience.
A 360 Degree Guest View
For today’s hoteliers to keep guests coming back, they need to provide a positive, seamless, and informed guest experience before, during and after the guest stay. Both the online and on-property engagement must integrate seamlessly to ensure guest needs are accounted for and readily addressed at each touchpoint.
Delivering this level of guest engagement relies on using data to gain a holistic view of a guest. Whether an in-app prompt or an in-person exchange, guests should feel that you are genuinely invested in their experience and using their data intelligently. Not only is it essential to delight your guests at every touchpoint, but what is just as (or perhaps even more important) is tracking and utilizing the data they provide as they go through the guest journey.
With the implementation of next-gen hotel PMS software, personalization becomes entirely possible. Hotels can leverage a single guest profile to centralize guest preferences, dislikes, notes, take feedback easily, loyalty membership, past stay details and more. The data can be used to deliver an exceptional experience as well as driving marketing campaigns to keep guests coming back.
Empowering Employees for Success
We’ve identified the demand for personalization, but the better question is this: how can we achieve it in a consistent, scalable manner? How can hoteliers set their employees up to deliver world-class guest engagement at every level?
In today’s landscape, reading a first and last name of a computer screen behind the front desk simply won’t cut it; we have to go deeper. Mobile PMS platforms are designed to streamline the booking, check-in/out process, along with billing, guest service, and front desk management, hotel staff are finally empowered to engage freely with guests. An easy to use, intuitive PMS enables staff to master the system quickly, with little or no training required.
Beyond the confines of manual, cumbersome operational processes, an advanced cloud-based PMS will optimize productivity and drive more attentive service. With a single login, hotel staff can make reservations for one property or any property within a chain. They can instantly look up real-time availability and rates across all hotels in a chain and confirm reservations instantly. And by adopting a digital-first approach, all receipts/bills, registration cards, reservation vouchers, checkout bills, and more can be digitally generated. All folios can be emailed to guests. This saves significant operational time and resources.
Offering Mobile and Self-Service Technology Conveniences
Modern guests are technologically savvy, and they expect the same level of digital convenience from the hotels they frequent. Ultimately, the main goal of technology is to make the on-property experience as smooth and easy to navigate as possible. This includes mobile check-in, mobile customer service, and high-tech features in common areas and guest rooms. In fact, Hospitality Technology’s Customer Engagement Technology Study found that 65% of guests said they would pay more and are more likely to return to a hotel that provides the technology they consider essential. Another study shows that 44% of travelers are more likely to book a smart hotel, and 69 percent prefer to opt-in to smart-room features.
This is good news for hoteliers, as they can now rely on the convenience of mobile and self-service solutions to not only cater to guests’ need for convenience and a frictionless experience but to offer higher-touch service when it matters most. After all, nothing deters a guest more than a long line at check-in or a lack of response in the case of a complaint.
With self-service kiosks and mobile check-in/out, guests can check-in any time, at their convenience. They have complete autonomy over their stay, interacting with the hotel on their terms, whether they prefer a high-touch, traditional experience or a low-touch, digital experience that favors convenience. Empowering guests with a variety of service options, providing value through tech-enabled customization, and showing care through on-property efficiencies.
A next-generation cloud-based front desk management platform like FX1 from IDS Next focuses on improving guest experience and increasing revenue. In addition to catering to independent hotels, the platform also caters to all operations of a hotel chain. The tablet-based front desk product enables true mobility for the front office operations. Its intuitive design and mobility form factor result in significantly improved operational efficiency.
At the end of the day, loyalty is a relationship that is built and maintained over time. When leveraged correctly, your property’s success is built on a foundation of value, service, and experience. Use technology and your front-line staff to the greatest advantage, and you’ll create a loyal following that competitors can’t hope to match.