A hotel used to be a place of relaxation, celebration and business, but since the rise of the internet, customer behaviour has changed. As have the guests who travel and stay at hotels.
Statistics say 86% of hotel guests in recent years had access to a minimum of one smart/internet-based device. That may have been a smartphone, tablet or laptop connected by broadband cellular network technology or via Wi-Fi.
As the headline suggests, embracing hotel technology is important to not only advance your business but also to serve today’s customers. It is a unique selling point you can highlight in your marketing material. Most of the technology today also offers some form of built-in marketing use. As a marketing tool, technology can be a way to engage with your customers before, during and after their stay.
If a customer has a bad experience due to a lack or failure of technology, the unfortunate thing is that customer may then move on, never return and stick to a well-known brand moving forward, who offers a more tech-friendly stay.
A guest can now use their mobile phone, at home, to control things such as the television, central heating and the lights of their room. They can also use the mobile phone to request wake up calls, and even prebook transport to arrive at the hotel at a set time. Transport they can track right to the door and get notified once it arrives.
All too often we see antiquated ways of hotels doing business. Even the basic, like not linking Booking into your hotel reservation system, therefore forcing a guest to prove they have made a reservation.
Without further ado, let me share with you 7 technological advances your hotel cannot ignore.
1. Automated reservation system
The aforementioned Booking linking with your reservations system or PMS (property management system) is a basic necessity today. I know nobody wants to pay upwards of 10% commission or more, but they are a marketing global giant. Booking does the leg work for all hotels by driving potential guest to their site and then to our hotels.
Automation comes in all forms today and I would also expect customers and hotels to demand more automation too.
A reservation confirmation email should be standard, a pre-stay email can be penned, a welcome email can be added to your bank of templates. And an absolute must should be a post-stay follow-up email with a bounce back or special offer included along with a thank you.
Does it sound too much?
Do not forget the reservation confirmation gives the customer confidence in your hotel and could be a way for you to advertise/upsell dinner, your leisure facilities, a spa package or even an exclusive upgrade fee to a better room.
Imagine what you can do with the pre- or post-stay automated GDPR-friendly marketing email.
Side note - If you have a website, which you should, it’s an absolute must that guests can book online directly with you and that these reservations drop straight into your system.
2. Hotel room keys
Now, as much as I like a key ring shaped like the county of Devon or an ancient prison door key, let’s open up the conversation about hotel room keys and the important part they play in technology and marketing advances.
Firstly the technology to open a door digitally or with NFC/contactless technology has been around long enough for most guests to have experienced it. And liked it.
A digital key, often in the form of credit-card-sized plastic key, can be a cost-effective marketing tool as well as a technological advancement. I have seen branded cards with an environmental message on a noting that the card is actually bamboo not plastic. Still worked and still opened the door to my room but it also got me interested in the fact that the hotel might have a strong environmental policy.
You could and should embrace keys as a marketing tool but more importantly understand this technology advances your customers’ experience too.
3. Wi-Fi bandwidth
The 86% travelling to and around your hotel, using or having access to a smart device, also need good and free Wi-Fi with ample bandwidth. Dedicated business fibre optic broadband is widely available from more than one source, and should be a priority for your business today, not only internally but for the customers’ WiFi too. Guests expect it and some hotels offer faster broadband for multiple connections, for example 100 bedrooms 100 connections available at 100mb speed.
Don’t forget this also enables you to promote your hotel and your facilities on the Wi-Fi access page.
The traditional hotel industry is now challenged by a new generation of establishments that embrace new technologies. Some hotels now offer not only self-check-in, but also location-based information to get into the hotel, check-in and access the bedroom.
Could be too advanced for some but self-check-in for Mr. Smith, who has used the same hotel 100 times in the last few years, might save your staff time and effort. Yes, it removes a possible human connection or conversation from the equation, but it also allows your team on the front desk time to answer the phone or deal with automated email follow-ups.
5. In-room telephone
I find it strange that years ago hotels had telephones in the toilet/bathroom.
Now with all but free calls from mobiles and Wi-Fi calling on tap with other ways than just the telephone.
The question is – do you need a telephone in your guest bedroom at all?
Some hotels are embracing, with the Wi-Fi and smartphone carriers, the use of WhatsApp as a means of communication.
A simple scan of a QR Code could give a newly-checked-in guest direct access to your Duty Manager. By voice call or message.
Other smart devices are also on the market and some luxury hotels are quite literally installing an iPhone into the room with apps designed to promote the hotel. Instead of a compendium, you have an app about the hotel. Instead of a room service menu, you can order directly from the phone. Instead of a traditional phone, a calling app calls straight to guest relations.
The question again is – do you need a telephone in your guest bedroom at all?
6. Near-field communication (NFC)
So I have already mentioned NFC briefly in terms of the hotel room key technology to open doors, but NFC is more commonly used with payment services. Contactless payments and micro-transactions have risen exponentially in the last decade.
Whilst I admit card services charge for transactions, it’s also worth noting some guests may not carry cash or even a wallet in this day and age. Apple, Samsung and Google Pay now offer and allow contactless payments with no limits, meaning a guest could pay their entire bill just using a mobile phone hovered over the card machine.
This is something that will become ever more popular, so I highly recommend you embrace this technology today.
7. Social media
Where do we start with Social Media?
Whether you outsource it or employ a specialist, all hotels should be live and active on social media. It’s borderline free and can prove to be the most successful marketing tool and technological advancement in today’s changing society.
For example, I know you can book a room via Facebook with the correct Automated Reservation System. You can promote weddings and I have seen brides, whom you might never have converted otherwise, enquiring about dates on wedding information posts.
You can also link your conversations to the Duty Managers bedroom WhatsApp device.
You can promote your business like never before in today’s ever changing technological society. But these are truly the 7 technological advances, you cannot ignore.