The hospitality industry is a dynamic environment in a constant state of movement and evolution. Through technology, the last several years have witnessed the industry change at an unprecedented pace. To be successful in the hospitality industry in today's landscape, those entering the field must be open to using a variety of new tools to ensure satisfaction in both leisure and business travelers.
The prevalence of social media has radically changed the relationship between guests and hoteliers. Through social media, guests and potential guests can share experiences with each other and exchange information on room rates, hotel amenities, and more. Social media also allows visitors to rate the services and post reviews of hotels and hotel services online.
These reviews have a huge impact on potential guests as they do research before making travel decisions, and travelers are doing pre-trip research like never before. According to PhoCusWright, 87 percent of TripAdvisor users feel more confident in their decision when they read travel reviews, and 98 percent say they find them “accurate of the actual experience.” Similarly, according to LateRooms, 90 percent of travelers avoid booking hotels labeled as “dirty” in online reviews.
With consumers committed to in-depth research before making travel decisions, the balance of power has now unquestionably tilted toward guests, as hotels must work even harder to exceed expectations and solve service problems as they occur. The threat of a poor social media review is a highly powerful tool to the consumer, and hotels must now think twice as to the negative implications of bad reviews to potential future reservations when making guest compensation decisions.
Large hotels now have social media departments to address bad reviews that guests have posted online in the hope of catching the guests while they are still on property to correct the issue. Often, a hotel or restaurant will ask unhappy guests to delete the negative review or update it as a gesture of goodwill. Again, it is now not solely the service deficiency of one guest at stake when considering compensation to an unhappy guest. A potential scathing and negative review forces hoteliers consider the potential multiplier effect of future guests.
At large hotels particularly, the check in and check out procedures can be time-consuming, create lines, and long wait times. Guests have made it very clear through feedback that they want fast check in/check out procedures to allow more time for enjoyment and quick departures. In response, many large hotels are now offering guests the opportunity to preregister for their hotel stay before they even arrive.
This can significantly reduce the wait at the registration desk. Even larger properties now offer smartphone apps that not only allow guests to preregister but also enables the smartphone to act as a room key. With this, guests could potentially go straight from the airport to the hotel room.
While speed is clearly the positive gain from bypassing the interaction with front desk staff, the negative aspects include not being able to ask the front desk agent about possible room upgrades and special room deals. It is important to consider the positive and negative implications when making the decision to bypass contact with front desk employees at registration.
For convention and business travelers, technology allows many impressive advances. Through text messaging, hotels can inform convention guests as to meeting room and schedule changes for their events. Text messaging also lets the hotel target particular convention groups to offer daily specials on anything from spa treatments to show tickets and restaurants. The real-time ability to reach current hotel guests has tremendous implications for reaching the target market at a low cost.
Perhaps the most convenient and favored advancement in hospitality technology for guests is the ability to check out of the hotel while still in the comfort of the hotel room. Hotel guests can review all room charges on the television screen in the room. If all charges are accurate, guests can complete the checkout with a few clicks and avoid a visit to the front desk.
Additionally, minor charge disputes can often be resolved with a phone call to the front desk. Anyone who has ever checked out of a Las Vegas hotel on Sunday at noon can appreciate the benefits of not visiting the front desk during this time of day. This rapid checkout process lets guests have more time to enjoy the final hours of the stay and allows for a faster departure to get to the airport.
Through technology, hotels can continually raise the level of service expectations. The importance of technology to hospitality will only increase in the future, and professional hotel managers should embrace the change and remember it can be a powerful tool to ensure guest satisfaction.
As technology makes giant strides in hospitality, so does the importance of each opportunity to interact with hotel guests. Professional concierges and other employees must fully understand that with fewer human interactions, each opportunity to interact with a guest must be executed flawlessly with a warm smile as to create a pleasant lasting impression.
With fewer interactions with hotel staff, guests could very easily base an entire hotel stay on a handful of interactions with hotel employees. This provides fewer opportunities to get it right if lapses in service occur. A warm smile and thank you will always be timeless in the hospitality industry, no matter where technology may lead us.