Alongside reasonable rates and availability, the trick to harnessing strong relations with guests is down to an engaging brand experience. This is essential to a hotel’s operation. After all, great service is all about anticipating guest needs and responding to these requests immediately and promptly; great service generates repeat custom.
Visitors have already embraced technology as a core part of their home and work lives, so hotels must make smart use of digital amenities as an integral part of their brand experience.
Modern hoteliers have the benefit of a wide variety of devices and service providers that can deliver digital amenities to meet the high expectations of today’s guests. But simply purchasing HDTVs, digital signage and the like is not necessarily enough and it certainly doesn’t maximise the potential of these devices to add value to the customer experience. Hotels need to ensure that the technology provides something which will enhance the guests’ stay, so enable relevant services, deliver dynamic content choices, and open up valuable dialogue. This must be done intuitively and consistently because it is about embedding value for each of these communication channels to enhance the overall guest experience.
Hotels’ high footfall locations such as the entrance (inside and out), lobby and hallways are ideal locations for digital signage and bespoke screen experiences comprising text, graphics and video. Customer engagement can be achieved prior to entering the hotel when interactive screens and digital signage are strategically placed.
Since guests are always on the move when they encounter these devices, message brevity is key. Content strategy should be to enhance guest satisfaction with the hotel service, so the content itself must be focused on the most commonly requested information – anticipating guests’ needs before they realise it – and be short and easily digestible within seconds. Local weather forecasts, news headlines, daily events in the hotel and surrounding areas, travel information, and quick dining promotions are all ideal features to include; touch-screens and interactive installations offer interactive menus and wine lists as well as reservations, while some hotels are embedding touch-enabled local maps on the screens. And in addition to the practical benefits, these devices create revenue, advertising and sponsorship opportunities for the hotel. But they should always be viewed as a complement to service provided by the hotel staff. Working together, they can form a powerful combination of marketing and service that generate an exceptional guest experience.
Once guests are in their room, they expect an experience that is just like home if not better. Large screen HDTVs with dozens of channels and on-demand entertainment are now the standard, but the new potential of IP-delivered interactive television offers unique opportunities that should be explored in order to personalise further the guest experience. In addition to video, text and graphics can be integrated much like an online environment, enabling the guest to find out more information at their convenience.
Mobile devices are also an ideal platform for extending the guest conversation – particularly since Wi-Fi networks are one of the most crucial amenities of any hotel stay. A recent survey by Hotels.com ranked free Wi-Fi / Internet as the most important in-room amenity, and the third most desirable overall hotel property amenity, for guests. To maximise the value of this desire for Wi-Fi engagement, however, hotels must put personalisation at the heart. Hotels must offer incentives or a reason for guests to download an app. While many hotels have mobile apps or optimised websites, they are often limited in scope to reservation booking functionality only, leaving on-site interaction features off the table. Text messaging or alerts to keep guests informed is a great way to do this. It could be as simple as asking all guests if they want their room cleaned, or as complex as offering a VIP guest a last-minute opening for a visit to the on-site spa.
Hotel companies should strive to integrate all on-site digital devices – including mobile - and employ the strengths of each as part of a concerted communication effort that is consistent with the brand. Staff must also be trained to be familiar with the features of each device or service to make them active users of the marketing features – it will change the way a company does business.