ITB 2024 Special Reporting
Hotels Getting Personal - A Digital Revolution.
By Jeroen Gulickx
Friday, 14th February 2014
Exclusive Feature: The Opinion:  

The digital conferences for hospitality started popping up more than a decade ago, Digitalbuzz a blog to get inspiration about whats going on in the digital world explains values of the digital world and the transparency of travelers, and highlights that technology will be driving guest loyalty and guest satisfaction in the future. 

The Movement

That really is not a surprise with the fabulous movement that we currently experience in particular with introduction of online check in, in for example the Aloft hotel chain by Starwood Hotels & Resorts. 

Guests have many expectations, for example why can you order seats online before your flight, pay an invoice on your phone with an image or code and in hotels you still have to check in at the desk and physically pay your bill when you leave.

According to Terence Ronson, there are 4 technology trends we clearly need to envisage as our challenge.

1. Mobility – the simple desire to work life with a tablet or phone
2. Connectivity – no more summer holiday destinations without WiFi and it better be a fast connection too
3. User Experience – overall voice and touch are the norm of the future
4. Work/life balance – remote work, communication with friends is shaping make this balance a let's say an interesting one

The Hotel

The passion for hotels is to deliver an amazing experience to the guest. We want them to come back. The many years I have worked with Six Sigma, a process driven way to improve your business, we looked at the correlation between loyalty and guest satisfaction.

Obvious one might assume, but much more complex than you might think, and certainly it does not have a clear conclusion. What is however clear is that there are a number of questions that arise when for finding loyalty drivers.  In research of top performing companies I find that leaders are obsessed with asking and answering these questions:
  • What do customers in our target markets really value?
  • Which issues make our customers unhappy and cause them to leave?
  • What pleases customers and causes them to recommend us to others?
  • How can we turn customers into true advocates for our business?
According to The Management Study Guide the answers find themselves in the attitude, the product & service, the technology, the human resources and the suppliers culture. Lifting the one out we can influence well is technology.

The Technology according to Hospitality leadership

'Technology: The technological aspects of product manufactured by the supplier plays a vital role in customer loyalty. The more products are technologically sound, more is the loyalty'; says MSG.

The subject can be spoken about if extreme lengths, and I would love to share more information with you, clearly I am not the only one interested in what the future will bring. Reading up on what's needed in our hotel industry has intrigued me for many years.

Just now I am really understanding what the different generation feel about technology like the generation Y compared to the Baby boomers. But I still like to rely on what our leaders are saying too, they are the decision makers on what expectations can be met from our guests.

Accenture held a survey amongst Key industry executives around mobility, here is what the result was:

1. Do you have a strategy for implementing mobile websites for existing Web-based (desktop) applications?
  • Main work has been done around providing accessibility to Web content via mobile websites.
  • For those lodging companies that have or are considering mobile applications the main focus is around:
    • Planning functionality – hotel/room search
    • Reservation/booking functionality
    • Loyalty functions
2. Where do you see the biggest application of mobility in your organization? 
  • Most important is guest-facing – the complete life cycle
  • Prior – Search for hotels and book room
  • In-house – On-property services
  • Post-stay – Marketing feeds
3. Do you see a demand from your guest population to enable additional on-property functions via mobile devices? If so, what are the top three?

The following are the top on-property functions:

1. Advance check-in functionality and bypass the front desk and use mobile device as digital key
2. Check-out functionality
3. Location-based services – Send guest messages based on where they are in the hotel
  • Recognize guest arrived at the hotel
  • Interactive offers based on guest location (e.g., spa service while at gym, offers for drinks while at pool/bar, etc.)
4. Self-service concierge services:
  • Order room service
  • Order food/drinks at the pool
  • Set up wake-up calls
  • Request parking valet service
  • Information about the hotel, local attractions, local restaurants, etc.
Additional on-property functions raised:
  • Using guest mobile devices for entertainment/Download own movies and music to in-room devices
  • Electronic/digital currency – Purchase of services and products using mobile devices
4. What are the key issues that you focus on as you seek to develop and implement your mobility road map?

1. Developing something that is platform independent with changing technology 
  • Choosing platforms to develop (e.g., Android, Apple, BlackBerry, etc.), choosing between smartphone, tablets; gaining biggest market share
  • User interaction variations per device
2. Security around PCI compliance and capturing credit card payments
3. Integration – Enabling legacy systems to work with the mobile devices in a secure and structured way
4. Investing in features that are going to be the most valuable to the guest
5. Speed to market to ensure by the time a function is deployed it is not obsolete
6. Bandwidth impacts to be able to support demand
  • Guests now bring multiple mobile devices and want to interact with on-property devices (e.g., TV, stereo system, etc.) 
  • When outsource service to phone company now, have security issues and data sharing on carrier side on top of bandwidth issues
The solution

Development of a system based on guest needs, to improve loyalty, increase engagement, exceeding guest expectations.

Room8 has developed a system, a combination of the most sophisticated software and hardware that can be implemented in complex as well as simple solutions.

The hotel can choose between a full service installation, comprising pre stay, during stay and after stay opportunities for the guest to communicate instantly.

The concept

Room8 technologies are about facilitating the stay of a guest, with a large number of tools, easy to use and access through phone, tablet or laptop. Ultimately the systems promote dialogue between the hotel staff and the guest.
Increased profits are mostly coming from revenue increases, like up-selling, room service orders, entertainment, but also cost saving in paper and electricity and increase in staff efficiency, as the system promotes dialogue between staff and guests.

Welcome to Room8 - advanced hospitality applications and technology for optimal guest experience. Contact sales@theroom8.com for more information.

Terence Ronson: Do's and Don'ts in hospitality
Six Sigma: isixsigma.com/
The Management Study Guide: Product and Service
Accenture: Hospitality Services
Hospitality Magazine: bursting the bubble
LRA worldwide: Customer Loyalty
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