How personalized service can be attained without a person?
COVID-19 has been a huge challenge for the hospitality industry. Around the world it has caused a near shutdown of hotels as restrictions on traveling have decimated the tourism industry both private and business. On top of that, the travel that did continue had many restrictions and has made requirements for contactless interactions of high importance.
During the early months of the pandemic, the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) reported 98 percent of its member companies had canceled nearly all international business trips, and 92 percent canceled all domestic travel. As travelers start to venture out again, there will still be a reasonable level of concern placed on safety. Travel will resume but will not likely be the free-spirited experience of the past.
Contactless to the rescue
Although in several places around the world contactless technologies have been readily adopted, in the United States the changes were very gradual until recently. A 2018 study by A.T. Kearney found that South Korea had a massive 98% acceptance, the UK was at 65%, while in the US, the number was a dismal 3%. This has changed considerably by 2021 as the pandemic has accelerated the drive to adopting contactless technologies across the board.
Travel & Tourism Analyst Ralph Hollister says that: “In 2021, hotels will increase their adoption of technology that reduces the number of touchpoints. Abilities such as online check-ins and check-outs, mobile keys and room settings controlled by Internet of Things (IoT) technology will become much more commonplace.”
According to GlobalData’s Lodging Influencer Platform, some of the trending contactless solutions are facial recognition, mobile apps for hotels, delivery robots and online F&B (Food and Beverage) orders. Facial recognition technology, a contactless biometric technology, enables guests to self-check-in, unlock rooms and activate elevators through face scan only. “Guest experience is getting enhanced through mobile apps, which facilitate mobile check-in, mobile check-out, dining with mobile ordering and contactless delivery,” adds GlobalData’s Prashant Saxena.
Leveraging contactless technology to enhance the guest experience
There are several ways in which hotels and resorts can utilize the new technologies to enhance the experience and stay of their guests. These include:
- Contactless check-in – upon arrival, guests can either access a self-serve kiosk or use an app to let the establishment know they’ve arrived. Part of this process can even generate a mobile room key. Upon check out, guests can review charges and make any final payments through an app or via a web link. This makes the entire check-in/check-out procedure quicker, and fully contactless.
- Amenity access – using an app or barcode will enable guests to book services such as massages and gain entrance to the pool, spa and other services and venues at the hotel.
- Enhanced customer experience – gives guests more flexibility and control during their stay. This can include adding late checkout, providing room preferences, and adding extras to their stay.
- Loyalty programs – guest data can be used to push loyalty and rewards in real-time. For example, they can encourage guests to dine-in by sending a restaurant coupon or filling seats at the pool by providing incentives such as ‘one free chair with every booking’.
Tips for maintaining the ‘human touch’ when utilizing contactless technologies
The hospitality industry prides itself on quality of service and a personalized human touch. But with the need to reduce staff to stay cost efficient as well as meet health safety guidelines during the pandemic, interactions with guests must be minimized. Using QR codes, guests can check in, view menus, order, pay and leave valuable feedback through their smartphones. Hotels can make sure their guests feel like they are being treated conscientiously.
- Offer a personal experience – take advantage of contactless interactions to collect information about your customers and their preferences. This information can be used to target them with offers and experiences that they will respond favorably to.
- Connect the contactless experience with loyalty programs – by offering relevant services and promotions.
- Make it attractive – using multimedia such as videos and pictures can help drive sales. It also helps communicate your brand to your customers.
- Using pictures and quotes from staff can help establishments become more familiar to their customers and contribute to establishing a more personal, homey feeling with customers.
- Make it personal – with the valuable information you have garnered, it is easy to show you care. For example, send a birthday card or an offer for a discount on a guest’s birthday… These experiences are often a minor cost but go a long way towards encouraging brand loyalty and making guests feel that they are getting personalized service.
The key: personalization
In a recent report, McKinsey stated that businesses investing in new technologies and “rebuilding human experiences that existed before COVID-19” ultimately will be the ones reaping the rewards as the pandemic subsides. Understanding this is a key to properly utilizing contactless technologies and emerging from the pandemic a winner.