Technology can help to gather the information needed to better customise the customer experience, as stated by Robert Cole, a consultant in hotel marketing and tourism technology and founder of RockCheetah. For example, knowing that clients are probably interested in booking their honeymoon stay because they clicked on a related banner, it makes no sense to offer them a free children’s program.
As Cole says, “If you know the exact reason for the trip, you can create a more solid customer experience and sell everything you want by sending them the mail from which they have made the reservation, messages before their arrival or also through an app. You can offer them the possibility to book other services at the destination, such as romantic restaurants or tickets for a famous show. In this way, the hotelier can thus cross-sell to offer great experiences. ”
Once the guest has arrived at the hotel, he tries to rationalise the registration, according to Cole. A study by JD Power & Associates on airlines revealed that the more the passengers they interacted with staff, the less satisfied were the passengers with the experience, just the opposite of what happens in hotels. This statement may sound like an attempt to counteract the growing popularity of technologies that allow remote check-in and apps to enter the room with the mobile, but Cole does not think so: “It’s not that Guests do not want to interact with hotel staff; They want to do so as long as the benefit of that interaction is for them. ”
And, in his opinion, during a traditional stay almost every interaction could be beneficial, although best practices in technology make possible to turn many interactions into a better customer experience. The challenge now, he says, is “how to use that technology to facilitate it, not to eliminate staff from the interaction because the hotelier wants his guests to feel welcomed, like at home, enjoying the true hospitality.”
In this regard, he explains, “there are some apps that allow you to check in remotely and others that make it easier for customers to choose a particular room, which generates upselling and cross-selling opportunities. In both cases, it should work relatively easily with most modern SMPs. Apps also serve to communicate with customers. ”
The perfect application, in his own words, the one that unifies the communication channels in a single in which the hotel can incorporate the possibility of making reservations, pre-arrival procedures, room status, request a room service and even tickets for a show. All this integrated into a single area that is more efficient for the client.”
Development of artificial intelligence and voice control
Red Lion Hotels has been testing different artificial intelligence solutions to see how they fit into their business in both back-office and customer-facing operations, according to their Chief Information Officer, John Edwards. And there are many options in the market, but none that stand out yet. That is why the chain is taking its time to find the best partners to help them in what is called to be the future of the natural era of machine learning.
Hilton Worldwide has begun to explore the possibilities offered by cognitive learning and the recognition of voices as well as scenarios in which they could be applied, as highlighted by Jonathan Wilson, Vice President of Innovation and Brand Services. Technology can automate personal responses to individuals based on the way they speak instead of just looking at the words they say.
The chain has found a partner to move forward with this development and is creating a concierge experience in which voice recognition becomes cognitive learning. One of the areas in which they are focusing on applying this technology is in the meeting rooms. So far, if the client perceive that the room is too cold the client would not need to find an employee to ask him to change the temperature. In fact, the customer would just have to say loud that it is cold and the temperature is adjusted gently. “That’s where technology becomes powerful, with a personal focus and accelerating response,” says Wilson.
However, while generating exciting developments, voice control technology still has some drawbacks. Some groups “are doing crazy,” Cole says, like equipping all rooms with iPads, which are expensive pieces of hardware that require upgrades. The technology applied to voice-controlled room elements also requires customers to take a couple of minutes for devices to learn their voices, and “they do not want to do that, but intuitive, trouble-free performance.”
Hilton’s meeting rooms are beginning to implement cognitive learning technology whereby the customer just has to say that they feel cold and the temperature is readjusted smoothly
Voice-activated commands are still at a very early stage and have problems with their operation, according to David Sjolander, HTNG Operations Manager (Hotel Technology Next Generation), how to understand the different accents and requests when everything the customer wants Is to close the curtains. “There is also a security issue.”
Red Lion has focused on the mobile payment due to the growing use of mobile devices by its customers, as stated by Edwards. The chain is talking to different solution providers in this area in order to implement it during the booking process as soon as possible. “It’s one of those things that we can’t ignore. Customers are increasingly booking through their mobile.” For most hotels, the mobile experience is very similar to the process on a desktop computer, stresses Edwards, while with the OTA is completely different.