A Symbiotic Relationship: How Mobile Technology Impacts Both Guest Experience and Hotel Operations
By Bernard Ellis, Vice President of Industry Strategy, Infor Hospitality
According to a recent study by Deloitte entitled Hospitality 2015: Game changers or spectators?, mobile applications will be a key area for technological development in the industry over the next year. As more consumers than ever before are equipped with smart phones and tablets to aid in booking travel, hoteliers are finding new ways to interact with guests and build brand awareness via mobile devices.
Over the past few years, we have witnessed the emergence of the "always on" consumer. This individual craves access to information, products and services with only the touch of a finger, and they are constantly connected via multiple devices throughout the day. While this group of consumers represents a great opportunity for hospitality organizations in regard to marketing and communication methods, it also brings about a significant challenge in meeting service expectations. Hoteliers that wish to remain competitive and relevant must adapt to deliver the level of accessibility these potential guests anticipate through their mobile device.
Because of this shift, many large hospitality organizations have already taken steps to utilize guest-facing mobile technology. Hotel chains have launched applications that allow guests to manage preferences and reservations directly from a mobile device. This resource enables them to check-in and make arrangements for additional activities, such booking a table at the hotel's restaurant, all before arriving at the property. With a guest that expects instant gratification and craves constant connection, applications such as this help hoteliers to maintain brand relevance by providing them fast, easy admittance to the data and services they seek.
In addition to developing mobile applications, websites must now be mobile friendly in order to meet the needs of guests. If an application provides limited functionality, the consumer will then attempt to access the hotel's website through the browser on their mobile device in order to complete the actions they desire.
Consider this illustration. A woman in her late twenties and her husband are traveling to stay at a large resort for a long weekend. On the drive there, the woman downloads the hotel's mobile application in hopes of making an appointment at the spa. This particular app allows them to check-in while on the move, but unfortunately does not provide direct access to the spa's booking system. The woman then visits the hotel's website, but finds that it is not mobile-enabled and will still require her to call the spa. Instead of calling to book her appointment for the next day, she elects to wait until they arrive at the property. Keeping in mind that this woman represents the next generation of consumers, she views phone calls and emails as more time consuming than new methods of communication. Upon speaking with the concierge that evening, she is informed that the spa is closed for the day, and she will have to either call or visit the front desk in person the next morning. Frustrated at the length of the process and her inability to achieve direct access to the spa, the woman decides not to book an appointment after all. This means that the hotel missed out on an opportunity for ancillary revenue, simply because of its inability to accommodate the mobile guest.
In order to prevent scenarios such as this, hospitality organizations should view mobile technology as an opportunity to provide guests with 24/7 access to the hotel and information relevant to their stay. This gives hoteliers an avenue to promote an improved guest experience by delivering on-demand services and giving guests more options for how they would like to interact with the property.
Just as mobile applications are impacting the way guests interact with the hotel, they are also affecting how hotel employees communicate with critical business systems. Mobile technology is changing the way internal operations are managed with the ability to tie directly into back-end applications. If mobile functionality is integrated with solutions that manage processes such as financials, maintenance or marketing, hoteliers can promote an enhanced guest experience by increasing the speed and efficiency of staff.
When connected with a customer relationship management (CRM) application, mobile functionality creates a new channel for marketing and service, similar to what the industry is experiencing with social media. Mobile platforms promote a new avenue for feedback and discussion, and allow marketers to send timely, personalized offers directly to guests through the hotel's mobile application. The app can then track the guest's response and essentially "learn" from each interaction to help hoteliers develop a better understanding of guest behaviors. When responses are analyzed, marketers can determine which offers are most likely to elicit a positive reaction in the future by pinpointing trends and repeated preferences. Integration also ensures that multi-channel campaigns can be conducted and monitored, without creating silos of information that might cause a guest to be inundated with communications from the property. A unified approach where mobility is included helps to capture vital information about the guest, giving them a sense of a more personal relationship with the hotel. As soon as the guest checks-in via their mobile device, the hotel can begin targeting them with offers based on individual inclinations and past activities, ensuring the property maximizes all opportunities for revenue while also building brand loyalty with each of its customers.
When coupled with back-end systems such as an enterprise asset management (EAM) application that governs maintenance, hoteliers can speed employee response time to facilitate faster resolution of potential issues. Consider this illustration. A maintenance manager is consistently away from his desk overseeing repairs and upkeep around the property. When equipped with mobile access to the hotel's EAM application, he no longer wastes time walking back and forth to check on updates and outstanding requests through his desktop computer. He now receives automated alerts when service is completed and when an urgent task arises. If an air conditioning unit breaks, he is immediately aware of the situation no matter his location and can address it instantly to minimize the unit's down time. This promotes faster resolution of the issue, helping the manager to complete more work in less time. It also encourages a superior guest experience by ensuring that service is conducted as quickly and efficiently as possible, thereby lessening disruption to guests at the hotel.
Mobile technology plays a key role in maintaining brand loyalty and relevance in today's competitive market. Most people emphasize guest-facing mobile technology, but in reality, it is the employee-facing applications that have the greatest potential to improve daily operations and the productivity of hotel employees. Effectively utilizing mobile technology on both sides, guest-facing and employee-facing, is critical for hoteliers to keep pace with increasing guest expectations and the need to deliver faster, more personalized services. In the future, the industry will continue to see expanded use of mobile devices, such as the ability to use a smart phone in lieu of a room key. This is not a distant future, but rather a series of developments that will come quickly and soon be added to the growing list of options desired by consumers. Hospitality organizations should seek to establish basic mobile functionality now in order to position themselves for the 24/7, on-the-go direction that the industry is taking.
Bernard Ellis, Vice President of Industry Strategy for Infor Hospitality is responsible for defining the global go-to-market strategy for the entire Infor solution suite for the hospitality, travel, and leisure industry vertical. In addition to general product positioning, brand messaging, and industry relations, Mr. Ellis directly oversees product management of Infor’s hospitality-specific PMS, RMS, and POS industry applications, and pursues their tight integration with Infor’s world-class solutions.. Mr. Ellis also guides these other solution groups on the “last mile” functionality required to achieve specialized hospitality editions that outperform best-of-breed industry solutions, yet are still cost-effective to implement. With his launch of Infor CloudSuite™ Hospitality in 2014, Mr. Ellis marked over 15 years of evangelizing SaaS solutions. Mr. Ellis can be contacted at 202-232-3839 or firstname.lastname@example.org Extended Bio...
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