Mr. Williams

Mobile Technology

Technology Opportunities That Can Set Your Hotel Apart

By Court Williams, Chief Executive Officer, HVS Executive Research

In some ways, running a successful hotel comes down to a proposition both simple and sometimes complex: delivering service that exceeds the expectations of your guests. You need to provide comfort and hospitality, but also something extra to set yourself apart from other properties. Without differentiating yourself in the market, you risk becoming just one of many hotel options, rather than the preferred choice for your market.

One valuable way to set yourself apart from your competition is through embracing technological opportunities available to hotels. If you leverage mobile technology, a wealth of options are emerging that can deliver new conveniences and services that enhance the guest experience. When you combine these options with a true commitment to providing excellent guest service, you gain new ways to emerge as the preferred property in your key markets.

Mobile Device Recognition

Check-in at the beginning of a hotel stay provides a critical moment for your guest experience. A busy counter can create frustration before someone even arrives at his or her room, setting the stage for a difficult stay that does not live up to the expectations your guest has. Trying to overcome this poor first impression creates a strain on your staff and a damaged reputation.

Mobile technology can allow your guests to bypass the traditional check-in process through their smartphones. Your property can be set up to recognize a phone's IP address when the guest arrives. The check-in can then be completed through your mobile app without any need to work through the front desk. With a few clicks, the guest can walk into your hotel and move straight ahead toward their room.

Far from a security nightmare, this process ensures that only your guest can check in. The IP recognition technology ties your guest to a unique identifier. And your hotel, operating on a secured connection limited to the property, can give your customers peace of mind in knowing that the data they send through this process goes only where it is supposed to go.

In turn, your hotel processes the check-in seamlessly. Besides making check-in convenient for the customer, it frees up your front desk staff to provide service when guests need it most, without being tied up managing a check-in process that can be automated.

Digital Payment Technology

You can help enable a hassle-free check-in process by taking advantage of the digital payment technology available on the market. Products like Apple Pay have been allowing customers to make payments through mobile devices for a few years now. You can develop your property's mobile app to take deposit payments when the customer arrives. The time this can save each guest by eliminating the need to stop and run a credit card at the front desk can make the check in process much more convenient.

It gets better still when you provide an electronic room key when the mobile payment processes. Swipe cards provided at the front desk no longer represent the best technology for accessing rooms. Guests lose them and the magnetic strips wear out. You can provide bar codes that you send directly to a mobile device, along with a reminder of the room number. Among the other benefits this approach provides is an increase in the security you deliver. The room information and key go directly to the mobile device, configured to the IP address. In a traditional check-in, information is written down and passed to the guest, and thus all too easy to misplace or inadvertently show to someone else. The technological delivery helps ensure only the guest has the key and information required. The result is a streamlined check-in and entry to the hotel with less security concern than the more traditional approach creates.

Personalized Welcome Video

Once potential objection to IP-based check-in technology is the lack of face-to-face introductions. You want to make a first impression that includes attention to detail and to the needs of your guests. You may understand the value of efficiency in this process, but you also want your guests to feel welcome and special on your property.

Today, though, mobile technology is not about avoiding people. It creates new and exciting ways to connect more, rather than less. You can develop a personalized welcome video that serves the purpose of that initial interaction. It will greet the guest by name, and introduce him or her to the hotel or welcome him or her back, depending on whether this is the first time there.

When you prepare these videos in advance, you avoid the distractions that often come with face-to-face interaction at the front desk. You need not ignore other guests while providing a personal connection to the specific person arriving. The result is a calm, quiet approach to telling each arriving guest about the amenities you offer and the people who will take care of your guest during his or her stay with you.

This technology is available today and provides a way to connect on an individual basis that can make your guests feel special from their first moment of arrival. And the welcome video lets you do so without interruption, and without the frustration of a guest who just wants to get to their room and relax.

Automated Message to Kitchen

The personalization that technology allows does not stop with a welcome video. In this age of advanced technology, there is an abundance of information to make the guest experience more convenient. When your guests check in, they can provide information through the app and send a message to your property's kitchen requesting their meal preferences. With very little effort on the part of your guest, this enables your chef to prepare a dish based on those preferences.

The guest can set this up prior to check-in or through the app on arrival. Some guests know exactly what they want well ahead of time, while others eat based more on whims of the moment. The technology available to you lets you set up for either possibility. Your guests will appreciate the personal touch available to them.

Beyond the food choices a guest desires, they can set up a schedule for the delivery, an option to cancel, and any other options that make this a pleasant experience for your guests. The meals you prepare and provide your guests can be a powerful differentiator for you in creating positive impressions your guests won't soon forget.

Connect to Smart Elevator

Hotels today can build even more through smart technology. You can set up your elevators to connect to the IP address from smart phones and deliver critical information. When you enable voice recognition through that connection, you then have a property that recognizes and communicates with each guest. This enables your hotel to set room temperatures, schedule wake-up calls, and otherwise prepare the room to deliver a level of service never before possible.

The voice recognition component in particular allows you to deliver a personalized experience. Even the best bellman can struggle to remember every person in your hotel. Your hotel becomes an extension of your staff, one that stores data to recognize every individual coming through the property. It speaks to them by name and communicates throughout the property to ensure attention to detail on your guests' behalf.

Cloud Access in Room

Once in the room, your property should continue to deliver a great experience. Traditionally, this has meant a comfortable bed and ergonomic furniture. Guest comfort depended on appurtenances and cleanliness. Today, though, you can deliver much more. Cloud-based technology allows the room to connect to customers' mobile devices and access music and other apps to help make the stay comfortable. Through a wireless connection, you can provide an enhanced bluetooth extension for your customers to work or relax.

These processes place demands on the battery life of the connected devices. You can now alleviate this concern by setting your rooms up with low voltage wireless electric currents that steadily charge the devices for your guests. There is no need to force people to plug in constantly; you can both connect through their devices and help them keep going while they are in their rooms.

More Personalization - Not Less

One of the curmudgeonly complaints about the technology available to the world today is that it prevents the interpersonal connections that humanity needs. Some hotel owners and managers hesitate to streamline experiences on this basis; they believe that it prevents guests from feeling the personal touches that can set a hotel apart.

When you implement these technological advances, you can do so in a way that delivers a better personal touch than the traditional solutions provide. Your hotel speaks to guests and matches services to what they desire. You give them added convenience that goes way beyond what most guests expect today, and afford a sense of privacy to those who expect it. Beyond this, though, you also allow your concierge and customer service staff to avoid the more mechanical aspects of their jobs and focus in on delivering something extra. Technology does not eliminate the human components of your property. Rather, it frees up your staff to give closer attention where needed: to deliver the excellence in service and attention that can be missed in the other details. When you build out your technological offerings, you create opportunities for your guests and your staff to enhance your property's experience.

Court Williams is CEO of HVS Executive Search. Mr. Williams has over 27 years of retained Hospitality Executive Search experience. He began his career in the restaurant industry after graduating from Cornell’s Hotel School gaining operational experience prior to launching a career track in Human Resources with an international restaurant company. Having experience in executive recruitment from the brand side, he decided to work on the hospitality side. This led Mr. Williams to a career in retained executive search. Mr. Williams has expertise in leading senior hospitality executive searches across all functional areas including Board Director, CEO, Operations, Human Resources, Marketing, Finance, Development, Culinary and Supply Chain. Mr. Williams can be contacted at 516-248-8828 x220 or cwilliams@hvs.com Please visit http://www.hvs.com for more information. Extended Bio...

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Feature Focus
Revenue Management: Technology and Big Data
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