Comment: Three vital principles to support great guest experience
Infor, Middle East and Africa's general manager, Jonathan Wood, weighs in on what makes a good guest experience
Technology and culture are interconnected and always have been. Acknowledging this vital relationship is more important now than ever before as both of those forces drive each other to change the way we live our lives and perceive the world in which we live. In the hospitality industry, this has an impact on how hotels create great guest experiences during an era when the landscape is changing fast, and as old processes and assumptions fade into the background.
There are a lot of moving parts to this. But what are some of the base principles that hotel organisations must deliver to guests to stay competitive in a rapidly evolving industry? What role does technology play in supporting the kinds of experiences that will create continuity and loyalty between guest and hotel brand? Let’s look at three important ones.
As new generations come into their own as driving forces in the marketplace, more of their values are dictating the way that leading hotels manage their systems and processes. One important value is personalisation. In our current era, the way guests judge their experiences is often as an extension of their sense of individual identity. When hospitality technology solutions help hotels tap into that, the level of service reaches another level. This is about providing truly guest-first experiences, geared to things like dietary preferences, local recommendations, and other details.
Advanced CRM systems that are integrated with PMS are mandatory to help ensure this degree of detail on a high level. This helps organisations track the histories and even personal preferences based on past purchases of their guests. It extends to communications with guests at every stage of the process, and often even before their stay begins. This can include anything from a personalised SMS message and/or email that addresses a guest by name, an onscreen welcome when they first get to their room, and even simple greetings by staff who know the guest by name as prompted by the systems the hotel uses. In this, the technology platform creates more meaningful connections between the guest and the hotel brand.
In former eras, hotels technology focused on getting incoming guests to fall in line to processes; line up to check in and get a room key. Line up to check out to receive the folio, pay, and hand over the room key. Line up to get a snack at the gift shop or pantry and pay at a staff operated point of sale terminal. There are other examples. But in following the principle of acknowledging a guest’s individual identity and personalising services talked about above, those processes have changed because cultural values have.
What this means is a fundamental reversal of dynamics. Instead of a process demanding that the guest fall in line with it, emerging hospitality technology now enables the guest to manage the process in a way that is most convenient for them. This very often centres around mobile apps and web-based services that guests can manage from their personal devices. It can also involve kiosk purchases that are connected to both POS and PMS to allow guests more options during busier times or to enable them to make purchases after peak hours when hotel staff members aren’t stationed at a terminal, with all purchases posting to folio so that guests are managing a single bill rather than several. When technology gives the guest greater control over processes and provides clarity all around, it enables a very powerful benefit; greater freedom.
Freedom of movement
When guests feel freer to explore their environments and to not be tethered to locations to get the goods and services they want, all kinds of possibilities begin to open up. Generational values aside, this has always been the case. But as technology solutions for hotels evolve to align with prevailing cultural values, a greater level of freedom becomes more and more of a reality.
Once again, mobile technology plays an important role in this. Being able to check in and out using a mobile device from anywhere removes a lot of friction for guests, especially for those who have never known a world without these options. But even when guests are in a location, being able to order a drink while lounging poolside, or being able to move from waiting area, to bar, to table, and then to a friend’s table in the hotel restaurant while the hotel POS solution seamlessly manages their orders and their final bill are also important examples of this kind of freedom of movement. Processes like these that are enabled by technology and in line with cultural expectations make all the difference to making good experiences into a great ones.
An integral connection
Hospitality technology solutions should help a hotel organisation to meet guests where they are, in line with guest expectations. In this, technology and culture are always flowing in and out of each other. This is an integral interconnection to acknowledge when looking to expand on a technology platform to support new generations of guests.