Comment: Technology is vital to understanding hotel consumers
Marriott Al Forsan Abu Dhabi GM David Lance talks about the growing importance of technology in the hospitality sector
For the last two decades, technology has been evolving and in-turn transforming the way people travel. From booking flights online to arranging holidays and accommodation through apps, consumer behaviour in the hotel sector has had to change to keep up with requirements. Today, hotels have digital check-in, electronic payment systems, AI and more, furthering efficiency for both business travellers and vacationers. Social media has also made the sector more transparent, with visitors doing a lot more research online before booking, and loyalty programmes now playing a key part in people’s choice of hotel.
The customer service experience begins from the moment a guest engages with a hotel – and that first interaction is just as important as what happens when they stay with us. It needs to be a fast and clean process. But we also have to make sure technology doesn’t take away from human interaction, which is still more important.
Hotel guest habits are the driving force for hotels and a vast amount of money from the marketing budget is spent on digital channels. Needless to say, guests are pushing us to move quickly and make changes to the way we do things. They expect premium in-room communications services, technology-infused meeting spaces, fast and efficient check-ins, one-click payment options, smart TV choices and internet efficiency when staying at Marriott properties.
Our main objective is always to improve guest experiences and overall satisfaction rates, plus increase guest retention. We can do this with a combination of high-tech and high-touch services to connect with our guests. Through a strong and personalised social media presence, loyalty rewards, special offers and high-impact campaigns, we can further our brand values.
It is vital that we understand how consumers engage with our brand. Using data gathered from guest behaviours, reviews, social media and personal interaction, we can map our guests and effectively engage with them on a more personal level, improving their overall experience. It is vital that we map across the entire journey from the point of booking to the review, once guests have left. This way we can look at the bigger picture and see overall guest satisfaction. My job is to continue ensuring guest satisfaction grows and that we hoteliers ensure feedback is actioned.
Hoteliers are looking at offering guests the ultimate in personalisation by implementing technology that allows guests to use their smartphones as room keys, self-service check-in kiosks and personalised rooms controlled though apps on a smartphone. In the end, new technologies can create efficient customer service, but we must also not lose sight of how we can use tech to enhance human interaction.