The need to provide self-service options in the age of COVID, while doing more with less in an ultra-tight labor market, has brought automation and guest-facing tech like hotel kiosks to the forefront. The very nature of the hotel experience is therefore changing, too, with self-serve becoming a focus for routine transactions, while hotel staff are freed up to attend to more personal one-on-one interactions with guests.
We first saw the renewed focus on self-service take hold in the realm of check-in and keyless entry, but this functionality is now being extended to all hotel services and profit centers, including hotel grab-and-go pantries and retail stores. The value self-service offers to hoteliers and guests alike is built upon three key trends in property automation currently reshaping the hotel business:
1. Streamlined, contactless guest experience is the new normal.
Guests are now looking to be unburdened during their stay, so making routine transactions possible through tech such as self-service kiosks, mobile messaging and keyless entry are the new expectation. Research shows that travelers want contactless service, with 71% of travelers saying they’d be more likely to stay at a hotel with self-service tech. This breaks down into three core components:
- Guest welcome and departure. Offering a mobile or kiosk-based option for contactless check-in/out is critical. An integrated mobile PMS with mobile check-in and seamless integrations to digital payment, a keyless entry, and guest SMS messaging provides a fully contactless and customizable guest experience.
- In-stay dining and retail. A mobile POS that integrates with a mobile PMS can work with a guest’s mobile device, digital tableside service, or a guest-facing kiosk. It can also manage orders, payments, and sales across multiple locations, streamlining operations.
- Mobile guest messaging. Another subtle but useful upgrade is to integrate with a mobile guest messaging platform or implement a virtual concierge, so guests can instantly ask questions and make requests.
2. Whenever possible, automate.
Back of house automation has graduated from a want to a necessity, especially given the difficult current labor market. When implemented properly amid a modern tech stack, property automation can be a true lifesaver for the bottom line. Automation can revolutionize several core aspects of hotel operations:
- Housekeeping, maintenance and engineering departments run more effectively with automated task management and communications.
- Revenue managers are relying on automation to keep abreast of volatile and rapidly shifting hotel industry demand trends, ensuring rate parity and maximized revenue.
- Sales and marketing teams are applying automation to efforts such as marketing emails and loyalty driven communications that tap into a CRM platform.
- The automation of the check-in process that comes from a self-service system also puts much less stress on the front desk, allowing these employees to focus on more pressing guest requests, while also keeping lobby lines to a minimum.
3. Set your employees free
Perhaps the greatest beneficiary from property automation and self-service tech is the hotel staff, which can now focus on more complex requests, since some of their transactional burden has been relieved. Overworked operations teams across the board are using automation to get ahead, doing more with smaller head counts. Lines in lobbies are shrinking, making guests happy, while enabling employees to step out from behind the desk and walk the floor.
So while mobile technology does in fact provide guests with the option to enjoy a fully contactless guest journey, it is also empowering hotel employees to engage with their guests in ways never before possible. And that, as always, is the heart of great service. See more examples here.