Guest Experience

Hotel room

There’s no question about it: the COVID-19 pandemic has changed our world significantly. And now, countries around the world are seeking to carefully open up again, hoping that a vaccine is on the horizon, even as they prepare for the possibility of a second surge.

In our new normal of optimism mingled with anxiety, hoteliers find themselves operating in a very different environment than what they’re accustomed to. In short, our world has changed, and the hospitality industry is having to change with it.

Tourists during covid-19 times
Photo by Victor He on Unsplash

The good news, though, is that technologies are able to make it easier than ever for hoteliers to give their guests first-class experiences. With hotel apps that your guests canenjoy on their mobile devices, you can provide them with the kind of service they’ve come to expect but at a distance that keeps everyone safe during COVID-related restrictions. This article describes best practices for using hotel apps to enhance your guests’ experience.

Contactless Service

In this era of social distancing, your guests are probably going to want to limit their contact with hotel staff as much as possible. The good news, though, is that you don’t have to be face-to-face with your guests to provide them with extraordinary service.

Manet App - Digital Concierge

Manet’s app, for instance, can be used directly to your guests’ smartphone or other mobile devices. With this app, your guests can access every ancillaries your hotel has to offer, from ordering room service and reserving seats for breakfast in a common area to digitally checking in and out and making payments remotely.

Going Digital

In addition to apps that guests can use directly by using ttheir smartphones or tablets , hoteliers can also provide proprietary digital devices that are keyed to unique services to upgrade your guests’ stay experience .

Manet devices, for example, can offer free calling as well as unlimited internet and wifi hotspot capabilities. Plus, thanks to tourist content and services available on Manet devices, your guest will always be in-the-know regarding the latest and greatest must-see attractions near them.

Manet App - Digital Concierge

And travel assistants such as these can be customized precisely to your guests’ needs. They can be used to help guests research the area, locate tourist attractions and shopping and dining venues, learn about local customs, and even help with foreign languages and currency conversions.

All your guests need to do is grab the digital device that will be ready and waiting for them in their rooms and then hit the road! Plus, if you want to take your service to the next level, you might provide a lightning-fast car charger or Bluetooth speaker to take along with them.

Mobile travel assistant charging in car
Photo by form PxHere

That will provide an added bit of security, knowing that this essential device will always be charged and ready, no matter how long your guests’ adventures may be. Best of all, it is precisely that kind of attention to detail, that kind of thoughtful finishing touch, that can win your guests’ loyalty for years to come!

SaaS Tools

Customizing and optimizing your guests’ experience isn’t only about making the best use of customer-facing apps and devices. You can also deploy these tools to learn about your guests, your operations, and what you might do better to boost your revenues while ensuring your guests’ stay is the best it can be.

Manet dashboard tool, for example, provides virtually limitless opportunities to learn about your guests, their needs, and their expectations. Geolocation capabilities in customer apps and digital devices provide important data on your habits, such as identifying local attractions that your guests are most likely to visit, as well as which customer demographics are most likely to be drawn to these attractions and when.

Manet Dashboard

Once you understand not only what your clients expect, but also what they like, you can provide customized recommendations, communicated immediately, and directly to your guests through your hotel app or digital device. “Heat maps,” for instance, can identify your guests’ aggregate locations once they leave your hotel and allow you to send push notifications for promotions and deals offered by partners and affiliates.

Premium features can also be offered through these apps and digital devices, providing an additional revenue stream. Guests can pay for these premium services on-demand, giving you a new tool for upselling without requiring face-to-face contact with your guests. And that not only protects your add-on services revenue streams, but it also provides the customization that ensures an outstanding customer experience.

The Takeaway

There’s no question that life as we know it has changed since the advent of COVID-19. As a hotelier, you’re going to be serving a customer base that is, in some ways, quite different than before the pandemic.
But, no matter what the impact of the virus may be, all guests want essentially the same thing: safety, peace of mind, and a good experience. And today’s technologies are perfectly designed to help you provide exactly that, no matter what the pandemic may bring.
Through the use of hotel apps, you can offer your guests superb, highly customized service, with minimal physical contact. From mobile check-ins and smart rooms to pre-programmed travel assistants, technology can help you not only maintain your stellar service reputation but bring it to the next level of excellence!

Article by Luke Smith – Manet Guest Writer & Technology Enthusiast

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Technology in Luxury Hotels - Manet Mobile Solutions
Leisure hotel room

As reported by Geneva Business News, hoteliers need to be aware of the different services and amenities prioritized by leisure travelers, rather than assuming the priorities of business travelers apply to all guests. 

Both the wants and needs of leisure travelers are less restrictive than those traveling for business, which makes catering to this massive group potentially quite lucrative. Here are three different services you can incorporate into your hotel to attract more leisure travelers.


Traveler using Manet Mobile Hot Spot for high quality internet connectivity
Photo by Thomas Lefebvre on Unsplash

High-Quality Internet and Connectivity

There is simply no excuse for having poor internet services at your hotel, especially not in the eyes of a leisure traveler. Even those not dependent on the internet for work will still consider easy wifi connectivity and accessibility a top priority. Being able to watch videos, search for restaurants, and find activities to do while on vacation will improve your guests’ overall experience. 

Providing high-quality internet service means that there should be no lagging, no overly complex passwords, and no additional charge for your guests. If you want to set your hotel apart from the competition, consider implementing charging stations and enabling internet access everywhere on your property (parking lot, bar, swimming pool, etc.)


Customized hospitality and accommodation services
Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Customizable Services and Amenities

Leisure travelers tend to consider customizable service, essentially having lots of variety and options to choose from, an integral part of having a satisfying travel experience. A prime example of how you can offer choice and variety is through room service. Having a wide array of options for the leisure traveler to choose from is highly important. Ways of diversifying how your hotel does room service include serving both local cuisine and international dishes, offering 24/7 service to accommodate every guest’s schedule, and having multiple dishes available for those with dietary restrictions. 

Having choice and variety also helps travelers pay for what they want and avoid paying for what they don’t want. Providing options with different price points will attract leisure travelers with more diversity of incomes and budgets to your hotel.

Notably, having complementary breakfast services is also highly appreciated by leisure travelers. Many of them, especially students or young families, are more money-conscious than those traveling for business. 

Other examples of customizable service and amenities would include:

  • Different room types and views to choose from
  • Different mini bar options
  • Offering a selection of bathroom product brands
  • Consider advertising special room add-ons such as coffee machines and record players
  • Offer access to streaming services such as Netflix and Disney Plus
  • Give guests the option of accessing special amenities such as a pool, a steam room, and spa services
Manet Smart Mobile Travel Assistant
Manet Smart Mobile Travel Assistant

Mobile Travel Assistants

The mobile travel assistant smartphone has changed the hospitality industry since its relatively recent arrival into hotels across the world. Hotel apps have become outdated and inconvenient for guests and hotel managers alike. With a mobile travel assistant, guests will have 24/7 access to a smartphone that improves their experience at your hotel in every way possible, including:

  • Finding restaurants and reviews
  • Organizing their overall trip
  • Contacting the front desk
  • Getting directions
  • Making bookings
  • Hotspot Capabilities

The smartphone can even be used as a room key, a tv remote, and a mainline phone. With the right mobile travel assistant, hoteliers can even access basic data from the linked devices, allowing them to receive helpful customer feedback, accommodate their guests efficiently, and even gain a new revenue stream through advertisements.

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Ancillary services - Manet Mobile Solutions - in room service

The competition has never been more intense for selling hotel stays and short-term leisure rentals to business and vacation travelers. Two factors that have acted together to drive down prices are online discount travel sites and the rise of Airbnb rentals.

However, instead of having a race to the bottom when it comes to pricing, accommodation providers need to find a way to add value to the hotel experience. Travelers will be willing to pay more if they perceive a vacation rental or hotel to have extra services that add to the value and enjoyment of their stay.

In the past, baby boomers have been the driving force behind profits for vacation and business travel accommodations. Today, millennials are beginning to join the ranks of work and leisure travelers, leading hotels to cater to their needs and desires as well.

For example, when new chains like Marriott’s Aloft and Radisson’s Blu advertised that they welcomed dogs, the more mainstream Holiday Inn Express wasn’t far behind in opening their doors to customers’ furry friends. 

Here are some other ways that hotels and short-term vacation rentals can continue to attract guests without sacrificing profits.

Business Travelers

Loyalty Programs

Frequent traveler programs have been around for a long time, and business travelers are the main recipients of the benefits. To really have an impact on guest loyalty, though, a hotel has to include more than just snacks and bottled water at check-in.

Some hotels provide a lounge for the exclusive use of top-tier members. Giving room upgrades whenever possible is another way to pamper these guests without affecting profits. And surveys have shown that corporate travelers are often willing to pay out of their own pockets for ancillary services that they consider valuable.

Luxury Touches

One way to attract and keep business travelers is to offer upscale accommodations that increase their comfort when they’re away from home. Luxury bed linens, a Keurig-style coffeemaker in the room, and a fully functional business center are a good start. Providing an airport shuttle, dry cleaning pickup and room service with expanded hours are other special touches that business travelers will appreciate and be willing to pay for.

Vacationers

Spa Treatments

Spa services may be one of the biggest draws for leisure travelers. Salon services such as manicures and pedicures, massages and facials elevate the value of the stay. Providing hair and skin treatments and in-room massage can be the difference that makes a lodging more desirable to a prospective guest. If a hotel doesn’t have the budget or facilities to offer spa treatments, partnering with a nearby luxury spa is an alternate way to attract guests and add revenue.

Hotel Shopping

Sundries shops used to be confined to luxury hotels, but in the past few years, on-site shopping has become a new option for vacationers at mid-priced hotels. The convenience of buying a six-pack of beer, treats and snacks, and even frozen dinners, is a value-added feature for guests. Offering these items for sale, along with headache medicine, phone chargers, batteries and toiletries, can be a profitable ancillary service for the hotel.

Vacation Rental Extras

From 2015 to 2017, extended-stay hotel stays grew at three times the national rate for other types of rentals in the hotel industry. Kitchens and living areas increased in size, with ancillary services like laundry facilities and bike rentals added to lure travelers to extended-stay hotels. 

Rental condos and homes can also provide these services for a modest fee to make a short-term rental an attractive choice for guests. This type of upgraded lodging is billed as apartment-style living with all the extras of a hotel.

Pet Accommodations

Recognizing the attachment people have to their dogs, some luxury hotels are providing pet services to entice travelers. Besides water and food bowls, treats and beds, a few upscale hotels even offer pet massages. Not only do guests get to bring their furry companions with them, but their pets can experience some pampering and it gives the hotel another revenue stream.

Ancillary services - Manet Mobile Solutions - pet friendly facilities

Counteracting the Airbnb Trend

For hotels and vacation rentals, a winning profit strategy is to differentiate these accommodations from the Airbnb model while highlighting increased opportunities for guests. Hotels can provide some of the same advantages as Airbnb along with others that are more difficult for private individuals to offer. 

The consistency and professionalism of a business that serves hundreds of thousands of travelers a year should be highlighted to persuade travelers to choose hotel accommodations over Airbnb rentals.

Networking with local businesses can also elevate the desirability of staying at a hotel. Local food, beverage and entertainment providers can turn the hotel lobby into a hub of interest and activity. This is something that vacationers will never experience in a private rental environment. 

Treating guests to live music or the chance to pay for activities like a ‘paint and sip’ wine party adds fun to the stay. It also gives the hotel an edge that translates into better profits.

The Tech Revolution

One ancillary service a hotel can use to take their image to the next level is adding a lobby touchscreen that connects to guest services, local restaurants and nightlife. Some hotels even have interactive screens that take selfies to be uploaded to guests’ social media accounts. 

Millennials are used to sending directions to their phones and connecting with local businesses at a touch. Touchscreens add to the hotel’s revenue through partnerships with local businesses at the same time they increase the hotel’s desirability to guests.

When guests check in, a hotel that offers the choice to swipe Apple Pay, Google Wallet or Venmo will have an edge over less tech-savvy establishments. Once they’re checked in, the ability of guests to connect with housekeeping or room service through a hotel app is another addition to the tech-forward image of a hotel.

The latest example of added hotel tech value is Alexa for Hospitality. This is a digital concierge that can answer guests’ queries about the hotel, play music, report on the weather, or make hands-free phone calls. The in-room Alexa console can also contact housekeeping and room service upon request. 

Ancillary services - Manet Mobile Solutions - digital concierge services

At smart hotels, guests can even ask their digital assistant to adjust the thermostat or raise and lower the blinds. Marriott is testing this perk in several of its hotel chains, including the millennial-geared Aloft hotels.

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Bed and Breakfast - Manet Mobile Solutions

Let’s face it: No one goes into the Bed-and-Breakfast business thinking they’re going to strike gold. 

For many small business owners, it’s the joy of meeting people, of serving weary (and excited!) travelers and the love of sharing the place they call home with others. 

At least, that’s what propels that initial foray into the world of B&Bs.  

Five-star reviews, running meet-and-greets, booking out rooms – these all come right after the initial buzz of starting something new has worn off. 

Yet, by all accounts, B&Bs have a rosy outlook. 

From 2013 to 2018, the number of B&Bs has grown. 

In terms of revenue, long-term trends indicate an overall rise, projected all the way to 2024. 

Besides the mini-dip in 2023, the strong demand for B&Bs shows that owners have a chance to really capitalize in the next five to seven years on a market that’s on the rise and likely to thrive. In fact, while the industry is considered “mature,” there’s a very strong expectation of growth in revenue when compared to revenues from other industries within the sector. 

So there’s an opportunity here. But how can B&B owners get a slice of the proverbial pie?

So far, all the chips are playing out in their favor.

“Average occupancy, or number of rooms filled on a daily basis, according to PAII, has skyrocketed along with the number of available properties, increasing from 45 to 50 percent in a recent four-year period. And room prices have also increased, going from $103 to $121 in the same four-year stretch.” – Professional Association of Innkeepers International (PAII)

Part of the robustness for the industry can be attributed to the precedent set by Airbnb: it’s managed to popularize more informal and personal travel accommodations. A greater number of people have come to prefer this more intimate and “local” way of booking and traveling. 

And closely connected with this digital disruption caused by Airbnb is the larger, more macrocosmic shift in the hospitality market at large: digital and tech innovations that streamline, simplify, and promise to delight the customer experience, from booking to departure, at a fraction of the cost. 

And it’s something that B&B owners would do well to harness. 

1) Review Management

The first aspect to digital enhancements for the B&B market is important for everyone within the hospitality sector: managing those reviews. 

You’ll see that managing reviews in the digital space is actually not about completing the customer’s experience but, rather, anticipating it, and then having the forethought and planning in place to engineer that experience and the resulting glowing review. 

In other words, intend to put into place all those pieces that will get you the review you’re looking for. 

Harnessing the power of review marketing

Review marketing: What is it?

When your potential customer is looking to book you over hundreds of other, comparable, accommodations, reviews are a huge propeller. They’re the “why,” the catalyst, and the justification for the customer’s choice. 

But it’s not just the number of five-star reviews you get nor how many of these review sites you populate. Of course, that’s important. What’s really critical is how you respond. 

You’ll notice, for example, that the proprietors of Netherleigh Bed and Breakfast respond to reviews in a highly selective manner. For the most part, all their reviews are positive. And even the ones marked “critical,” such as the 4-star review below, are generally positive.

However, instead of responding to both, the proprietor decided to only respond to 5-star reviews. That’s unfortunate because, with a simple acknowledgment, they might have ensured an even more delighted customer who, now, may end up booking elsewhere.

Traveler reviews - Manet Mobile Solutions

The thing is, customers are willing to overlook a “bad” review because they understand that everyone’s experiences are subjective. What irks one person, another person may not even bat an eyelid at. 

They’re more interested in how you, or a member of your team, respond to and resolve the situation reported by the irate traveler. 

Your response can be an opportunity to give a potential customer/reader the chance to know, more fully, the picture behind the scenes. So it’s not just about following up – if you don’t respond at all, you miss out on speaking to your potential customer in a more subtle way.

For example, since 52% of customers want to see reviews that “mention tips that improve the guest experience,” this is the owner’s chance to do just that!

What travelers look for in reviews - Manet Mobile Solutions

Source: Little Hotelier

Managing your reviews in a timely and friendly manner, engaging with, thanking, and even addressing customer concerns on these platforms is incredibly important. Review management, at the end of it, is all about managing and addressing the details.

The details are, after all, where you can prevent customer attrition.  

What’s your niche? 

See, your “niche” is directly related to your customers’ experience of your B&B. And it’s not just your “digital” niche, either. Your B&B can benefit from using particular themes and marketing itself in this way. 

Choosing a niche or theme for your B&B attracts the right kind of travelers and will determine which booking sites you should rely on and manage reviews on. 

How to focus on your traveler niche - Manet Mobile Solutions

Source: Little Hotelier

For example, according to research by The Business Research Company, “wellness vacations” are an increasing theme that is spurring B&B profitability.

“People are interested in incorporating activities such as cycling and yoga into their travel plans.”

Focusing on a niche is a B&B proprietor’s way to tap into digital behavior, thinking like a hotel, but operating (especially in terms of cost) as a small business. 

According to the same research, 74% of B&Bs are profitable precisely because they have no employee overheads or they use sub-contractors on a more casual basis. 

And if you can use these digital enhancements, you’re likely to see an influx of guests while still being able to operate like a lean, mean, booking machine. 

Using email marketing

Email marketing is incredibly powerful. It’s not so much about open rates as it is about timing. Email marketing can be used to great effect in building nurture sequences and for building trust, providing personalized perks, rewards, and discounts.

A powerful loyalty program or an email marketing suite that provides a way to “tag” customers is crucial to your retention and re-booking rates. You want to make sure that all the trouble you’ve gone through and the effort you’ve put forth creating an unforgettable stay actually pays off. 

And the best “ROI” is a re-book. Loyalty programs, even in small-format operations like B&Bs, can pay-off, big time. If 18% of travelers already sign up for them and 35% “sometimes” sign up, that’s over half your guests!

In fact, part of the profitability factor of B&Bs is precisely because they’ve had to compete in an already “competitive” environment. 

While Airbnb has paved the way for a change in travelers’ behaviors (booking and otherwise), it has also made the market far more saturated, since individuals can now list their personal properties as accommodations. 

In order to keep up their momentum and professional edge, B&Bs owners have had to resort to certain “flexible trends in the industry,” including: 

  • Flexible check-out times
  • Smart room keys
  • Increasing use of analytics
  • Personalization of services

Yes. Even B&Bs. 

2) Streamlined Booking Experience

A streamlined booking experience is all about your digital activities online. Review management is just one part of it. 

But there are three other prongs from which to tackle your attrition and booking rates: the online customer experience of booking through OTAs, aligning your social media, and using your website as a viable hub for your digital footprint. 

Online booking

See, customer behavior is already about booking using OTAs because of the convenience and user-friendliness of the entire experience.

So why not meet them where they’re already at? 

At the same time, booking directly through providers is perceived as less user-friendly and less convenient though increasingly secure. Yet individuals opt for convenience over security. 

This points out clear areas for improvement. If you’re a B&B owner, you have a chance to take over your customers’ preferences for booking with OTAs by either matching or surpassing the convenience and user-friendly aspects.

Travelers' booking preferences - Manet Mobile Solutions

Source: Little Hotelier

And that’s where your website comes in. 

Use your website as more than just a content corral

Many individuals who own B&Bs will simply use their website to display a plethora of beautiful pictures of their property. 

If they’re a little more tech savvy, they may also hook up a calendar or some kind of primitive booking system – which turns out to be a nightmare to try and organize on the back-end. 

Instead of this ad-hoc, informal, rigged together system, B&B owners need to have a firm, streamlined strategy for capturing bookings and crucial customer information – making it easy on the customer side and on their own side. 

They’ll need to invest in technology like property management systems, channel managers, website builders, and a booking management software that hooks in to and plays nicely with email marketing. 

Remember the semi-negative, 4-star review we saw above? The customer’s major complaint was that it was too cold and, worse still, they were unable to reach the manager. This could have been easily prevented with technology. 

For example, a property management app could have been easily used by the guest in order to create a request, which someone on the team or the proprietor could then look at and address – especially if it’s after hours. 

It’s not just about improving the perception of your guests. A streamlined booking experience includes creating the systems on the back-end that will capture and support these “standard” customer expectations. 

Many of these systems give proprietors cloud-based benefits that include automating and accelerating administrative tasks and paperwork, alongside allowing them to distribute rooms online, expand market reach, and maintain a good relationship with the Google gods of search.

Social media much?

Especially because you own a sweet little B&B, it’s important to use social media to the max. 

Customers already like to book online and, as we’ve seen, rely on customer reviews to make their final booking decisions. 

And part of that research is social proof through social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook. 

3) Ancillary Services

The final skewer in this three-pronged approach to positively affecting your online booking rates is to offer ancillary services that are standard but “upgraded” using technology. 

You can certainly take your cues from boutique hotels and think of it less as an upgrade and more of a catching-up with traveler expectations. 

Digital meeting spaces

Wi-fi. It’s what everyone demands when they first walk through those doors. 

Often, inns and B&Bs can host business meetings or be “quaint” lunch spots for travelers, either in a professional or leisure setting. 

And since an increasing number of guests are also “remote” and location-independent, offering “digital” meeting spaces is a great way to enhance your guests’ experience. 

Turn Meet’n’Greets into on-boarding sessions

Meet-and-greets are standard in the B&B profession. So why not take a chance to “on-board” your guests, acclimating them to not only the property and the particulars of your service but the various digital enhancements they can rely on as well? 

Have you just installed a new, automated home cooling and heating system powered by an app? Have you partnered with a local meal delivery service to speed up “room service” as part of your B&B?

Take the time to walk your guests through these enhancements. 

Conclusion

Many of these actions designed to enhance booking rates are actually all about a shift in behavior.

See, customers’ and guests’ actions and intentions are already digitally-driven. While it may feel like a huge ask, what these “changes” really come down to is bigger-picture thinking. 

And, in order to start thinking bigger, B&Bs don’t have to look far – nor spend too much. Even overhauling just their booking system or website can completely simplify and, at the same time, amplify pretty much everything from bookings, to revenue, to customer satisfaction, and beyond. 

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Hotel guest experience: expectations vs reality - Manet Mobile Solutions

Today’s guests have a host of expectations when it comes to their experience at hotels.

But when was the last time you actually asked your guests what they wanted?

Knowing your guests is foundational to pulling together the right kind of experience.

Not every hotel or hotel experience needs to have all the bells and whistles, the latest tech, or the fancy fixings. Instead, what counts more is if your guests have the right guest experience – both, for your brand and your hotel’s niche.

Guest satisfaction scores across the hotel experience - Manet Mobile Solutions
Source: Deloitte

Engagement, listening, empowerment, knowledge, and surprising moments – these are the factors that lead to consistent guest satisfaction across the hotel experience.

So, the question is…what are you promising your guests?

What do guests experience from hotels today?

While hotels are trying to figure out what, precisely, their brand of guests are looking for, guests have no qualms in demanding more.

Part of this demand comes from a rapid-fire evolution of available tech in the hospitality sphere.

The other aspect is due to social media’s reach and influencer marketing – in particular, guests today take their recommendations, plan their itineraries, and choose hotels, locations, and rental providers based on social-media sponsored content.

Understand that, when it comes to travel and hospitality, hoteliers are the ones who seek to create this sense of escape, a haven where travelers can retreat, relax, and explore their surroundings.

It’s a promise inherent in the very notion of travel.

Because of this, a guest’s main expectation is one of authenticity – it’s absolutely necessary for a hotel to not only deliver on their promises but to listen to travelers, across the duration of their stay.

Hotel guest experience base requirements - Manet Mobile Solutions
Source: Hotelogix

The above infographic perfectly captures the base requirements for any hotel to match when it comes to guest experience.

Each aspect of the guest’s stay should be a moment in which to capture, delight, engage, and gain further knowledge about preferences.

Just like what guests say they want from a hotel experience.

What is the reality of hotel experience for travelers instead?

Travelers expect, first and foremost, “customer service” to be of the highest standard. What’s tricky, however, is that this standard keeps rising.

The reality of the hotel experience for many travelers is sub-par at best. This is a missed opportunity given that 97% of customers report that customer service is key to their loyalty and 83% of customers view travel as a right, not a luxury.

It’s not only that they want to be heard, engaged, acknowledged, and actually surprised or “delighted”, as the stats reveal: Customers want the promises of hotels to be met – and then surpassed.

Instead, their frequent experience is often something like this:

Hotel pictures: web vs reality
Source: Medium

Hoteliers need to consider what the first point of contact is during each interaction or “moment”. For example, during the moment of booking, customers’ expectations are very different than during the moment when they’ve arrived and have actually spent a night on the premises. 

Improving the guest experience journey - Manet Mobile Solutions
Source: Deloitte

Each of these “moments” or points of interaction call for their own set of expectations and “customer service”.

By using technology and re-thinking the customer service aspect of each of these micro-moments, hoteliers can actually move the needle towards meeting customer expectations.

Take note of these five keys to improving guest experience. When combined with the above six points of interaction, any improvements you make – via technology, operational changes, loyalty programs, room features, etc. – will give you a major ROI.

It’s now time to consider the details on how to enhance the reality of your guests’ stay so that it actually matches, if not surpasses, expectations.

Using technology to make “upgrades” feel standard


In the hospitality business, you have a unique advantage: You have the ability to plan for and anticipate customers’ expectations.

And, thanks to the digital landscape, engaging with your customers can happen through multiple channels, multiple opportunities, and in a much more personal way. On the one hand, customers expect, for example, their queries to be responded to within 24 hours of inquiry.

But, on the other hand, hoteliers now have the technology to actually fulfill this promise – and go beyond, in several respects.

Let’s take a look.

Room Service


Expectations

Your customer expects on-demand, in-room “dining service” to suit their ordering behavior – this means it occurs online, occurs through a user-friendly interface, and should be available at any time of the day or night.

Reality

Often, what customers get is a service that is limited, in many ways. From hours of operation, to food quality, ordering experience, and even food variety, customers feel as though they’re at the mercy of what the hotel has to offer.

How to bridge the gap

Room service is incredibly important to the guest experience. No, your guests don’t want to avoid it – they want to have it be seamlessly integrated into their stay. They also want to make sure that there are dietary options that suit their needs. This includes gluten-free or vegan options.

See, 43% of guests say room service quality and speed is extremely important when selecting a hotel. 27% say that if a hotel doesn’t offer it, they simply won’t book.

To bring reality in alignment with expectations, use in-room tablets that feature a native app, allowing customers to order from the hotel’s menu as well as nearby, external options as well.

Create opportunities to search for options by preferences. For example, your native app could use tags to help guests search for specific cuisines or vegan options.

Amenities


Expectations

When guests book a stay at a hotel for a particular reason – an infinity pool, thermal springs, a beautiful rooftop terrace, for example – they’re looking for that expectation to be met.

This is the reason, after all, for their booking. And, for your brand, this is a distinct competitive edge. So you need to deliver on it. Luckily, you have the technology to back it up.

Reality

The reality is that, when they book, the experience being promised rarely lives up to a guest’s expectations.

Here, you’re missing out on the opportunity to seal your customer’s loyalty and actually live up to your promise.

How to bridge the gap

You want to fulfill three goals:

Keep guest expectations intact
Drum up their anticipation
Deliver authentically on your promise of amenities.
To do this, use a combination of social media and 360-degree camera technology to give your potential guest the opportunity to actually view or tour that special offering.

If it is an infinity pool, for example, you can feature others’ videos of your pool on your social media pages, such as your Instagram page or Facebook Business Page.

You can also harness review management sites and place a widget in a welcome email sequence that allows customers to trust that the experience or amenity they’ve booked for is actually what they’ll receive.

Room Features


Expectations

Without a doubt, guests expect a digitally-enhanced and augmented room experience.

From smart TVs that hook up easily to their latest apps and tablets, to smart-control temperatures, and automated functions like blinds or cooling/heating, their expectations are commensurate with their own in-home experience.

Since guests can call on digital assistants to help them finagle these environment controls in their own home, they expect hotels to catch up and re-create a similar experience of user control and personalized preference.

Reality

Unless you’re a boutique or independent hotel that can call the shots in a rapid-fire manner, chain or franchise hotels find it difficult to make changes – even ones they know their guests are expecting.

Because of the sheer size and scale of large-chain operations, independent franchise hotel owners/managers fail to make these hotel-wide changes in time.

Or, they simply don’t have the budget.

How to bridge the gap

Again, it’s difficult to implement these tech-based changes that augment the in-room experience if you’re either operating on a tight budget or you need to have changes approved by someone over you.

Instead, consider gaining permission to revamp just one or two rooms.

You can opt to offer these as a “beta” or a “VIP” experiences that customers will receive on a “discount” (or at standard cost) – in exchange for data. They’ll give you feedback, be available for interviews or surveys about their experience, and they’ll speak more about their preferences.

This way, you’ll gain invaluable and deeper insight into your guests’ needs, building a solid case for when you want to make these changes a standard and hotel-wide stipulation.

Check-In Experience


Expectations

The check-in experience should be smooth, seamless and, for the most part, completely automated.

Guests neither want to nor expect to stand in line all day, waiting for something as simple as a check-in.

While they’re always willing to be greeted, guided, and helped to their rooms, the actual communication, the hand-off of keys, and instructions should all be automated and personalized, via an app or through consoles and functionality within hotel lobbies.

Reality

Even though it’s incredibly easy to use highly flexible, powerful, and specific software, tailored to your hotel’s check-in process, many managers and owners are doing things the tedious way.

Often, there’s a fear that automation means the elimination of the human touch. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Instead of wasting your customers’ time, having them wait in line to check-in, what could you do with five to seven extra minutes conversing with them, welcoming them, and assessing their needs?

And what might that do for your reputation?

How to bridge the gap

While some hotels are actually going as far as using robot “butlers” to guide guests to their rooms or welcome them, you don’t have to go that far (yet!)

A simple way to bridge the gap is to use software automation that takes care of the user-input required aspect of the check-in process. Allow users to make an account, hook them up with past room preference information, and give them rewards for performing certain actions.

In the meantime, your management staff is freed up to personally greet your guests, make recommendations, and troubleshoot real issues.

Conclusion


Technology can help you secure your guests’ next visit and guarantee their booking. Take time to actually think through the process of “goodbye.” You’d be surprised at how many opportunities there are to “convert” your guest.

The best time to capture their attention and create the next booking is when you’ve delighted them with their stay already. Using a loyalty rewards program or predictive analytics, you can create a personalized offer for their next visit that not only mimics this one, but it also enhances the experience further.

 2

Room service has always had and still has an undeniable role in hospitality. However, recent data has confirmed that despite its indisputable importance, it’s subject to operational risks, mainly related to high numbers of required personnel and low profit margins.

As Paul Sacco (CEO and president of the Massachusetts Lodging Association) said ” Room service represented just 1.2 percent of total hotel revenue, down from 1.3 percent in 2011. And it continues to drop. The hotels do it for the convenience of the guest. Is it a profit center? No. Emphatically, I can tell you no.”

However, the answer to room service profitability issues seems to be lying in technology.

New technologies are, in fact, having a big impact on tourism-related businesses and new evidence shows that successful room service goes beyond a beautiful room and qualified staff.

Guest comfort and convenience are becoming always more important and technology, more than any other factor, seems to be key in achieving them.

The end of room service (?)

Room service represents a fundamental part of hospitality services. Despite this, it’s worth only 1% of hotel earnings, according to PFK Hospitality’s 2007 data. Since then, this percentage has kept decreasing. The Midtown Hilton, one of New York’s most visited hotels, eliminated room service in 2013 for this very reason. Many mid-range hotels followed, reducing room service, either by available hours or general offers. 
But, in the other hand, room service is fundamental for hotel reputation and its impact goes beyond earnings. In fact, room service is considered an integral part of hotel amenities just like swimming pools or spas: profitable or not these services shape and identify the experience offered by each hotel.
Try to imagine, just for a second, during your stay in a hotel, at night, while it’s raining outside, you get hungry and you realize that the hotel’s restaurant is closed and room service is not available. The only choices you have in that case are either vending machines or dealing with the storm! Therefore it’s easy to understand how important room service is for hotels aiming at being competitive and building a good reputation.

Room service breakfast - Manet Mobile Solutions

The room service comeback

The press pointed fingers at The Midtown Hilton’s room service removal decision. Business Insider wrote “What’s the point of staying in a luxury hotel if you’re not going to be able to order breakfast in bed?” and John Fox from PKF Consulting commented “Here’s a message to hotels that are cutting room service: Suck it up and pay the labor costs for room service, or don’t call yourself a “luxury hotel.”

Guests did the same, commenting, “There are so many hotels to choose from. If everyone is offering room service, I don’t know why I would pay the same rate with no service.”

Moreover, a recent study by Statista performed on adults aged 18 to 65 brought out that room service seems to be the most important element of hospitality-related services, second only to WiFi connectivity.

Business traveler in hotel ordering room service - Manet Mobile Solutions

The reasons behind the importance of room service are numerous. Think for example of people traveling for business and needing a late in-room dinner. Or think of leisure travelers desiring a snack while watching their favourite tv show. It easilly becomes obvious that hotels, instead of being focused on breakfast, should start focusing on 24/7 room service solutions to match their guests’ needs. After all, people go out of their daily routines when they travel so why force them to eat only at standard meal times!

The answer is technology!

The most dynamic hotels of the world have started adopting innovative solutions to adapt to the market’s room service needs and, at the same time, use room service to delight their guests.

In New York, with the “Emoji Room Service”, offered by Aloft Hotels, guests can use emoticons to place their orders. In NH Hotels’ Mood-Rooms, guests can request a wakeup service with gradual lighting increase, uplifting music, curtains that open automatically and in-room breakfast service. Last but not least, at La Quinta Inn & Suites you might be surprised to see your room service order delivered by TigerBot, a cute delivery service robot.

However, technology by itself is not sufficient to provide a good room service experience. There are other important elements to keep in mind in order to provide the ultimate room service experience.

Know your guests…

There are many ways to improve hospitality services. But what’s the best one? The answer is simple: Listen to your guests.

Instead of just pushing standardized services to them, try to understand what their real needs are. There are business travelers needing a quick breakfast very early in the morning before the breakfast buffet becomes available. There are also leisure travelers (representing a huge percentage of overall travelers) who desire a coffee or a snack while they are relaxing in their rooms and at any time of the day (or the night). The only way to satisfy the needs of the above is smart and efficient hotel room service.

…and be with them!

A very important parameter of an efficient and profitable room service is timing! Guests want their orders delivered immediately and hotels require the right time to prepare and deliver room service orders. As long as a guest is in his/her room, has available a room service menu and the hotel is ready to deliver things are quite straightforward. But what happens if a guest wants to place an order from outside the hotel desiring to have it ready and delivered at his/her return? Calling the reception, asking for the available options and costs and placing the order by phone becomes frustrating and time consuming and would simply result in an unsatisfied guest and a hotel losing orders and revenues. Fortunately that’s not the case anymore as new smart tools appearing in the hospitality horizon are giving new answers to the needs of the most demanding travelers and hoteliers. Manet is one of these tools and it’s changing the way hotels interact with their guests as, thanks to Manet devices, hotel guests can book hotel services and place room service orders anytime and from anywhere. In fact, Manet smartphones contain extensive information about all services and menus offered to guests by their hotel and also allow fast, effective and ubiquitous text communication between guests and hotel front desk staff.

Thanks to innovators like Manet, the future of hospitality looks really exciting and full of surprises and hotel room service issues, like high costs, are slowly but steadily being transformed in amazing business opportunities for hoteliers.

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