customer loyalty

Internet of things - Manet Mobile Solutions

In many ways, the connected network nature of the ‘Internet of Things’ is the perfect partner for hotel operations and the hospitality industry in general.

Hotels demand constant upkeep and attention so the more hoteliers, hotel managers and staff can empower customers to rely on technology — tech that automates repetitive and menial tasks that don’t necessarily call for human decision-making — the more they can free up time and resources to attend to more important aspects of the guest experience.

Over 58% of businesses have already adopted IoT. And, within the hospitality industry, the ‘smart’ hotel is becoming increasingly a commitment to the present, rather than a vision of the future.

Just ask Orchid Hotel in Mumbai, India. An unlikely candidate for the venture into ‘smart’ hotels, Orchid Hotel has nevertheless harnessed IoT technology to simply keep tabs on and track energy consumption, allowing the hotel to save on costs in an ongoing way.

IoT and Hospitality - Manet Mobile SolutionsPhoto by RKTKN on Unsplash

The continuous and real-time monitoring empowered Orchid Hotel’s managers to then take this data and appropriately schedule out power consumption based on peak occupancy and load times. In a country where power outages are frequent, especially in the monsoon season, this accurate data reporting and automated, remote operating capability is an absolute game changer.

‘IoT is not about connecting things or services but it is about changing the way things and services deliver value. In the process, things are becoming services, and services are becoming more intelligent’ — SmartSense

Indeed, herein lies the power of IoT: ‘Things are becoming services…and services are becoming more intelligent’.

And since the hospitality industry is all about serving guests, this seems a particularly beneficial partnership.

Hotel Smart Devices - Manet Mobile SolutionsPhoto by Bence ▲ Boros on Unsplash

The transition on both the consumer side and the business side are not only positive but incredibly promising. Within the everyday consumer, IoT has already embedded itself as a daily practice.

  • The number of homeowners living in ‘smart’ (read: connected) homes using automation is slated to rise from 12.5% in 2016 to 28% in 2021, reports Kagan
  • This number matches with those who rely on personal digital assistants on their smartphones: 26% of voice assistant adopters rely on this technology to connect remotely to ‘things’ (Pew Research)
  • In the UK, smart TVs, Internet-connected cameras, connected cars and fitness trackers were among the most popular

IoT data from Statista - Manet Mobile SolutionsSource: Statista

Why does this matter?

Because there is an expectation of IoT — and it’s an expectation that is increasingly permeating our social fabric, through the digital sphere.

The Internet of Things in the Hotel Industry

IoT has the chance to take back some of the market share from rental booking sites like Airbnb and HomeAway.

While the target markets for guest stays and experiences in a hotel versus those individuals who would like to stay more casually in someone’s home vary vastly — which is to say that there is room enough in the market for both — the fact of the matter is that IoT empowers guests.

And this is a technology that is only really available for use in the context of a hotel booking, which makes hotels that much more attractive to travellers. This is especially true as everyone moves over to more connected devices.

So how does the guest experience stand to gain? Let’s take a look at specific examples already in play within the hospitality industry.

‘In-stay’ technology

In-stay technology allows guests to experience the hotel’s services right at one’s fingertips. Interfacing with a range of interconnected apps, then hooked up to physical, tangible ‘things’ in the room, these workflows allows users — guests — to be in charge of their own experience within the room.

exclusivity and personalization in hospitality - Manet MobilePhoto by Nad Hemnani on Unsplash

On the business side, the interconnectivity between a tablet and a room’s features like its curtains, lights, temperature and TV set or apps set to give guests information about their queries — this technology provides a massive up-sell and cross-sell opportunity.

Hotels can send push notifications about offers that would enhance a guest’s stay on these devices. Or else, in response to a query or command, chatbots and smart speakers can offer upgrades or complementary sells.

Voice-based guest room controls

As the leisure and luxury tourist capital of the world, it’s no wonder that hotels in Dubai are the first to begin strategic partnerships focused on offering ‘guests an experience more similar to what they’ve come to expect at home’.

The collaboration is a strategic one between Angie Hospitality, creator of interactive guest room assistant, ‘Angie’, and INTEREL, the provider of guest room management solutions. The integration between the two offers guests a seamless experience that relies on the Internet of Things infrastructure to control and interact with the room.

digital hospitality services - Manet MobilePhoto by freestocks.org on Unsplash

The best part? This one is truly made for travellers: Angie is multilingual.

‘With the advent of IoT, AI and voice technologies, the manner in which hotels communicate and interact with their guests is changing dramatically,” says Ted Helvey, the CEO of Angie Hospitality.

He adds, ‘Likewise, the way that guests manage their stay and customise the guest room environment is also evolving.’

Personalised delivery and anticipating a guest’s needs

It’s one small step for Marriott, one giant step for guest experience.

To tap into the all-powerful potential of IoT, Marriott worked with Legrand and Samsung in order to both test and provide a taste of an entirely IoT-enabled guest room.

Marriott senior vice president of global design strategies Karim Khalifa was inspired by the idea after visiting a conference featuring Legrand’s ‘Eliot’ program, an IoT network. It was all about translating the smart home experience into the hotel context.

But Khalifa was strategic. In order to pack in even more ROI (and not just novelty), he and his team began to work on introducing an initiative that would bring to life two different rooms based on three very specific traveller profiles. 

The first was a yoga-centric coach, the second a long-term travel ‘nomad’ and the third, a family of four on holiday.

Very separate groups of people, very idiosyncratic needs, very specific room experiences.

To power up the room, Khalifa relied on Samsung’s cloud-based IoT, an enterprise-level platform that works not only on Samsung products but third-party devices.

Now that is both powerful and promising.

traveling with style - manet mobile
Photo by Anete Lūsiņa on Unsplash

Khalifa and Marriott’s unique approach tells us that, more and more, IoT affords hotels the opportunity to cater to multiple profiles or types of travellers.

This means that even those individuals who may usually opt to stay at an Airbnb can look forward to a more ‘casual’, ‘local’ or ‘informal’ stay experience because they can control the room according to their preferences.

What’s even better is that, with enough of an accumulation of this data, Marriott’s IoT initiative can then begin to leverage guest profiles for further beneficial offers, to craft unique, hotel-driven experiences, and to hook up these travellers with loyalty programs, booking incentives, rewards, likes, dislikes, preferences on dietary needs and more.

Challenges to these opportunities

There are a couple of challenges that IoT presents, especially in these examples.

First off, IoT-connected rooms will need to follow a baseline of operation and support. And this can get tricky when hotels are all testing and operating on their own platforms or in partnerships with various management systems and apps.

Users will eventually come to expect a baseline — such as digital keys for role-based access or automated guest check-in processes. If there are voice-activated user interfaces, for example, in just a few hotels, then guests will come to expect that as a standard.

If hotels don’t have that developed, they stand to seriously mar their customer’s experience by several points.

At Hilton, for example, an entirely ‘mobile-centric hotel room’ still relies on Hilton’s development of its own apps and platforms, which are then hooked into its reward program.

premium hospitality services - Manet Mobile SolutionsPhoto by rawpixel on Unsplash

But on the customer side, managing multiple and separate apps for different hotel brands can get tricky at best and tedious at worst. They might end up entirely avoiding the whole affair if the user experience can’t be streamlined and converged.

Spokesperson for Hilton, Julia Burge addresses this head on, saying that, ‘At this point, we don’t have a voice technology component,’ while also implying that development could be in the works if the need was justified.

We’ve already seen what the second potential challenge could be: Khalifa and Marriott pointed to it in their choice of Samsung.

While the goal of the device producer is to ‘map all 20 billion connected devices to this cloud by the year 2020…’ which means that ‘you can bring in devices that never really talked to each other before’, hotels are not quite at the point of brand agnosticism.

This means that even if hotels all align their IoT experiences, there is still the issue of whether to have in-house devices or allow guests to use their own.

The sheer variety of devices — often brands that are competing — make convergence and alignment tricky. Apple, Google, Amazon, Samsung — can these ecosystems branch out and connect with each other?

The Advantages IoT Presents For the Hospitality Industry

These are just a few of the examples of IoT already in operation within the hotel industry.

From hotels like Mariott, Hilton and Orchid Hotel, to the providers of hotel management software like INTEREL, to the actual producer and provider of devices like Samsung, almost all players are necessarily connected when it comes to setting up and harnessing the power of IoT infrastructure.

From these examples, instances and uses we can take away a couple of key advantages that IoT holds for the hospitality industry’s present and future.

Optimising processes and promoting productivity.

For hotels, implementing IoT necessarily boosts productivity.

It’s not just about freeing up time and resources when you can control and streamline certain aspects like energy consumption or empower guests to take care of their own check-in.

It’s also about pivoting staff so that they’re focused on more important things that only humans can do such as decision-making, guest interaction and troubleshooting.

Processes like ERP and CRM can be integrated in a faster and more efficient manner, allowing hotels to manage inventory, control invoices and billings and perform other key business operations with speed and granularity.

High-end hotel service - Manet Mobile SolutionsPhoto by Michael Browning on Unsplash

Tracking information about guest preferences, behaviours and habits

As we saw from Khalifa and Marriott’s own initiative, the data that IoT devices stand to collect, through a guest’s interactions with the network, allow massive amounts of information to be gleaned, collected and analysed.

It won’t be long, in fact, until there is enough data to then start to bring in predictive analytics, truly anticipating a guest’s needs, based on similar behaviour, micro ‘decisions’, past purchases and more.

This can then be integrated into business functions as diverse as marketing initiatives and sales to supply chain and inventory management, as well as quality control of perishable products, room cleanliness, rating management systems and more.

The technology is here, the hardware is primed and the software is being developed. All that is left is for hotels to seize the opportunity that IoT presents. It’s time for the hospitality industry to get connected in a whole new way — not just to their guests but, rather, to each other, as brands and companies.

 Like
hotel fidelity programs - Manet Mobile Solutions

In February 1983 Holiday Inn launched the first hotel Loyalty programs, and two months later Marriott followed the precursor launching its own hotel reward program. The foundations of one of the biggest hospitality trends were laid and, at the same time, Internet started taking its first steps (the word internet had been coined in 1982, almost a year earlier). Since these mythical times – the prehistory of loyalty programs – many things have changed and today the hotel industry players are now competing strongly for Baby Boomer and Millenial customers’ loyalty while trying to conquer and secure the future market segments.

happy traveler - Manet Mobile Solutions

Starwood and Marriott, the best rewards programs for frequent travelers

According to the best hotel loyalty programs ranking published in March 2018 by The Points Guy, a popular website dedicated to airline and hotel loyalty points, Starwood Preferred Guest is the best rewards program. The criteria used by The Points Guy are based on point utility. Starwood gives guests “Starpoints” (Regular members earn 2 Starpoints per dollar spent), a currency that can be used not only for getting a free stay but can also be transferred to a wide range of airline partners with considerable bonuses for elite members. It’s also relatively easy to earn the points through elite bonuses and spend them on the program’s co-branded credit card. SPG towers above competitors in The Points Guy ranking, but is only fifth in the J.D. Power ratings where Marriott is the winning horse instead (in The Points Guy ranking Marriott is sixth). The key evaluation factors of this ranking are generally geared towards mainstream and casual travelers and measured on a 1,000-point scale, that puts in order of importance four factors: ease of earning and redeeming rewards (35%); program benefits (27%); account management (22%); and member communication (16%). Anyway after comparing the two lists, Starwood apparently still has the best rewards program thanks to an incredibly versatile system of point redemption. Other hotel chains (like Marriot) grant more points per dollar but Starwood has a really vast array of earnings options(airlines, Uber, eating at Starwood restaurants, using Starwood credit cards, making a Green Choice etc.). For example, starting from a minimum stay, Starwood customers are awardedwith free internet, room or suite upgrades, free drinks, late checkout, free breakfastand more. Starwood also has one of the biggest networks o partnerships, especially with airline companies, and it’s possible to convert SPG points in upgraded seats, faster check-in, priority boarding, and free checked bag.

hotel fidelity programs - Manet Mobile Solutions

3 other top loyalty programs

According to the above mentioned classification comparison systems, (Points Guy and J.D. Power), on the Olympus of loyalty programs, next to Starwood and Marriott there is the World of Hyatt rewards program. Despite their small portfolio of properties they have a high percentage of Luxury Properties (about 6% of their total properties), and they can boast tremendous Elite Status benefits like suite upgrades,guaranteed late checkout and co-branded credit cards offering many opportunities to their guests. The wooden medal goes to Hilton with their incredible portfolio of hotels and rooms spread in over 100 countries all over the world. Hilton guests have a lot of perks such as complimentary wi-fi, member-only rates, and free sharing of points with the program’s new family pooling feature. The Hilton’s co-branded credit cards offer a wide variety of benefits and thanks to their programs, they have one of the biggest catchment areas in the hospitality industry. The fifth loyalty program in the comparative ranking here described,, is the Intercontinental Hotel Group Rewards. Their affiliated customers have guaranteed lucrative promotions and bonuses globally thanks to a large number of hotels scattered around the world with a unique geographic spread.

young traveler - Manet Mobile Solutions

Focus on Next Generation Guests

The hotel industry, in a constant effort aiming to attract new customers, is creating new strategies focused on next generation guests. An interesting study published by Taylor Short – Market Research Associate at Software Advice – shows why Millennials are so attractive for big brands. They are not just customers of the future but they represent the next lucrative customer base because they have more money available for travel than their predecessors and in the future, entering their peak earning years, this generation will provide the majority of spending for travel and leisure. According to this research next-geneneration customers are spending more than ever on travel, with 26% saying that they spent more on vacations than in the previous year. Furthermore,there is no doubt that these individuals are more technologically inclined and connected to the internet than the previous generations, so the opportunities of reaching them are many more than thaosefor other age groups. The research also show that the “new guests” are very attentive to their expenses and they tend to spend their earned points on rewards such as free or discounted hotel stays (51% of respondents) because redeeming points in this way helps them save money on purchases they would likely make anyway on future trips. Another interesting fact is that millenials (58% of respondents) find hotel loyalty program apps valuable. Their segment accounts for the largest percentage of mobile app users and offer big opportunities to hotels as the latter can use these technologies as a preferential channel to communicate with the former and send them notifications for upgrades and services. It would be a mistake to underestimate the fact that the new generation of travelers considers travel a priority and they want to feel like they’re part of their favorite hospitality brands’ worlds. With apps, social media and new technologies, hotel companies can establish fast, continuous and direct communication with Millenials who seem to enjoy this technological contant with brands of their interest. Summing up what is written above, loyalty programs in the hospitality industry have evolved as a reflection of major societal trends focused on digital interaction and constant contact with new generation travelers. The world wide web andmobile apps are vital tools for the success of any hotel loyalty program as they provide hoteliers with the ability to stimulate and surprise their prospects and customers easilly and effectively.

 1
The importance of reputation management for hotels - Manet Mobile Solutions

Managing the reputation of hotels in the digital age is its own animal. With multiple channels of engagement and bookings come multiple opportunities for strategic management — and, equally, the risk of having one important piece of the puzzle go awry.

With the industry turning to online sales and lead management systems for everything from bookings to traffic and marketing, it can be easy to forget that hotels operate in the hospitality industry.

But just because the primary sphere of operations and reputation management has shifted doesn’t mean that hotels can forget this one crucial rule. In fact, with the turn to digital operations, hotel reputation management stands to benefit from things like newly emerging review sites, social media platforms and search engines.

These simultaneous spheres of reputation management matter when it comes to the overall success of accommodation facilities.

The importance of reputation management for hotels - Manet Mobile Solutions
Photo by Bill Anastas on Unsplash

Revenue management

For hoteliers, B&B owners, vacation rental owners and the like, revenue management is intricately connected with review sites. Why? Like restaurants offering a unique experience through a combination of customer service, cuisine, and ambience, these accommodation facilities also promisean experience.

In simplest terms, hotels and other accommodation facilities must rely on bookings — which is, essentially, a volume of sales. They can certainly increase or decrease a price, based on availability and demand, for a room.

But their overall revenue relies heavily on whether their property’s reputation is one that inspires trust and confidence from a traveller.

Revenue management - Manet Mobile Solutions
Photo by Carlos Muza on Unsplash

Review portals are where reputations are being built, burnished or tarnished. And this, of course, also has a longer-term effect of web rankings and search engine visibility.

Reviews matter. According to a study by TripAdvisor, more than half of global respondents say they won’t make a booking until after they’ve read more than a few reviews, figuring out what previous travellers thought of the entire experience.

In response to reviews, reputation management should focus on actually engaging with problematic feedback. The study also found that:

• 87% of users say that if management were to follow up with an empathetic response, it “improves
my impression of the hotel”

• 70% of users agreed that a defensive response, on the other hand, “makes me less likely to book
that hotel”

• Overall, however, any response is better than none: 62% of users say that seeing responses to
reviews helps as it “makes me more likely to book it”

Clearly, the key to success for managers of accommodations, when considering revenue, is to focus
instead on being proactive with their end customer — the traveller. Instead of a liability, it’s useful for
managers to look at the explosion of review portals as an opportunity to build relationships with
customers in a more direct way.

RevPAR

If reviews are intimately tied into revenue management and a hotel’s reputation, how can we quantify it in order to improve on it?

Luckily, there’s a KPI for that and it’s called “RevPAR”. As industry-insiders will know, RevPAR “is a measurement of both a hotel’s average daily rate and its ability to actually fill those rooms.”

Since RevPAR gives accommodations managers a sense of current performance while also making a recommendation on how much to charge for a room, this KPI is not only a measurement, it is a metric that can be used to optimise revenue.

While a low occupancy rate, for example, would tell accommodations managers to reduce the rates for a period of time, a higher RevPAR number might indicate room for increase. But it doesn’t rely on occupancy alone — it also relies on the overall revenue created per room. So, a larger hotel who’s margins are much larger might have a lower RevPAR but a higher overall revenue.

RevPAR - Manet Mobile Solutions
Photo by Alexander Videnov on Unsplash

A consistently low RevPAR number, especially for a smaller property, could prove to be problematic. But it’s the first sign of something needing to be addressed. RevPAR is the visible metric of revenue management which, as we’ve seen, is directly linked to “review” and “response” management.

OTAs

Part of hotel reputation management is managing, populating and updating OTAs. Online travel agencies, as they’re better known, are spots like Booking.com, Expedia, Hotels.com, Travelocity, and Priceline, amongst others.

Besides being able to book and find deals using these portals, travellers can also visit the reviews section or make use of a reviewing tool on any of these sites. How can accommodations managers decide which to respond to?

Even though many OTA sites say that they provide “verified” reviews, cutting down on the number of fraudulent reviews, the level of scoring is still quite arbitrary. This means that the experience of staying in a property could be quite subjective.

Because of this, hoteliers and property managers are encouraged to respond to views that are specific in their feedback, giving detailed information as to an incident or issues directly relating to the hotel (not necessarily other aspects of the trip).

OTAs - Manet Mobile Solutions
Photo by Anete Lūsiņa on Unsplash

OTAs, like RevPAR, can also be a useful metric — albeit, a qualitative one, rather than a quantitative one. If a RevPAR number returns low, for example, accommodations managers can use feedback posted on OTAs to check the pulse of their reputation, so to speak. In this way, they can use OTAs not only to funnel new bookings; hotels, B&Bs or vocational rental owners can list an extra room on major OTAs. Since the ranking online will be based on the overall authority of the OTA, not the hotel, a new listing can help override an outlier negative review.

Customer loyalty

Responsiveness is one way to capture a customer’s loyalty. But nothing beats a face-to-face, human- to-human connection.

When it comes to reputation management, it’s a good idea for accommodation managers of any format to go the extra mile and give it the personal touch. Take the time to walk around the facilities, interact with guests, and engage in conversation — online and offline.

Customer loyalty - Manet Mobile Solutions
Photo by Crew on Unsplash

Customer loyalty, however, is built on multiple channels — both in the physical, experiential world and in the digital plane. As such, every manager’s in-person efforts must be supported with analytics software that is able to market effectively as well as offer incentivised bookings and customised offers that take the most granular details under consideration.

For example, a robust platform would be able to automate booking, capture the details of a guest’s experience within a room, noting down any discount initially offered, how quickly they booked, what they might have ordered, any preferences they requested and then create a compelling offer a few months down the road. It would also have to include a follow-up sequence — all from the vantage point of not just hooking the customer but having them return.

Brand equity

This all leads to one final and overarching goal: Brand equity and recognition.

Building a reputation online is one thing but managing and maintaining it is an everyday task that requires consistent actions.

A study by Hotel Advantage finds that there are three components to building a reputable hotel or
accommodations brand:

1 Listening and responding to guest reviews

2 Building your community and content

3 Upgrading your visual presence

Above this, ROI on social media, the study finds, only begins at 6 hours a week — and that’s six hours of meaningful and live interacting, content creation and commenting, besides strategic efforts like sponsorships and ads.

The study also finds that:

• Unfavourable reviews are the primary driver in lost bookings

• Companies that achieve the best customer service ratings are able to, through a combination of marketing and outreach, minimise the amount of time between learning about a customer’s needs and taking action on it.

At the core of every hotel’s reputation, then, is guest satisfaction. And even something as large as brand equity and recognisability can come down to employees, who are the frontline of a customer’s experience.

In other words, a brand does not only comprise a customer’s experience but its strength is also a
testament to an employee’s satisfaction and commitment toward the brand.

 

 1
Bitnami