Digital, artificial intelligence, these terms have invaded the media and are transforming the working world, even for hoteliers. Beyond words and concepts, the possibilities are endless for accommodations professionals. The expectations and needs of customers have multiplied with the arrival of digital technology. Digital technologies which has brought and will continue to bring about many changes in the hotel business. Time saving digital technologies can put an end to employees’ administrative and repetitive tasks, enable smoother interaction, provide instantaneous answers to customers regarding generic problems, make human contact more qualitative... What are the concrete changes brought on by new technologies? Let’s look at the core of the sector to discover them.
Marketing and sales: catchment area and multiplied points of contact
Keep in touch and manage your e-reputation:
A Facebook page and/or a Twitter account can help you maintain a direct and personalized link to your customers and keep an eye on your e-reputation. Increasing numbers of travellers use chat or instant messaging to communicate and request information, services or products. A high-performance interface also allows properties to stay in touch with our customers by sending them a satisfaction questionnaire at the end of their stay to anticipate any complaints and stifle a conversation on social networks or online booking platforms.
Some customer profiles (millennials or business travellers) take advantage of their trips to develop contacts and exchanges for a moment of relaxation or to develop their professional networks. Hotel groups have clearly understood this and offer applications that encourage exchanges by bringing together guests at a property if they are interested in meeting. AccorHotels group has, for example, developed the Business Check application in partnership with LinkedIn to enable its business travellers to use their trips to meet new contacts. Marriott offers viral campaigns via YouTube and Snapchat, Hilton is no exception with its activity on social networks where it often asks guests about their needs... Hotel groups have fully embraced the web and are all active on social networks.
This means of communication is also accessible to independent hoteliers who want to stand out and be available online for their customers. Direct contact with its customers also means more opportunities to receive bookings without going through an online intermediary and thereby maximizing profits. The use of powerful algorithms by search engines makes it possible to target search results with increasing precision, depending on preferences of potential customers. Rich, regular, detailed and offbeat online communications are therefore the best way to «stand out» from the crowd.
Going digital also boosts potential for increasing the profitability of properties by renting units even for a few hours for example, or by offering services to the inhabitants of its neighbourhood such as receiving parcels or by offering customers access to a new range of services (delivery of meals in the room for example) via service platforms available in the area where the hotel is located. Or by practicing management of resources or energy expenditure to fit as closely as possible to the property’s needs.
Develop digital technology to promote and enhance a property:
Through social networks, hoteliers can use their clientele as ambassadors and prescribers; some hoteliers are riding this wave by encouraging their clients to communicate on social networks. Virtual visits of the property, online and on-site animations... digital resources make it possible to reach a large audience outside a property’s primary catchment area. However, it is necessary to nurture one’s community, offer new content on a regular basis and promote qualitative content.
Some properties go even further, such as Henn-na Hotel born in Japan which offers accommodations that are 100% managed by robots. The originality of the property thus becomes a reason to visit.
Know your customers better to develop their loyalty:
By gathering and managing customer data hoteliers can meet guest expectations upstream in order to offer a smooth experience with no glitches and eventually make an impression on them thanks to specific attentions related to consumer habits. A centralized customer management platform connected to the floor service and invoicing system is now fundamental to customer relationship management. By going back through the history of customer orders, the tool can inform the hotelier about the preferences and habits of a future guest to optimize preparations for their stay and thus satisfy the guest and even save time preparing the room.
Reception: more fluidity, information quickly available
The first physical contact with accommodations, the reception area, has drastically evolved in recent decades from a desk used to register arrivals and departures paired with a second counter for concierge services to hybrid spaces that are designed to be welcoming and convivial. Automatic check-in and check-out with late arrival or choice of arrival time that can be linked to housekeeping management service and concierge service via chat and interface... help jobs evolve to develop stronger interaction and bring customers greater added value from reception staff. Tourism advice, a small extra service depending on customer profiles, additional sales, these actions can be developed at reception thanks to time saved by the contribution of new technologies. Some guests - especially business customers - reduce their interactions with hotel staff to a strict minimum by maximising their use of self check-in/check-out options, chat for room service or even - for certain establishments, especially hostels – ordering meals.
Digital technology can also bring hotels closer to their customers by offering communication tools that break down the language barrier through simultaneous translation.
Digital technology also offers an opportunity to dress and animate the reception area, as some brands have clearly understood. For example, Radisson RED offers an information wall in its common areas in the same way independent hoteliers use dynamic signage to communicate messages, promotions and information to their customers.
Romain Binnet - Terrass Hotel Paris “Our renovation in 2016 was an opportunity to install a fleet of smart monitors. For us, it was a matter of course to meet the needs of our customers who are accustomed to using new technologies in their daily lives. One of our goals in working with Samsung and our partner Wisyo, was to be able to communicate with our customers via the screens installed in our lobby, our seminar areas and our rooms about promotions on our offers or even about the neighbourhood, the weather...”
Modular and customizable rooms
Companies seek to innovate and simplify procedures starting with room entry. Some major hotel groups such as Hilton allow customers to use their smartphones to open their hotel rooms. A simple click on the ”Hilton Honors” application will trigger the door to open. This innovation makes it possible to reduce the disturbances that can occur in the reception area upon arrival and departure. Conversely, the system allows employees to devote more time to customers at the reception desk.
Hilton even extends the use of this key to different spaces: elevators, fitness centre and car park.
La chambre « Connected Room » développée par Hilton est encore en phase de test et prévoit d’être déployée dès 2018 dans plusieurs hôtels des Etats-Unis. Hilton souhaite utiliser le smartphone comme unique (ou presque) outil de personnalisation de la chambre. Depuis l’application de la marque, les utilisateurs peuvent régler en fonction de leurs envies l’intensité des lumières de la pièce et la température. Le téléphone portable sert également de télécommande pour sélectionner et mettre en favoris les programmes de télévision. Côté décoration, les hôtes auront le choix du dépaysement ou non en ayant la possibilité de télécharger leurs propres photos et œuvres-d’art sur les supports numériques mis à disposition.
Guests will be able to use voice command to control and change the room’s customizable settings. Joshua Sloser, Senior Vice President of Digital Products at Hilton insists that technology must be ”intuitive, simple and fast” so that customers can ”spend time enjoying the experience instead of adapting to new technologies”.
In the same spirit, Marriott has teamed up with big names in the technology -Samsung- and electric -Legrandindustries to design the room of the future. With the help of a virtual assistant, it will be possible to set the alarm clock, choose water temperature or even organize a yoga session via a connected mirror.
Mama Shelter makes new technologies an mine for entertainment. In addition to being able to watch television or listen to the radio freely, the brand offers free films (renewed regularly) from the room’s iMac. Equipped with the Airplay feature, screens can wirelessly broadcast content (playlists, photos, videos, games, etc.) from guests’ iOS devices. Finally, the Photo and Videobooth tool allows anyone who wants to display their photos from their room on the giant screen of the hotel’s restaurant. The Juliana Parisian hotel offers many services through its application. Visitors can choose their pillow, consult the room service menu and order remotely, run their bath in advance, or order a taxi, book a table in selected and tested restaurants, book a show, tickets for exhibitions, read the digital press and benefit from tourist assistance.
Practical and indispensable for travellers, the Hôtel de Nell in Paris offers its foreign customers a Travelwifi box to provide them with accessible and unlimited Wi-Fi access throughout Paris for 10 euros per day during their stay.
Romain Binnet - Terrass Hotel Paris ”We wanted to offer our guests the possibility of sharing the contents of their mobile phones on a large screen so that they can enjoy it even while staying with us. Samsung televisions, for example, enable our customers to connect via Cromecast to their Netflix application and continue to watch their series even when they are away from home. We don’t have any specific feedback on this service because it is a given for our customers to benefit from it.”
The transformation of hotels is also taking place within their seminar spaces, which are becoming more modular and interactive to meet the needs of their users. Co-working areas, broadband Wi-Fi, the ability to load devices or even borrow them for a meeting or an appointment, spaces fitted out for more user-friendliness, provision of equipment or even spaces designed to develop creativity...
Park Inn by Radisson offers, for example, Smart meetings & events products based on the modularity of spaces, the diversity and flexibility of the associated services and the availability of all the comforts offered by digital technology, such as the ability to hold meetings remotely via video conferencing. Novotel Paris Les Halles offers Atelier H with seven independent studios that are equipped to host the multiple digital cameras now used by business customers during their working meetings. Some multimedia professionals offer tactile and interactive products that can be attractive to business and seminar clients.
Romain Binnet - Terrass Hotel Paris ”We’ve also equipped our seminar areas with Samsung touch-screen and connected televisions that make an impact on customers.”
Go further and make digital an asset
Amazon and Google have already sold more than 20 million connected Alexa and Google Home speakers. The digital tool and connected objects have largely entered homes. To meet customers’ expectations and offer services at least as high quality as those they use daily, hotels will soon be able to provide their guests with easy-to-use and reliable voice controlled equipment. The arrival of digital technology is a real opportunity to save time, retain staff by entrusting administrative tasks to machines and above all to stay in tune with the expectations of its customers who are increasingly connected, whether for business or leisure.
Olivier Bon - Experimental Group Paris 2 “We wanted to offer our future clients discreet and elegant technology so as not to distort the design of our rooms. It seemed obvious to us to provide smart televisions and at Samsung we found a product that could be easily integrated into a mirror in order to make the device as discreet as possible and transform it into an aesthetic object. We opted for a rather low tech offer as our properties are very much oriented towards human contact. On the other hand, our considerations regarding digital for the entire back office have been very thorough in order to optimize the management of our properties.”
Romain Viennois, founder of France Hostels. “We wanted to create our own PMS to meet the specific needs of hostel management. The first problem was check-in with two crucial issues: limit the queues for clients who can’t stand to wait, and to limit the chekck-in time per person in order to optimize costs, because for a room at 100€ it costs as much as it does for a bed at 25€. We will also be able to better manage orders at the bar by allowing customers to pay directly with their room keys; this will also help personnel get to know our clients better. Our guests will also be able to choose their beds in the dormitories (top or bottom bunk) and choose early or late check-in.
All these features are being tested at our recently opened beta facility in Lille. We would like to go even further, which is why we have invested in our own PMS tool. In the future we would like to interface it with our clients’ social networks in order to create dormitories by affinity. The key will also allow us to collect as much data as possible on our customers, to understand their consumer habits, to follow them from one property to another. An adapted PMS means better management of our properties, greater knowledge of our customers and thus increased profitability.”
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