Connected Guest Value Drivers
Hospitality properties are constantly in search of new customers and continued retention of existing guests. In this challenging market, technology is increasingly important to guests, and delivering a compelling connected guest experience provides a new avenue for developing a competitive advantage and enticing younger customers. However, as with any new technology platform, implementation of a true connected guest experience requires investments in several key areas. Brands considering bringing their properties into the connected ecosystem must consider the ROI of this investment. Let’s take a look at the key connected guest value drivers throughout the hospitality lifecycle, and how they can increase revenue, retention, and recognition for hospitality properties.
The connected guest experience begins the moment a customer starts looking for a location to stay. As customers have grown increasingly tech savvy, they have also become more discerning about the hotels and vacation destinations they visit. For the many customers looking for a streamlined and tech-enabled stay, brands with connected guest offerings present natural differentiators. Imagine the boost in customer interest if a property can list itself as having “skip the check-in line” service, or “in-room voice controls” as a feature. Enabling these types of connected guest services provides many avenues for online marketing. As guest expectations continue to evolve, brands that invest in connected guest technologies will see increased organic search traffic and also find easy ways to differentiate from competitors in aggregated hotel listings.
Most hotel brands have already streamlined the booking experience to some extent. However, an integrated connected guest platform includes the ability to take this a step further. With robust customer preference data, entire stays can be customized at booking time to both appeal to individual guests and provide seamless revenue generation. For example, a data-driven system that knows a guest frequently orders dinner from room service can offer a booking package including dinner at a slightly discounted rate. Additionally, a connected guest platform includes strong rewards program integration and can utilize basic gamification techniques to promote higher-margin rooms. Intelligent data processing allows a connected guest booking experience to be both efficient and tailored to individual guests.
A true connected guest experience is mobile-centric and allows a combination of efficiency, information reporting, and upsell opportunities that are not readily available with traditional hotel platforms. With virtual check-in combined with smartphone-enabled room keys, guests can bypass the front desk entirely upon arrival, reducing front desk staffing demands while saving guests time. Virtual check-in also allows for natural upsells to hotel amenity packages and upgraded rooms. Imagine checking in and seeing that an upgrade to a highly rated suite is available for only $20 more per night. Or the check-in service knowing you care about fitness and offering a discounted pass to the on-site gym and spa. Additionally, strong integration with a marketing engine and hotel management system can decrease frustration while increasing service usage. For example, if a room is not quite ready when a guest arrives, an estimated availability time can be provided along with a drink coupon to be used at the bar. These experiences decrease friction while providing guests with options they want.
Traditionally, promoting hotel services during guest stays has been challenging and relies on low-reach marketing via printed materials and hotel TV channels. But connected rooms and amenities offer a wealth of opportunities to delight guests while at the same time increasing revenue. Imagine walking into your room and being greeted by name by a voice concierge like Amazon’s Alexa, which asks if you would like your favorite breakfast (based on your previous stay preferences) to be ready in the morning. Or imagine walking by the hotel spa and wishing the prices were just a little bit lower, then your phone delivers a location-aware coupon for full body massage. The combination of connected hardware and software makes these kinds of experiences, and the associated revenue increases, possible in a seamless and desirable way.
Operational efficiency is a key driver for hospitality properties. Rooms with broken appliances or devices not only undermine the guest experience, but also cost properties money and time in maintenance dispatching and room unavailability. Inefficiencies can also lead to unneeded overhead in housekeeping and maintenance staff. Many of these challenges can be addressed with an integrated connected guest platform. For example, smart lights can automatically report when they burn out and request a replacement without the guest even needing to ask. Smart climate controls can turn off lights and air conditioning when guests are out of the room to save electricity. And smart locks can notify housekeeping when rooms are empty, allowing them to get started sooner and plan floor visits more efficiently. The more devices and services are connected, the more future operational efficiency improvements will arise.
As any hotel manager knows, the guest experience does not end when a guest walks out the front door. Brands need to remain connected to their guests and ensure they had enjoyable stays in order to keep them as future customers. A connected guest platform provides new opportunities to engage with guests post-stay and retain their brand loyalty in the future. For example, allowing guests to rate and review individual rooms both informs management of potential issues and lets them address any stay issues guests might have had. Guest stay information encompassing everything from mobile app usage to property locations visited allows for highly targeted offers and marketing messages as well as provides the data necessary to anticipate guest needs in the future. The combination of these factors will lead to increased customer retention as well as higher public reviews for those properties that make use of connected guest tools.
A Positive ROI
Building a connected guest program requires an investment not only in hardware and software, but also in processes and training. However, brands that choose to go down this path will see significant returns on their investment in everything from happier guests to increased revenue and lower overhead. For brands that truly want to stand out, now is the time to act. To learn more about our approach to implementing connected guest program, be sure to also read my previous post on a five-step plan for building a compelling digital guest experience.