As human beings, we know change is inevitable. They say life is 10% of what happens to us and 90% is how we respond to it. There's no question the hospitality industry will rebound from this challenging period. And when we do, it would be naive to think everyone will resume life as we knew it. We need to first acknowledge guests will adjust the way they travel and interact with hotels. But we have to go further than just acknowledgment. We must understand, adapt, and respond before the first guests ever (re)crosses our threshold. We need to actively re-instill trust before a guest even considers travel.
Technology and hospitality companies now have a unique opportunity to reflect and transform. We should become the voice of the hotel guest and provide value throughout this change via four key areas:
- Elevate relevance through via thought leadership
- Utilize technology to deliver unique experiences at scale
- Maintain focus on the "wow" experience
- Empower staff through internal alignment
Hoteliers have the possibility to start over in a post-COVID-19 normal. The reasons guests visited BC (Before COVID) are not necessarily going to be business influencers moving forward.
Some hotels will be fortunate - they have private settings, convenient drive-market proximity to major cities, and exceptional on-premise programming that can be re-started. Other properties will have a challenge, a challenge that begins with understanding their unique value and how best to apply it in a way that makes guests want to book a stay.
Technology should be the driver. Engagement through automation reduces the number of touchpoints for the hotels and its guests. Biometrics or facial recognition, or the adoption of tools like Alexa for Hospitality to integrate seamlessly with existing amenities and services will allow guests to take advantage of 'virtual concierge' benefits. Further, Alexa and the hotel mobile app will enable guests to leverage their mobile device to remain in control - from playing music to ordering towels, controlling in-room temperature and lighting, or discovering local restaurants and attractions. This challenge could also have a simpler solution: comprehensive programming about cleanliness, for example, could be translated to guest messaging to increase comfort levels.
Deliver Unique Experiences, At Scale
Uber didn't succeed because its service was revolutionary. People have been ordering taxis and black cars for years. It succeeded in part because it took someone's desire and need, going from point A to point B, and made it convenient at scale. Passengers can order their preference of cars, understand exactly where their car is at any given time, customize temperature and conversation preferences, and even add tips - all without ever speaking to another human.
If ordering a car service can be this personalized, then surely a guest should be able to do the same for a lengthier service like a hotel stay.
It may be easier said than done, but it's certainly not impossible with some ingenuity and investment—and data. Leveraging emerging technologies that allow guests to unlock a door or streamline a no-touch, no-contact check-in process. In-room voice controls ensure guests don't ever have to touch a light switch or TV remote. Apps can streamline in-room dining orders, pillow delivery, or check-out flow. Guest messaging, powered by some AI, enables real time communication pre-arrival but also elicits feedback about a guest's stay. This gives hotels a chance to correct any potential problems while the guest is in-house, thus improving guest relations and dramatically decreasing opportunities for a negative post-stay review.
Focus on the Wow
It's not enough to be impressive with implementing big tech. The real change comes from the people behind the computer, and the systems that collect the data itself.
In order to deliver that "wow," hotels need to bring together various technologies to ensure they know their guests on an individual, rather than simply a persona-based level. This requires a number of siloed departments and data sources to work together to create a real-time guest profile, and a new type of CRM to track guest behavior in a post-COVID normal, with the assumption many travelers will change prior behaviors before visiting.
It's now imperative to use social media data to know if a guest has influence, is likely visiting for business, travels with children, or has allergies. Going beyond that, pulling systems together, understanding guest's preferred engagement channels and levels of engagement, will be the real differentiator.
Empower Hotel Staff through Internal Alignment
I've seen a number of prognostications suggest guests will want fewer human touchpoints in a post-COVID normal. This may be true - guests may want to come in physical contact with fewer hotel staff during a stay. This doesn't mean guests want a less experience-driven stay. It's key for staff, departments, and technology to work together seamlessly. Guests will want to remain engaged with the hotel, but these interactions must be automated and within their individual control. Hotel staff will want to still serve their guests without any hesitation or trepidation. Doing so will ensure a high touch stay, (potentially) without any literal touch at all, and keeping the guest comfortable.
There is an enormous amount of speculation on what exactly hotels and technology partners will need to do to succeed in a post COVID normal. However, one thing's for certain: it's a challenge best solved with tech and resource alignment, with a strong dose of empathy.
I find myself excited about the challenges to come, and believe we're primed and in position to tackle whatever heads our way next.
About Concilio Labs
Concilio Labs is on a mission to solve key issues in hospitality today—those of guest personalization and hotel loyalty—by developing innovative technology solutions that push boundaries. Concilio's Insight Engine, a guest intelligence platform, empowers hoteliers with actionable insights to create personalized guest experiences that go far beyond traditional and existing capabilities in other similar tools. Other core service offerings target guest experience, including tailored mobile app and integrated booking engine solutions for hoteliers looking to take their guest engagement to the next level. The management team has decades of proven experience working with technology leaders, including MICROS eCommerce (formerly TIG Global), giving them the credibility and a deep understanding of the hospitality industry and its growing needs. Concilio Labs is a rapidly growing brand with offices in the Washington, DC area and Ukraine. To learn more, visit conciliolabs.com.