Face-to-face communication has always been an integral part of the hospitality industry. And it seemed like this would never change. However, life is full of surprises, and new technologies never cease to emerge. They certainly affect all areas of our lives, even those least susceptible to innovation.
To deliver perfect guest experiences, hoteliers used to rely both on qualified staff and hotel facilities. However, in the last few years, one can notice the growing popularity of vacation rentals, and the number of renters is only expected to grow up to 893.7 million by 2026. Meaning, that lots of personal space and minimal contact with staff are now considered the “new luxury”.
Obviously, the pandemic contributed to this strong desire to keep distance. And, what is even more astonishing, this desire manifests itself in the increasing trust in technology. According to Metova, today around 86% of guests are more willing to choose hotels that provide contactless self-service features, such as mobile check-in, concierge, and facility reservation services.
This interest in self-service technology is not just a brand new consequence of the pandemic. It began to grow even before its start, and the current crisis has only propelled this tech trend.
In addition, as Generation Z is growing older, hotels are starting to check in thousands of customers with absolutely different values. These guests are accustomed to technology from an early age, and cannot imagine their lives without it. And this means that fully contactless self-service technologies are here to stay.
In this article, we will take a closer look at self-service options in hospitality, tell you how to attract digital nomads, and share top-3 technologies that can be implemented even in a small boutique hotel.
Сontactless self-service technology: a threat to hospitality?
Before delving into the details of this question, let’s clarify the notion of “contactless self-service technology”.
Self-service technology helps customers get anything they need without the help of personnel. The most common example is an ATM: any credit card holder can withdraw money without having to communicate with bank employees.
In restaurants, this technology allows customers to reserve a table and pay for a meal in one tap. Speaking about hotels, the first self-service technology that comes to mind is a check-in kiosk. But since the Internet is in a way a self-service technology, booking platforms, and online payments belong to this category as well.Now let's take a look at the “contactless” part of the customer experience. For instance, contactless check-in allows a guest to check into a hotel without the need to interact with staff or touch any items, such as pens and registration forms.
It may seem that it is impossible to provide a completely contactless guest experience. In fact, your guests just need to have a smartphone for that. HoteFriend can offer a fully contactless self-service ecosystem for your hotel.
To many, the introduction of self-service technology looks like killing the very essence of hospitality. However, providing customers with self-service options does not mean leaving them unattended. Turns out, it can be highly beneficial for both parties, as the hotel gains an increased speed of operations, and customers get more control over their stay.
Paradoxically, well-organized self-service experiences can increase customer loyalty and even help to establish an emotional bond with your hotel. How is this possible? Well, that is because this technology does not cut off communication between guests and employees. It just makes it safe and meaningful.
By freeing staff from switching between serving guests and doing paperwork, you empower them to succeed in delivering the best customer experience possible. If your hotel has self-service technologies such as a check-in kiosk or online check-in, your employees will not be tied to the front desk. They will be able to move freely around your property, responding to each customer’s request on time.
Some hotels are going even further, trying to use robots as concierges or waiters. Back in 2016, Hilton introduced Connie, a robo-concierge that can answer guests' questions or help them to find a restaurant and other amenities.
Nevertheless, the example of the Japanese Henn na Hotel shows that we are still far from complete replacement of personnel by robots. A few years ago, about half of their 243 droids were "fired", as guests complained that the in-room robots did not understand their requests and even made noise at night. This proves that hotels need to maintain a certain balance between technology and human touch.
The era of Digital Nomads
Apart from that, technology affects the hospitality industry in some other ways. For instance, the pandemic has contributed to the emergence of a new category of travelers called “digital nomads”. While performing their job online, these workers can travel on a continuous basis. According to recent statistics, the number of digital nomads in the U.S. has significantly increased over the past couple of years—from 4.8 million in 2018 to 10.9 million in 2020.
As remote working and freelancing continue to thrive, there will be an ever-increasing demand for hotels that can deliver comfortable and safe experiences to such travelers. Digital nomads value their time very much, therefore the introduction of contactless self-service features, which offer convenience and fast service, is a great prerequisite for attracting this category of travelers.
This way, it is possible to gain increased profitability, personalization, and more seamless experiences for both hotels and guests. We are sure that self-service options are something that will soon be in each and every hotel. However, traditional hospitality will not completely fade—it will rather be optimized with advanced technologies.
How would a hotelier benefit from this technology?
Still not convinced about the need for self-service tech in hospitality? Look into some other benefits that come along with contactless guest technology:
- Increased speed of operations
The main advantage of self-service technology is that it speeds up all processes in the hotel. The check-in procedure becomes less stressful for both guests and front desk employees. It also helps to prevent queueing in the lobby and can serve multiple guests at the same time, improving the performance of your hospitality team.
- Reduced risk of mistakes
Even if you have the strongest team of professionals, no one is immune from mistakes, especially while multitasking. Self check-in automates the whole registration process, avoiding confusion in customer data. This helps to avoid unpleasant situations and improve guest interaction. In addition, you will be able to avoid the negative impact of the current shortage of labor.
- Up-to-the mark personalization
Self-service mobile technology gathers useful data about your guests so that you can personalize their experience in the best possible way. It will keep you informed about their preferences, previous purchases, and special requests. And since mobile check-in technologies are linked to the entire hotel management system, you can access this information just in a few clicks.
- Full control over one’s stay
One of the main reasons why today's consumers like to use mobile technology is a sense of control over the services provided. It also gives travelers the flexibility to plan their trip exactly the way they want it. This technology is available 24/7, securely stores visitor information, and significantly improves the overall guest experience.
- Сompliance with health and safety protocols
As we already mentioned, self-service technologies are best at helping hotels maintain a safe distance between guests and employees. Eliminating the need for direct contact with the hotel team members, they help hotels to reopen while adhering to official safety guidelines.
- More upsell opportunities
Self-service features offer guests the opportunity to upgrade their stay, while generating more revenue for hoteliers. Guests will be able to find out about the hotel's special offers, buy them immediately, and enjoy the top level of service with no hassle.
If you have a well-integrated hotel management system and self-service technology available to guests, you will see improvements in your hotel's performance very soon. Your team will be able to provide tailored services with ease by relying on the most up-to-date guest data.
Top-three contactless self-service technologies to implement in your hotel
Today, self-service technologies are quite widespread. Not only large chains but also small boutique hotels can afford such an upgrade. Here is a list of contactless self-service technologies that are simply a must-have for your hotel:
1. Mobile self check-in
Most likely, you associate self check-in technologies with kiosks. They are really useful and may be even necessary for some hotels. The check-in kiosk allows guests to skip the front desk hassle, accepts cash or credit card payments, and offers upsells.
However, this option is quite expensive and is not suitable for small properties. You won't be able to provide your guests with a truly contactless experience, as they will have to touch the screen of the kiosk. Needless to say, this does not go well with the “no-touch” policy during the pandemic.
Online check-in via the HotelFriend Concierge mobile app or web Booking Engine solves both of these problems. The guest will be able to upload the necessary documents in advance directly from their smartphone and sign digitally. In addition, it is also possible to make purchases in the app. This grants more flexibility and convenience to your customers.
2. Contactless room access
If you want to provide guests with a completely contactless stay, your next step should be to introduce digital room keys. This technology allows guests to unlock their rooms with a smartphone, saving their time during check-in and personalizing their experience.
This option is available in the HotelFriend Concierge App. Enabled through an integration with the SALTO KS, it allows hoteliers to offer guests convenient mobile room access without relying on keys or cards that could be easily lost.
3. In-app orders
Dining in hotels has changed as well. Today, most guests, including digital nomads, prefer to order food directly to their rooms. You can grant them this opportunity without the need to interact with staff.
With our application, guests can order any service or item from the menu and pay for them in one click. Integration with Gastronovi allows restaurateurs and hoteliers to create an impeccable contactless payment experience and provides customers with a wide range of quality services: booking a room directly from the cash register, transferring all bills from it, processing reports, and much more.
And this is not a full list! A well-designed app offers a fairly wide range of opportunities. These include ordering services by scanning QR codes, convenient communication with staff via live chat, informing guests about special offers, and much more. All this is in one place, at the fingertips of your guests.
Today, contactless self-service is not just a niche technology or elevated convenience for the guest. It is also an important part of safe reopening. Guests expect your hotel to be clean and COVID-free, and with this technology, you can make it happen without the need to sacrifice an atmosphere of warmth and hospitality.
Nevertheless, while adopting these technologies, it is crucial to keep in mind that the main reason for your guests to return should be a friendly attitude and personal attention to each of their requests. And contactless technologies will only help to organize an unforgettable stay for your clients.
HotelFriend is a global provider of business software with offices across Europe. The company specializes in R&D in the travel and hospitality sectors, cloud computing, e-commerce, CRM, ERP, and the development of mobile and desktop apps.