Room location preference. Additional required amenities. Early arrival inquiry. Daily, hotels experience a steady stream of post-booking, pre-arrival requests. Entertaining these guest requests can actually represent the majority of the guest/hotel interaction for any stay. Yet, hotels often fail to recognize that pre-arrival engagement has more of an impact on the guest experience than the perfunctory front desk key pick-up ritual.
Unfortunately, responding to guest requests requires unscheduled, manual work, and execution quality tends to vary depending on the employee handling the request. Fortunately, some hotels are using intelligent automation to not only reach out to guests but also to provide frictionless fulfillment of guest requests – that doesn’t disrupt normal hotel operations.
The Dual Nature of Common yet Challenging Hotel Guest Requests
Special requests after the initial reservation or booking are common. Why? Because guest needs evolve and may become apparent across the booking window, increasing in frequency closer to check-in.
Requests made can vary widely based on individual preferences and whether the guest is traveling for business or leisure. Some of the most frequent requests include room preferences such as bed type, view, and floor location. Guests also seek additional amenities like cribs, extra towels, or even blankets for the pull-out sofa. Moreover, adding breakfast with special dietary requests (such as gluten-free or vegetarian options) is also prevalent. Transportation arrangements and accessible accommodations for guests with mobility challenges are also common.
Understanding and efficiently delivering on these diverse special, albeit modest, requests contribute significantly to a positive guest experience and play a crucial role in overall hotel service satisfaction. But while hotels may be cognizant that guests deserve the best possible service at all times, it is sometimes easier said than done.
Manually managing guest requests presents a myriad of problems, mostly from inconsistency. Manual monitoring and receipt of, research on, and response to requests consume a significant amount of time and resources and increase the likelihood of human errors, missed opportunities, and oversights. With a manual process, a hotel has no good way to receive and record requests except via the reservation confirmation page or by telephone. The lack of a centralized system makes it difficult to prioritize guest requests, resulting in delays and dissatisfaction, with the strong possibility of hurting revenue and your reputation in the process.
A decentralized approach also hampers the ability to analyze and identify recurring patterns, making it challenging for hotels to implement proactive measures and enhance overall guest satisfaction. As the volume of requests increases, the risk of overlooking important tasks rises, potentially tarnishing the hotel's brand image and impacting customer loyalty.
Meet the Demand with Smart Tech Solutions
It seems like every industry article you read these days mentions AI and automation. In many people’s minds, this equates to some sort of ambiguous magic that mimics and possibly improves on human performance. But let’s break down and demystify what is required to automate guest service request management.
First, you need a way to trigger and capture guests' requests prior to arrival. To truly automate this, request options and availability must be constantly scanned for automatically. That means your system must know at any moment if, for example, a specific room away from the elevator or on a high floor will be available next for the stay dates corresponding to each guest. This availability check is critical to fulfilling room-oriented requests such as location changes or early arrivals and late departures. For other guest services, the staff just needs to load items and packages into the system one time.
Second, if you want to monetize the request, you need to dynamically price the requested ‘product’ based on demand. Just as your room prices go up as there are fewer of them available, occupancy has the same impact on the value of a special request – especially if there are constraints (e.g., there are only so many rooms on a high floor, away from the elevator, facing the pool).
Third, you want to be proactive and engage with the customer before they feel the need to call the hotel. So, you want an automated pre-arrival email to go to the guest that outlines the available stay options. This provides multiple benefits to both the hotelier and guest. The guest now can personalize their stay and doesn’t have to bother to pick up a phone and call someone (increasingly bothersome for the younger demographic!). The hotelier, thus, has less work to do to field the call, and may even reap incremental ancillary revenue.
Last, the system needs to be able to write the request to the guest’s reservation record automatically and add the appropriate notes and triggers to ensure the staff can fulfill the request (the last mile). In the cases of room moves, a room is assigned automatically (with plenty of buffer for front desk flexibility) with a ‘do not move’ note attached. In all cases, the folio is updated with appropriate charges automatically.
None of this is possible without the data exchange from a 2-way integration with the hotel’s PMS and the intelligent algorithms needed to determine True Availability and to dynamically price as required.
For the hotelier, an automation tool such as ROOMDEX achieves consistency, error reduction, and incremental revenue. But don’t be fooled. Automation is an enhancement to service levels, not a replacement. The truth is that not all guests open all their emails and not all email arrivals correspond to exactly when guests realize they need something. So, the front desk will still field requests. But by reducing the number of requests to be managed, overall service accuracy is improved. The bonus opportunity here is for loyalty and VIP programs. Automation provides the benefit of timeliness. A request can be granted as a free benefit as soon as it becomes available, thereby enhancing the differentiation of your loyalty benefits program.
The Impact on Competitiveness
The measure of a hotel's service levels is undeniably intertwined with its capacity to adeptly handle and fulfill guest requests. The pivotal role that guest requests play in shaping the overall guest experience cannot be overstated.
In this era of reviews and reputation, competitiveness requires the embrace of smart automation. Hotels that prioritize and invest in these solutions are better positioned not only to meet but exceed guest expectations, fostering lasting satisfaction and loyalty in a dynamic and competitive hospitality industry.
About ROOMDEX, INC
ROOMDEX is the technology leader in the hotel upselling software space. Its hotel upsell software automates, monetizes and ultimately simplifies the hotel room upgrade process by putting the power of choice in the hotel guest's hands.
ROOMDEX Upsell Automation uses hotel reservation, guest data and its proprietary True AvailabilityTM and Dynamic Pricing algorithms to deliver personalized digital offers, greatly enhancing the guest experience. The hotel upsell tool relieves hoteliers of the labor time required by other upselling solutions while delivering high margin revenue and a substantial ROI.
ROOMDEX is now the exclusive provider of ABS Upselling. Attribute-based selling re-imagines hotel inventory merchandising, delivering a unique and improved guest satisfaction and increased hotel revenue.
ROOMDEX leverages hotel operational and software experience gained by our team members while in leadership roles at companies such as MICROS (now Oracle Hospitality), Nor1, Duetto, StayNTouch and Shiji to develop our innovations in hotel automation, dynamic pricing, operational availability and attribute-based selling. Since founding in spring of 2020, ROOMDEX has signed hundreds of hotels across North America, Europe and Asia Pacific.