Created as a consequence of COVID-19, CONTACTLESS TECH is at the heart of the paradigm shift that most industries, especially those in Travel and Hospitality have had to lean on to ensure their survival and avert the spread of the virus. The Guest journey comprising numerous round and square pegs has had to be re-imagined and at the same time dynamically re-engineered to cope with the fluidity and complexity of requirements and compliance needs of the new now. Technology has inevitably had to undergo change constantly, and at lightning speed, and customer investments are sometimes forcibly made to enable this industry to ride the trend, and comply with safety and customer requirements as well as deal with staff scarcity and rising costs.
All of these have shrunk and recalibrated the guest experience to fit the palm-of-the-hand, with nearly all the once human-centric touchpoints, becoming touchless. Some may say this development has turned this once service-oriented business, into what many might consider soulless…
During this pandemic, face-to-face human contact has been one of the casualties of our existence. As we emerge and learn to co-exist with COVID, how will that impact the contactless journey going forward? Will we experience another change where contactless tech becomes hybrid - with a dash or more of humanity thrown into the mix?
A study by Deloitte Digital found strong interest in contactless operations even before the pandemic, with 60% of guests preferring hotels with contactless check-in and keyless room entry. A survey in 2020 by Skift found that after the onset of the pandemic, 71% of travellers stated that they would be more likely to stay at a hotel offering self-service technology that minimises contact with the staff. Brought on by the increasing adoption of mobile technologies and accelerated by COVID-19, contactless tech is fast becoming a staple for hospitality organisations to continue operations.
- Contactless front desk
The simplest and the most necessary point of change would be front desk operations. As McKinsey noted, while exchanging documents and credit cards at the front desk is merely a single point of risk for the guests, this risk is multiplied from the perspective of the front desk staff who interact with many such guests.
Incorporating contactless tech will not only make the guest journey safer but will also make it smoother. Using simple tablet or mobile-based applications for check-in/check-out functions can ensure an efficient workflow leading to an enhanced guest experience. These platforms can be used to build comprehensive guest profiles and to tailor the experience accordingly. Deloitte found that such experiences have a 23% impact on guest satisfaction.
- Incorporating interaction
The next step would be to include interaction in the contactless journey. This can be done by enabling chat functions through the contactless tech. In a contactless guest journey, staying in touch with the guest is crucial to ensure that the guests do not feel like they are staying at an impersonalised robotic accommodation.
57% of travellers preferred to communicate with staff via their smartphones or a voice assistant, and apps that facilitate two-way communication and real-time photo and video sharing can offer an interactive means of communicating. These tools can be used to respond to customer queries and complaints, as well as in-room service provisions and other request management.
- CRM 101
These interactive contactless systems can then evolve to become CRM 101. A robust CRM system can allow hospitality organisations to maintain connections with individual guests, paving the way for a more personalised experience. Guests who receive personalised attention are 29% more likely to share positive reviews (Deloitte). A contactless CRM system can allow guests to log their preferences prior to arrival, allowing the staff to tailor their experience while minimising contamination risks.
- Humanising the brand
Minimising physical interactions does not mean that the guest journey will be transformed into a string of soulless formalities. On the contrary, facilitating contactless guest journeys is an excellent approach to kick-start the industry and engage with post-pandemic guests. Hospitality organisations can leverage contactless tech to humanise their brand and build loyalty.
Automating back-office functions can provide hotel staff with more time and opportunities for face-to-face interactions. By incorporating automation and self-service, hospitality organisations will be able to achieve higher efficiency with lesser labour. Moreover, allowing guests to select services from the comfort of their own device creates a contamination-free zone for the staff to engage in one-on-one communications with guests. Given the convenience of this effortless upselling, it can even encourage guests to explore the different services provided by the hotel.
For the foreseeable future, contactless will be the mandate for hospitality organisations, and it will soon be a part of the standard hotel front office technology. The sector needs to recognise that a contactless guest journey does not mean placing the guests on a sanitised travelator. It is the newest trend in creating safe and personalised guest experiences, and it is certainly here to stay.