The contactless guest journey is here to stay, or is it?
— 16 experts shared their view
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?
It's a common misconception that delivering a high-tech guest experience must come at the expense of personalized, high-touch service 一 or that all “high-touch” interactions equally benefit the guest experience. Waiting in a long-line to the front desk, and enduring a scripted check-in dialogue might be “high-touch,” but it only burdens guests who want to get on with their stay. Well before COVID, we found that guests were clamoring for a welcome experience that delivered more convenience, customization and control. In fact, 73% of business travelers preferred mobile check-in, while 53% of customers prefer mobile notifications about deals and coupons in store.
A mobile PMS offers guests a choice in their welcome experience, allowing them to check in through their mobile device, through a guest-facing smart kiosk, or through a friendly hotelier aided by a tablet. When guests are given a choice, StayNTouch customers benefit from an up to 81% conversion rate on contactless guest check-in. The reason for this is clear: Self-service check-in lets guests complete their welcome experience in under a minute, while also allowing them to customize their stay through automated amenity and upgrade offers, sent directly to their mobile device. We have found these offers to be enormously successful, with up to an 18% conversion rate on automated room upgrades, a 10% conversion rate on amenity offers, and a total 240% ROI based on automated upsells alone.
On a more fundamental level, high-touch service is ultimately determined by positive guest engagement. When hoteliers maintain eye-contact, express genuine empathy, and proactively implement creative solutions to problems, they establish the kind of emotional connections that create life-long customers. Of course this is exactly the kind of heightened guest engagement that a fully cloud, guest-centric mobile PMS can facilitate: When more guests opt for mobile or kiosk-based self check-in, front desk agents can spend less time manually checking-in guests, more time actually delivering service. And because a mobile PMS runs on a tablet, your staff can break free from the front desk and meet guests wherever they are on property. Now, hoteliers can meet guests in the lobby with tea or drinks, ask them why they are traveling or if they have any special requests, and inform them of the amenities in your hotel. In a word, a guest-centric mobile PMS allows your staff to deliver organic and unburdened service, instead of forced and scripted administrative interactions.
And the staff facing capabilities are just as important. Being cloud based and fully mobile separates them from the restrictions of a desk or an office, but being simple to learn, intuitive to use, and responsive to the operating environment means the staff experience is also significantly improved - and happy staff makes a huge difference in serving happy customers.
COVID or no COVID, we find that hotels continue to lean into mobile technology to redefine the relationship between the hotel and its guests, further blurring the distinction between “high-tech” and “high-touch.” Mobile technology has transformed lobbies into vibrant spaces for dining, socializing and co-working, and allowed hotels to offer everything from hourly layover rates to extended stays. Expect hotels to discover more creative ways to use mobile and contactless technologies as they try to distinguish their brand and enhance their guest journey in the post-pandemic era. The key isn't in “contactless tech” - it's the flexibility and personalization that great operational technology enables that is key to how modern hospitality continues to evolve. A great system needs to be equally comfortable delivering a fully touchless and contactless experience as it is delivering a highly personalized, and highly inter-personal, guest experience. We believe the customer will define the guest experience of the future, and the best systems are the ones best equipped to respond no matter what the guest desires.