We all get to travel quite a bit in our industry... As a traveler, we get confronted with a wide range of technologies/platforms both during the booking/pre-arrival phase as well as the actual checkin and stay in a hotel room. This topic is part of our 2019 Technology Sentiment Study which we produce in co-operation with HFTP. Please take 6 minutes of your time to participate... if you have not done so already. In this viewpoint we asked our panel experts a simple question: As a TRAVELER... which hotel-related technology generates your biggest frustration... and why?
Each of us connected to the hospitality industry are surely more picky than the average traveler. Usually this reduces our collective abilities to enjoy the experience. We notice little things others will miss, particularly with the service. We note poor implementation of technology at the front desk, restaurant or in the room.
But we are perhaps first in effusive praise when we see things and people doing it right. For me, it is the technology I notice first. And almost as important, I note when service is slow or worse yet, employees when are distracted or speaking with each other – ignoring the person waiting for service. I expect that executives in retail and the service industries have the same problems, the difference being that hospitality is expected to be the premiere service industry.
I have two big frustrations: 1) In the Booking Phase: dealing with mobile-last Hotel websites that take forever to download on mobile devices. Wake up, hoteliers, visitors to your websites quit if your website pages and booking screens are not downloading within 2.5 seconds!
2) In the Pre-Arrival Phase: dealing with the “total silence” after I make the booking on the hotel website. There are no pre-arrival communications with reminders about my upcoming trip, useful information about my stay, what the weather would be like, interesting events and happenings around and at the property, even upgrade and upsell opportunities. Pre- and on the day of arrival, there are no alerts about inclement weather, road traffic and repairs, airport delays, etc. Total silence! Easily resolvable as part of the CRM technology platform every hotel should have. “Elementary, dear Watson!”
Whilst you may have viewed my HITEC video regarding my frustrations with tech when staying in a Hotel – let me add my two cents regarding booking a Hotel. In many cases, I find the booking process to be just too cumbersome and does not always follow a natural sequence – such as location, dates (in/out), number of people, type of room etc. And if space or a rate is not available, you have to restart the process from square one, there is no stepping back through the various steps one has taken and thereby allowing a simple edit.
And when you finally get everything in place, there is the payment process with cancellation policies varying dramatically by company and Hotel. Some allow cancellation up to 48 hours in advance with a full refund (nice), and some absolutely no refund even if you are booking six months out and cancel three months before arrival. I think that's daylight robbery!
The credit card process is another proverbial pain. Some companies make it very simple: Card type and number, expiry date, and name on card. But one company whom I recently made a booking with via their own branded site was like processing a major fintech purchase and even required me to fill a form authorizing what can be charged to the card: Room, F&B, Incidentals etc. Each necessitating a tick mark, and then to top it off, a digital signature. My goodness, what a turnoff!!!
Lastly, I'm noticing Hotels allow you to add remarks or requests to your booking like floor location, proximity to elevator, view etc. And there is the free-form box where you can maybe add pillow type or as in my case coffee maker. Recently, in four out of four bookings and stays I made/used for HITEC – none of these requests were accommodated or even responded to. But what I did receive prior to arrival was an invite to pre-check in and an upsell opportunity to include breakfast, spa, better view, bigger room etc. That they seem to get right….
Without a doubt light switches. Hotels seem to have this obsession with over complicating the light switches. Switches should be simple and easy to use, there should not be 50 of them in the room and there should be a master kill switch by the bed. One switch that has one job, that is to turn off all the lights in the room.
Non-functioning Key-Cards! Nothing frustrates me more than arriving at a hotel after a long day (of travel), having gone through the time-consuming Check-In process (like a gazillion times before) to arrive in front of my room and then the key-card won't open the door!
The prospect of then having to go back down to reception and join the check-in que again to get my key-card checked or re-issued drives me up the wall.
With the modern contactless door-locking systems it happens less and less; and I know very well that most of the time it is an operator mistake when the key-card does not work – but still, for me it remains the most annoying tech issue in a hotel.
Having worked in hotels fo rmany years I do understand the challenges on the operational side of the business, hence I am an easy traveller, accepting things a normal traveller may not! However, what is the most important when staying at a hotel:
First of all a good night's sleep! And this is already my main frustration, not in all but in some hotels. Hotels tend to overdo the technology experience. Too much uncontroled and complex technology in the room. Lights all over the place from devices that cannot be shut off! Best guest experience to me was the Housekeeping from an unnamed Dubai hotel, being ready with Duck-Tape to hide all the lights from the countless electronic light switches!
Decent and free internet, which should be a given, as electricity and warm water nowadays! But still, warm water and electricity is more reliable, at least in evening hours when band-width seems to be maxed out sometimes!
And last but no least, a friendly and good personal service is still key and the ultimate experience! If technology goes wrong, and people can fix it quicklyl , it is all OK and I am a happy guest!
Is it direct booking at the hotel website, online payments, check-in, check-out resulting in long queues and waiting times for hotel guests? Really hard to decide, but ultimately it is the missing mobile guest journeys for hotels that drive me crazy every time I travel. During my trips I have taken tons of pictures when I arrived at a or departed from a hotel. Every single of them shows long lines of people trying to register or pay for their invoices. In airline business you have all options of doing everything online, and even in hotel technology greats & affordable apps are available. The hospitality industry should do everything to drive digitilization forward and offer a smoother guest experience.
My biggest frustration is that is too many hotels, I am still handed a paper registration card, and have to fill out all my personal / company details. All this should be done pre-arrival. Unfortunately, many hotel systems do not allow this or are not set-up correctly.
Also, I would prefer to check-in online, choose my room. I would even up-sell myself if there is an interesting offer ... Then at check-out, many hotels still print out a bill for verification, before payment. Why is this not automated via an email, or why not presented on a tablet at the reception upon check-out. Review your bill on screen, and all is correct, tab your credit card or mobile phone to pay.
Front desks need to become paperless in hotels. Email me before arrival to get my details, and email me my invoice. Should not be too hard ...
Technology providers should invest more to assist, coach and train hotels in developing a better guest experience optimizing the use of their systems!
Checkout....You have my details, you have my payment method, we both know where I have stayed, what I have eaten and any extras i've added, yet I still need to queue to checkout and get an invoice!!?!?!
It almost feels like its there because thats how it's always been done, there is no benefit to hotel or customer.
Nobody comes to a hotel for the great check-in process, it's a hygiene factor that should take as little time and effort as possible. While other industries have figured this out well, we are using pretty much the same methods as we did 100 years ago. The processes of checking into a flight, taxi or event venue have been digitized years ago and we are still struggling. Especially outside the US we are limited by outdated laws that require physical signatures, a card made out of plastic and a copy of the passport (made at the hotel). And we are not helping ourselves either with different systems that don't talk to each other and many paper based processes in hotels. It's time to challenge this status quo!
Hotel technologies continue to leave chasms when it comes to basics. My biggest frustration is booking online. Most online booking systems require filling in personal details including birthdays, mobile numbers and anniversary dates. Almost all the time I approach the front desk confident that my special instruction of early check-in has been received well by the front desk. And almost all the time I wait for two hours to get the room ready, even when the hotel occupancy is only 70%. This blaring discrepancy begs the question of why basic data doesn't flow to the hotel. Who decides what parts of my data to block? Is it not my data and my privilege to ensure that my stay is as hassle- free as possible?
In -room technology is my second biggest disappointment. As a traveller, I would love a simple way to connect my Netflix and Amazon Prime to the hotel TV. While we are discussing AI adoption in hotel technology forums, we haven't been able to solve the complex technology of pairing guest devices to in-room systems seamlessly . I have stopped using in-room tablets after an eventful stay, where I had to physically pull down the TV from the wall and unplug the power socket, to stop the blaring speakers, just because my tablet controls were literally frozen in my hands !!