Hospitality is a customer-centric industry. Focusing on the guest experience has always been the top priority for hoteliers. The happier your customers are, the more they are willing to spend, and most likely return to come back. Innovation and the current emerging technologies offer hotels to seize the opportunity to leverage their existing strength and weakness to adapt and enhance their service delivery. Recently, a hotel model concept that has been actively discussed at hospitality networking events and seminars is Smart Hotel.
Not many hotels find themselves willing to transition into one, simply due to the budget and time-consuming. The acceptance phase can also be tricky, resulting from the major shift in culture change and employee etiquette. In return, smart hotel technology guarantees customers satisfaction, guest experience, setting your hotel value apart from the competitors and ultimately increasing profitability. Although the term “smart hotel” familiarizes itself with the hospitality industry, only the minority understand it inside and out. Are smart hotels really the future of hotels? How is the progress of transforming into a smart hotel model? Would the benefits be worth thinking about?
What is a Smart Hotel?
A hotel that utilizes technology into their organization operation, enables it to transform the customer journey from pre-stay to arrival, in-hotel, departure to their post-stay, then repeat. Collecting the customer data throughout the journey to analyze, improve, develop and perfect each journey segment mentioned above. There are hotels already successfully transitioned into smart hotels, making revolutions in their daily hotel operations, and still yearning for more. What is exactly the smart hotel experience in each segment?
Smart Hotel Experience
A normal customer journey generally would be divided into 4 basic the following segments: Pre-stay, Hotel stay, Departure, and Post-stay.
First off, customers would start out the Search phase. They are looking for accommodation for their planned destination based on various factors including but not limited to location, pricing, referrals, and their past experiences. Smart Hotels advertising or posts would have appeared once customers start their search for the hotel destination inspiration. There would be promotion packages and deals personalized to the customers’ criteria, assure to capture the lead once you detect it.
Customers can contact your hotel through the chatbot available on your website, get instant assistance on questions and queries related to bookings or accommodation features. Any unanswered questions can be followed up through emails or direct phone calls, making sure customers do not need to go through multiple sites to get the answers they are looking for. In addition, your customers intentionally ask for your hotel room’s photos and details on the room’s layout. Nothing would explain better than a VR experience of the hotel tour from room to the common area, restaurant to fitness facilities, swimming pool to the spa and lounge. This would prompt your customers to quickly decide and close off on the best-suggested deal from your hotel offers.
The Purchase and before the arrival
Once the guests are ready to make their bookings/reservations, hotels can offer guests to choose the room’s attributes such as views, bed and pillow type, corner or connecting room, non-smoking/smoking room, etc. Guests can choose to log in by using their social accounts, which allows the system to load all their information and auto-fill as required without entering these fields by themselves. The smart hotel experience would enable guests to take their picture at the moment of booking and store this identification photo to use for check-in later on. Payment by cards is easily done by taking a snapshot of the credit/debit cards. The purchase stage is closed by your booking system automatically sending out a verification email once the payment is completed.
Before your guest arrives, a reminder email about the trip should be sent out a few days before the events. With the help of social media, hotels can customize personalized accommodation to fit guests’ stay and upsell packages as needed.
Smart Hotels enables customers to check-in via the mobile app. All the customers’ private information is processed on their mobile devices and highly secured. Guests can check in at the self-service kiosk station available at the hotel property. By scanning guests’ identification such as passport / national ID/driver licenses. Thanks to the OCR technology, the system will automatically check in the guests, and take their pictures at the kiosk station. Depending on the hotel’s, the physical room key card or the electronic key card would be sent to guests’ mobiles. Yes, contactless check-in is possible! Your hotels might not need a physical front desk.
Some hotels have upgraded their game by letting the guests check-in using facial recognition via their hotel camera. Once the guests walk in, facial recognition features are built-in with hotel camera matches with the guests’ identification picture given during their booking process, check-in the guests immediately, and send the check-in completion confirmation to their email. The elevator would give direct access to guests’ designated floor and let them into their room with facial recognition devices or programmed e-cards. All room features such as curtains, lighting, TV, phone, AC temperature can be adjusted via mobile/tablet app or the voiced demand.
Hotels are trying to make their guests feel comfortable and truly relaxing like they are entering their own space. Access to hotel apps to request room services, laundry, and housekeeping, everything is within their fingertips. Robots are in use delivering/collecting foods and collecting/returning to the guests’ room. All appointments regarding restaurants (including buffet status, restaurant busy status), fitness center (full or empty), and spa would be available on the hotel apps at the guest’s convenience. Hotels’ partners such as tour companies, nearby attractions suggest guests with promotional packages through the hotel apps. Everything is taken care of for your guests to enjoy their stays even if it’s in-hotel or outside-of-the-hotel.
It’s finally time for your guests to leave. Queuing in line to check-out is no longer a thing. Everything is done through the hotel apps. Even minibar assumptions can be billed with IoT technology enabling electronic bills sending to guests once they pick up items from the bar. All other services would be billed and added to the check-out invoice. Cashless payment, which we mentioned in our previous blog, can be processed with guests’ mobile devices. The guests walk out with their luggage and the check-out is completed.
Upon their departure, emails should already be sent to customers’ inboxes to share their feedback regarding the stays and ask for their review on our hotel website in return for rewarding points for them to save up in exchange for added value services or room features upgrade for their next stage. Following up emails in a few months offer promotional and value packages for their upcoming stays.
The above are merely the smart hotel experiences following along the customers’ journey. There are many other revolving smart hotels if we follow the hotel operation path: Front office, F&B, Housekeeping, Sales & Marketing, etc. To dive deep into these areas, it would take us another blog dedicated to these only. If you are interested, drop us a comment down below, we shall get that coming. The smart hotels model has been applied worldwide; surprisingly, it is quickly adopted in mainland China and attracts the young generations who come to visit on their weekend break pretty often.
What to start with transitioning into a Smart Hotel?
The most important factor for hotels in considering transitioning into smart hotel models is to find their ideal hotel management system which helps them to achieve their goal as they grow. We would not boast about our PMS if it is not what we believe is your first kick-start in this journey. Our hospitality management solution does not aim to be the ordinary PMS, we strive for digital transformation in everything we do.
Is it worth it?
Customers are your indicator. It’s the future we get you ready for, not just catching the current trend but also setting the industry. Transition into a smart hotel model is only worth it if you can follow through, and not doing it halfway. Otherwise, it only costs you more than the benefits it brings.
Looking for a private consultation on our PMS and discover what your hotel can become? Please do not hesitate to contact our support team! Or you can read all the details on our PMS at the blog section and our Facebook page for the latest news and events.