Any individual who has stayed at a hotel recently can attest that technology has become ubiquitous at every stage of the guest journey. From the booking process to check-in to guest room controls to the post-stay follow-up, guest services are supported by technology through and through. This evolution has been progressing over the last decade but was significantly accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic which called for contactless processes. Once implemented, these automations were here to stay.
In 2020, when the lockdown just began, HFTP published a white paper, “Will Guests Say ‘I Do’ Again?” summarizing how hotel guests rated guest-facing technology in hotels, and how such experience impacted their overall stay satisfaction and re-booking intentions with our hotels. And now as the pandemic is officially ended, we once again surveyed hotel guests to assess how the pandemic has had an impact on the perception of technology usage among hotel guests. Earlier this Summer, the blog “A Homerun: Research Shows Hotel Guest Sentiments on Technology Have Improved Over Time” was published summarizing the results of this study. Now the full report is available for review.
We have assuredly become more adaptable and technologically savvy during the pandemic. Hotel guests are more confident that they can learn technology-related skills. And the difference between the pre- and post-COVID scores were demonstrated to be statistically significant, indicating that these changes in sentiments are real and not likely due to chance. Based on these results, we have devised recommended tactics to be adopted from the standpoint of our associates and vendors to increase our guests’ satisfaction, spending and rebooking intentions.
Technology and Our Guests: ECR = Enroll, Cultivate and Reward
It is a well-known fact that it is more effective to retain an existing guest than to acquire a new one. Thus, hotels should capitalize on using technology to Enroll, Cultivate and Reward our guests, especially those who are loyal to our brand. If we have loyalty programs, why are guests not enrolled? Make this simple for the guests.
After enrollment, let’s cultivate. Before the guests even step foot in our lobby, start that loyalty effort to cultivate them. We have to let our guests know they are important to us at every step of the way. That’s cultivation. Once guests stay with us, if we do not utilize every opportunity throughout the stay to “wow” our guests, they have many options to select another hotel brand.
Obviously being loyal guests deserve rewards. From a free bottle of water to options to earn points, remind the guests of all the rewards they will receive throughout their stay.
Technology and Our Associates: ACT = Acknowledge, Celebrate and Train
When it comes to our associates, ACT is the key. ACT stands for Acknowledge, Celebrate and Train. Management should acknowledge the good work our staff has accomplished over the past few years — acknowledge them, celebrate their success, big and small, and keep up with focused technology training.
Technology and Our Vendors: PAL = Partner, Anticipate and Learn
Vendors really are our PALs. It is their job to look out for us to see if there is a new technology that we can benefit from. PAL, in this instance, stands for Partner, Anticipate and Learn. Vendors are our partners, so we should treat each other as such, and vendors should also treat hotels as their partners, not just customers.
Anticipation is another must. Vendors need to anticipate the needs of hotels to design technology that is guest- and employee-friendly, while simultaneously accomplishing the needed tasks. By the way, that learning never ends, as vendors can develop and design new and better technologies by learning the needs of both guests and hotels.
To get the complete picture on guests’ sentiments towards technology use, read the full report, “How the Pandemic Gave a Boost to Guests’ Hotel Technology Usage, Satisfaction and Spending.”
Agnes DeFranco, Ed.D., CHAE, CHE, CHIA, CAHTA is a professor and the Conrad N. Hilton Distinguished Chair, and Minwoo Lee, Ph.D., CHIA, CHE is an assistant professor, at the Conrad N. Hilton College of Global Hospitality Management, University of Houston. Jihye Min, Ph.D., CHIA, CAHTA is an assistant professor at the College of Merchandising, Hospitality and Tourism, University of North Texas in Denton, Texas.