3 Ways the Smartphone is Changing Hotels
Smartphones (and tablets) play a significant role during each stage of the guest experience. Guests use their phones to research and book their hotel rooms online, to navigate the neighborhood surrounding the hotel, and even to write and post online reviews about their stay. One could say that the driving force behind this technological trend is primarily the millennial generation.
Millennials are people who were born between the years 1980 and 2001, most of whom have probably never recalled a time before the existence of the internet, Wi-Fi and cellphones. As millennials are coming into adulthood, they’re gradually overtaking the market majority of business travelers. Their smartphone and customer service demands are now forcing hotels to evaluate and redefine the guest experience, with an emphasis on improving efficiency, increasing connectivity, and allowing for a high level of personalization.
#1 – Improving Efficiency
Because of today’s technology, customer service begins long before the guest even enters a hotel’s premises. Guest satisfaction is enhanced with a streamlined self-service system. Remember, millennials were born never having known life without ATMs and Pay-At-The-Pump gasoline stations. Dealing with actual people is not part of their culture; so, if a well-designed smartphone app can provide what they need, when they want it, without any of the hassle of actually interacting with another person – all the better.
- Hilton worldwide announced that its guests will be able to use their smartphones to choose exactly which room they want in a hotel. An app displaying a digital floor plan and room photos will help guests in their decision. Guests will be able to remotely check-in using their smartphone, and eliminating the need to wait in line, except to get your key, that is. In 2016, Hilton plans on remedying that, enabling guests to use their smartphone as their room key, as well.
- Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide has also announced its own virtual room key for its Starwood app, also allowing guests to bypass the queue at check-in. For customers that still want a more traditional face-to-face customer experience, the option is still available.
#2 – Increasing Connectivity
Millennials have been connecting with others online for their entire lives and so if a hotel doesn’t automatically provide free, fast and reliable Wi-Fi internet everywhere on the premises, it’s not just an inconvenience to a millennial…it’s practically in violation to their way of life. Already, hotels are turning Wi-Fi into a valuable asset, mainly by developing their own proprietary mobile apps. Don’t forget to install plenty of conveniently located electric outlets, too.
- Check out Radisson Blu’s One Touch app, available for both iOS and Android devices. The app allows guests to make reservations and check in online, explore the hotel’s features and amenities, access driving directions and shuttle info, find local running paths, access an area calendar of events, order room service, book reservations at local restaurants, request wake-up calls, late check-out, housekeeping, etc., check out automatically, provide guest feedback and more. The best part? This can all be done without having to talk to a single person.
- For millennials, social media isn’t just a handy way of keeping in touch with their friends. It plays a major role in deciding at which businesses they’re going to spend their money. Millennial guests are using their smartphones to take pictures and videos documenting their hotel stay and they’re posting those on social media sites where millions of people can see it. On the bright side, this is free word-of-mouth advertising. The downside is that it’s a potential PR nightmare! Hotels should have someone monitoring social media, full time, responding to customer reviews, both good and bad.
- It turns out that every 4 in 10 Millennials are interested in co-creating products with brands. Marriot’s Travel Brilliantly is a digital marketing campaign that provides a way for guests to interact with Marriot far beyond just rating and commenting on their hotel stay. The campaign makes guests feel like partners with Marriot, providing information to develop the future of travel innovation. Based on their first ‘winning’ suggestion, Healthy Vending Machines may be the next innovative idea from Marriot!
#3 – More Personalization
Personalization may be one of the most significant factors influencing many millennials’ buying decisions. Most hoteliers believe that guests will expect their stay to be personalized around a set of choices they make before they arrive by the year 2020.
- Nothing can make a guest feel as special as having a 24-hour concierge available at their fingertips. Hyatt’s E-Concierge is exactly that, a 24-hour live Twitter Concierge, where guests may instantly personalize their stay.
- Hotels like Hub By Premier Inn are already using smartphone as remote controls for the television, window blinds, music system, and temperature control, along with instant suggestions on where to go in the area.
Hotels should strive to create an experience that’s personal enough to make guests feel special without being overbearing, or appearing to try too hard. For millennials, it’s a delicate balance best achieved through a technologically streamlined experience.
Is it green?
Hotels that wish to brand themselves as being eco-friendly along with smartphone interactivity, will need to address concerns regarding sustainability. It stands to reason that a well-designed system could be programmed to reduce a hotel’s energy consumption. As an example, the system’s sensors could be programmed to detect when a guest was absent from the room and automatically deactivate the energy-efficient A/C system, television and lights.
What other ways do you think smartphones and tablets will influence the overall guest experience in your hotel? What changes would you like to see the most?