How the world’s best hotels are digitizing their guest experience.

It’s easy to say that digitisation is the way forward for the hospitality industry, but the question is, how do you go about it? There are many different approaches and options. It can be hard to know where to start. One way is to look at what some of the more successful hotels across the world have been doing.

Some have been leaping into cutting edge technology. At the Cosmopolitan Inn in Las Vegas, customers just need to text a robot named Rose, and she will leap into action. At over 5,000 Marriott hotels, chat bots now help guests with requirements such as reservation changes. Some caution is probably required here. While these value additions can certainly provide the ‘wow’ factor, it’s important to note that such technology is in its infancy. The risk of adding to customer frustration – instead of reducing it – remains high.

Others have focused on hardware. Eccleston Square Pimlico, a very traditional London hotel, has a 19th century exterior, but provides iPads with interactive screens in every room. City Hub, Amsterdam provides 50 minimalist pods containing double beds, with Wi-Fi, streaming services and mood lighting, all controlled by a special wristband provided to guests on arrival. It can even be used to order a beer. These things visibly signal ‘high tech’ but they can be expensive. Nevertheless, it can be worth it. The perceived value of your property, and therefore your room rates, will definitely be higher. It should be noted that City Hub operates at the low end of the spectrum, somewhere between a hostel and a hotel. But it has used technology to generate customer delight, and the reviews have been brilliant.

Perhaps the most important focus area is customer data. This is where AirBnB is worth studying. Even if your business model is completely different, there is much to learn from AirBnB. While we will dwell on them in detail in future articles, a key contribution to their success has clearly been the consumer insights they gain from effective capture and analysis of data. For example, very early on, they discovered that they were losing guest bookings because of delayed responses from hosts. This led them to focus on automating, and continuously improving, what was earlier a very tedious part of the process.

Another area where digitisation has been adopted quickly is at the front end. Historically, guests have always wanted quick and easy access to their room on arrival. A recent study by eHotelier reveals that 70% of guests now want to use their phone to speed up check-in. For most leading hotels, facilitating this has now almost become a hygiene factor. For example, worldwide, Ritz Carlton now uses mobile software to help guests make and edit reservations, initiate service requests, and view and track billing during their stay. Customers across product categories now expect faster more convenient delivery of goods and services. The expectations from hospitality will be no different. The difference is that hospitality is and always will be a people business. What technology can do is free up staff from mundane operational chores, so that they focus more sharply on their key goal – using the human touch to create enduring customer delight.

In conclusion, there are obviously many ways to start using technology in your hotel, most of which will help your team to better serve your guests. We hope this article was helpful. In case you need more help or advice, please do get in touch.