The Arrival Experience

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October 29, 2018
Guest Experience
Mark Hoare
MarkHaley

Regular travelers are increasingly exposed to a broad array of mobile accessible features and functions associated with flights, ground transportation and hotel stays. However, the adoption and ongoing use of these is directly related to the convenience they afford us and their usability respectively.

“Keep it simple” is often a mantra that resonates with software developers and software product managers alike but, as each will tell you, keeping it simple is perhaps the most difficult aspect of delivering any guest-facing mobile service. Within a very short time of embarking on guest-facing technology initiatives, the desire to add more and more features to the mobile experience often overtakes the core relevance, convenience and usability design criteria agreed at the outset. This is evident in hotel mobile experiences that offer far too many capabilities rather than doing the top five functions exceptionally well.
 
One of the top functions to do exceptionally well, alongside the booking experience, centers on the guest’s arrival experience. How hard can it be to deliver a relevant, flexible, convenient and usable experience to our guest in support of their overall arrival experience? Well, it’s hard. Very hard. 
 
Putting our hotelier hats on, and to provide an insight into some of the technical challenges and important decision-points we need to identify and address, we’ll use a hypothetical example of a small hotel brand looking to modernize its guest arrival experience by tailoring the check-in process to align with the desire and preference of the guest. Effectively, satisfying the guest on their terms and ensuring a personalized and efficient arrival.
 
To fulfill this, the hotel brand has decided to provide its residential guests with an elevated arrival experience founded on the ability to enjoy self-checkin and other arrival and departure related functions from their mobile devices, and from lobby self-service stations. Further, a curbside check-in service is also envisaged in support of an expedited check-in.



Technical Considerations
Methods 1, 3 and 4 can generally be handled by the capabilities of most mainstream hotel PMS products.
 
However, 2 and 5 are not typically provided by these PMS vendors and necessitates seeking out a technology partner that can integrate with the PMS, and other involved systems (which we will overview later).
 
To assist the search for a suitable technology partner with which to augment the capabilities of the PMS, several key tenets were drawn up by the brand to use as a guiding framework.
 
  • Risk avoidance via the maturity of product solutions and company’s standing in the space
  • Minimal technical footprint via a predominantly cloud/SaaS delivery model
  • Strength of existing current customer base and production deployments
  • Existing production connections to the brand’s property management systems (PMS),
  • key systems (ACS), credit card systems (CCS) and guest service response systems (GSR)
  • Available software developer’s kit (SDK) for mobile app integration
  • Digital key capability
  • Full pod/kiosk offering (with special key pick-up only terminals)
  • Minimal manual (staff impacting) workarounds

Given all the above feature/functions and tenets we would suggest the following integration as optimal, covering all five nominated guest arrival experience touch-points the brand is aiming for.
 
The most important consideration for this type of deployment is that all underlying systems are
integrated and operating in real-time. The green items in the diagram represent the needed components to incorporate the mobile and kiosk touchpoints. This leaves the brand being responsible
for embedding
 
The most important consideration for this type of deployment is that all underlying systems are integrated and operating in real-time. The green items in the diagram represent the needed components to incorporate the mobile and kiosk touchpoints. This leaves the brand being responsible for embedding the arrival experience (and presumably departure experience) functions into their branded app using the partner’s SDK-API.



The most important consideration for this type of deployment is that all underlying systems are integrated and operating in real-time. The green items in the diagram represent the needed components to incorporate the mobile and kiosk touchpoints. This leaves the brand being responsible for embedding the arrival experience (and presumably departure experience) functions into their branded app using the partner’s SDK-API.

Solution Providers
Sourcing a partner to work with an implementation as described above, and other subtle variations, is much less challenging that it was several years ago, with a healthy collection of production proven candidates to review and evaluate. These solution provider candidates fall into two primary categories: those that can act as a strategic partner offering much if not all requirements; to those that can act as a tactical partner where the brand may already have one or more of the components they offer.
 
A cautionary note regarding selection of tactical solution providers. While is may be possible to cherry-pick one partner to enable just the mobile key solution, and another to enable your lobby kiosk solution you will be increasing the complexity and footprint of overall technologies and also introducing the risk of a less than seamless experience for the guest, where incompatibilities between the two partners cannot be overcome.
 
In Summary
Always put the guest’s desires and preferences first when deciding upon any investment in guest-facing technologies. Keep it simple, and bear in mind the need for a simple, intuitive user interface on the app to ensure a great guest arrival experience.
 
Careful identify the top five feature/functions your brand’s guest wants and do them exceptionally well, rather than offering 30 unexceptional feature/functions.
 
All guests may not yet be millennial in their adoption of full self-service options, accordingly, the expectation that you can, for example, simply install a lobby furnished with self-serve kiosks to overcome the challenges of check-in queues at the front desk is somewhat flawed: The lines don’t go away. They just get moved somewhere else.
 
Initiatives like this are all about providing a variety of options for your guest to choose from, each resulting in the same: personalized, efficient, consistent arrival and departure experience, all delivered on their terms and according to their preferences.

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