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As the world and the hotel industry start to see the first green shoots of recovery from the COVID lockdowns, there is no shortage of new technologies emerging to try to address the new realities. As I sat down to write this week’s column, I found a list of more than 30 new or significantly modified products that had hit my radar I the past few weeks, all of them innovations somehow related to COVID.

The availability of NFC contactless payment (Restaurant POS, Front Desk, Kiosk), and NFC contactless access control (guest room doors, parking garages, elevators, meeting rooms, gyms, spas, front doors etc.) in hotels to reduce the need to touch shared surfaces that allow the transmission of coronavirus is both an urgent need, and an intelligent response, to one of the most significant issues that the hospitality industry has ever faced: coronavirus transmission and COVID-19 . Importantly also, NFC contactless, if widely implemented, would demonstrate that the hospitality industry has the well-being of its guests and employees front of mind once hotels start to emerge from lock-down. 

As millions across America practice social distancing, hotels and Convention and Visitor Bureaus (CVBs) are faced with the overall challenge of supporting their community and planning for the post-COVID-19 rebound. In addition to working directly with meeting planners, CVBs often report and forecast tourism for the entire community. CVBs play an integral role in the education and knowledge of upcoming events and trends in their community.

Shine is that light within you. It motivates us and it brightens our path. When we are down, afraid or experiencing unknown territory, it is what you say to yourself (your beliefs and thoughts) that determines if your light will stay bright or fade. 

Amid the global COVID-19 pandemic, Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals (HFTP) announced last Wednesday during a press conference to industry media that the organization will consolidate its three major annual events to one location over a four-day period in October, and will call it, “The Best of HFTP.” 

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Guest Engagement Tools Are Changing the Customer Experience

by Brendon Granger

The way hotels communicate with guests has changed radically in the past few years. Not so long ago, phone calls and face-to-face conversations represented the standard form of engagement.

Today, it’s a different story.

Guests are now turning to mobile as their primary form of communication. To remain relevant and deliver exceptional service, hotels are now connecting with guests through messaging apps, email, SMS and social media channels.

But with an increasing number of channels available to guests, hotel staff are faced with the time-consuming task of monitoring them all at once. Adding to this challenge, internal systems are often fragmented, greatly slowing down the speed at which information gets shared between departments.

This need to connect with a mobile-reliant traveler and increase efficiency between teams has spawned a new era of guest engagement tools. Today, platforms like Monscierge, Alice and offer ways to bring guest and staff communication into a single system, with the potential to deliver a whole new level of customer service. (Guest Messaging is the New Normal provides information about other hospitality engagement providers.)

Personalized Experience
One of the biggest benefits of messaging tools is their ability to help personalize guest experience. Following a booking, a hotel can contact a guest via the platform they’re most engaged with to ask for pre-stay details and preferences. Last year, lifestyle hotel group Commune Hotels + Resorts began a trial using CheckMate - a multichannel mobile communication tool that enables guests and hotels to engage through text messaging and email.

During a four-month pilot program, 75 percent of guests gave their mobile number and opted in to be contacted via SMS. This high level of engagement has allowed Commune to gain invaluable information from customers to personalize their stay. Platforms such as CheckMate also provide spending history and personal preferences, all of which can be collated from past stays at multiple properties within the hotel’s own group. If a guest previously asked for extra pillows, in-room dining, or routinely prefers staying on the ground floor, these needs can be accommodated ahead of time.

A Slick Service
Constantly monitoring requests over multiple channels isn’t just time-consuming. When internal systems are fragmented, it’s inevitable that guest requests will sometimes slip through the net. But with a single tool in place, there’s far less chance of this happening.

If a guest makes a request over the phone, SMS or any other digital channel, a member of staff can log this and instantly message another department or individual to make sure it’s dealt with quickly.

When a new staff member starts his shift, he can review all conversations in one place. As well as instantly getting up to speed on any issues. This eliminates forgotten messages or messages that are not passed along.

Improved Service Recovery
In the digital age, hotels need to manage their reputations like never before. Today, a dissatisfied customer can post a disgruntled comment on Facebook or Twitter in seconds. TripAdvisor’s influence also means that positive reviews are becoming intertwined with booking revenue and profit margins.

These engagement tools provide guests with a hassle-free way of problem resolution as they happen. Whether it’s a faulty light bulb or a raucous party next door keeping them awake, a quick message can be sent to alert hotel staff.

Through real-time engagement, issues can then be swiftly handled before they escalate into major complaints. Even if they can’t be resolved in the moment, acknowledging the problem and offering a quick solution can make all the difference to a customer’s overall perception of service quality.

New Revenue Streams
During the guest stay, selling additional amenities and services is often restricted to sales literature in rooms, digital media displays in the lobby, and fleeting interactions with the front desk team.

But engagement tools allow hotels to promote extras without the limitations. And, these messages can be highly targeted. If a customer expresses an interest in the spa before heading out for the morning, a message could be sent later that day promoting the most popular treatments with a 10 percent discount. Used tactically and at the right time, this form of personal interaction offers upsell opportunities and helps to maximize the overall value of every booking.

As mobile plays an increasingly dominant role in the travel journey, hotels must find ways to connect with customers through the digital channels they most frequently use. A new generation of communication tools now offers a way to streamline this process and interact with customers like never before.

With the ability to deliver more personalized experiences, respond to service issues in real-time, and offer an easy way for customers to make requests, hotels can build rapport, strengthen relationships and offer the kind of outstanding service that leads to long-term loyalty.

About The Author
Brendon Granger

With a great passion for all things hotels, but in particular technology and a desire to help others, his role as director at Technology4Hotels allows him to do both.

Brendon has worked with hundreds of hotels to help them with their in-room technology. In the last few years he has helped them to increase guest satisfaction, strengthen guest loyalty and encourage repeat bookings as well as win awards such as the best business hotel, best city hotel, best upscale hotel and best luxury hotel in Australasia.

Always going the extra mile, Brendon began his hospitality career over 25 years ago working in five-star hotels whilst completing his bachelor of business in hotel management. He has held various management positions within five-star hotels, worked as a consultant in both hotel feasibility and technology and has an extensive background in hotel technology.

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