In the hospitality industry, providing outstanding customer service has always been a key success factor for any establishment, whether that be a global hotel chain or a local B&B. This involves understanding your customer, their expectations and their needs. The ideal customer service experience is provided through the delivery of a seamless, personalised service, exactly when the customer is expecting it; in some cases, even before they thought they need it.
Marriott International, Hilton Group and Starwood’s Hotel and Resorts are just some of the global hotel chains adopting new technologies to drive customer satisfaction; as well as improve business efficiencies. In recent years, the most significant factor driving the need to adopt new technologies is a shift in demographics.
By 2020, Millennials are projected to spend $4.1 trillion annually, becoming the largest segment of consumers with disposable income. With 52 percent of Millennials ranking far above average for technology adoption, companies in the hospitality industry are at risk of falling behind customer expectations.
Added to the expectations and changing behaviour of customers, the hospitality industry stands to benefit from the adoption of technology for engaging employees and improving operational efficiencies.
Improving customer satisfaction
Pre-empting customer needs, through understanding customer behaviour, is key to providing impeccable customer service and ensuring repeat and loyal custom.
Mobile alone isn’t going to fix a business that doesn’t have good customer service. It’s important that companies take a holistic view, to look at the entire user journey from start to finish, in order to identify where improvements can be made. Within this, it will become evident where the mobile touchpoints are or where insight would help.
The Internet of Things and beacon technology, in addition to an intelligent backend, may help companies to understand more about their buildings or assets, to deliver new services.
If we look at luxury cars today, many feature the ability to alter the environment based on who opens the driving door. The car will adjust the seats, automatically alter multimedia settings, temperature settings and other conditions, based on the driver, to deliver the ultimate in personalised experience. The hospitality sector can leverage this type of approach by having smart heating systems and multimedia technology to tailor rooms based on the guest and what they have set in the past.
An example of this comes from Samsung’s LYNK Hospitality Management Solution (HMS), which provides a robust tool for automating guest rooms, controlled via in-room smart TVs. The system combines intelligent room management, energy management, in-room controls and content management services in one user-friendly platform. This ensures that the the system can optimise each room for energy efficiency, while also providing convenient entertainment options for guests, enhancing their overall experience.
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In order to make the check-in process as seamless as possible, Starwood Hotels and more recently, the Hilton Group, announced plans to introduce ‘Digital Keys’ that are automatically sent to guests, once their room is ready, before they check-in.
Using location aware technology such as beacons, companies can eliminate the check in process altogether, detecting when a guest has entered the hotel, enabling automatic check-in. By implementing this approach, hotel chains are able to provide customers with a quicker alternative, as well as having the ability to reduce front office personnel.
Improving business efficiencies
Maintaining and reducing operational costs, whilst being environmentally conscious has always been a focus for the hospitality industry. With often large properties to manage, ensuring that assets are managed properly and efficiently, could save companies millions in costs.
By implementing smart sensors, hotel companies are able to more effectively manage energy usage and assets. For example, sensors can be used in guest rooms to measure natural light and therefore dim artificial lighting. Sensors can also be used to automatically notify maintenance when assets show distress.
Incorporating such IoT devices in guest rooms can save money by identifying maintenance issues before they become costly problems. For example, an overflowing bathtub and a burst water pipe can cause serious damage to the floor and ceiling, as well as render the room completely uninhabitable until the problem is fixed. By addressing maintenance issues early, the issue can be addressed promptly by maintenance staff, and the room will be available for guests with little, if any, delay.
Incorporating IoT and smart sensors as part of your operations will deliver business intelligence that can help to cut costs and improve customer service. However, with IoT still in its relative infancy, adequate security protocols have yet to be established. This means that devices are vulnerable to hackers until suitable measures can be implemented. Hospitality has the potential to be one of the early adopters of the Internet of Things, as it is already an industry that works closely with both people and technology. Through a closer understanding of your assets, operations and your customers, IoT provides access to analytics and a level of control to a hospitality environment, which was not available before.