With 2020 being a reaction to the coronavirus crisis, 2021 must be a year of putting the guest experience first again. The problem is it’s hard to staff up without recurring revenues already on the books. Moreover, adding technologies can often add to the workload (and a blooming monthly cost) with even more data to cross-reference. The solution is consolidation, and hotels should be on the lookout for all-inclusive platforms that can measure, analyze and help them improve.
While it’s fun to ponder where technology will be five or 10 years into the future, hotels need solutions now – before they have their hands full with onsite guests. This is why we recruited Michael Kessler, CEO of ReviewPro, to elaborate on the current problem and what’s needed right now.
“Travel will definitely come back with a vengeance – first leisure, then small groups, and finally corporate. But it’s going to be unpredictable, and each hotel will have a different recovery shape,” Kessler says. “At the moment, there’s still a limited labor pool in hospitality that can hinder employee recruitment, but more importantly there are huge cost implications with bringing on more full-time staff. Add to that the reputational damage from underservicing incoming guests. All told, the end of the pandemic won’t be a panacea for every hotel unless each organization meets the next normal with next-gen tech.”
Where to start
The overarching goal for consolidating different platforms into one cohesive system is to augment the guest experience while minimizing the workload on hotel teams. But how do you make this a reality?
Think in terms of the entire guest journey, broken down into five broad phases: look, book, pre-stay, in-stay and post-stay. Ideally, you want a platform that touches the guest across each of these five steps while also being:
- Flexible to unknown conditions
- Efficient by saving your team time
- Long-lasting by being able to incorporate future operations
We looked at a few solutions to give you a sense of what is possible. Here are seven features and benefits to show you how all-inclusive platforms can help to manage operations and grow revenues during an erratic recovery period.
Seven Features to Consider
Look: Chatbots alleviating live agents. We’re big believers in the 80/20 rule. In this case, setting up AI-powered tools to handle the majority of basic guest inquiries lets you offload the 80%, which allows your employees to more effectively address the remaining 20% of the more complex questions. This helps with all initial customer inquiries where not delivering an immediate answer can result in an ‘abandoned call’ scenario and the prospect takes their business elsewhere because you didn’t reply fast enough.
Look: Leverage review analytics. Reviews are a primary consideration in the booking evaluation process. As your digital shopfront, it is vital that you encourage a stream of fresh and positive reviews so that your brand appears active and ‘au courant’. The online sentiments then become essential material to analyze the guest experience at your property via a semantic analysis tool. Making data-driven operational and service improvements is the only way toward achieving new levels of efficiency and cost or time savings.
Book: Automated booking engine integrations. The guests of the future will not only be searching for hotels on their phones but booking off them, too. You won’t be able to coordinate all the details unless you have the various texting apps integrated onto one platform. Deploying a chatbot that can comprehend a customer’s messaging language style will enable you to facilitate this emerging, mobile-first behavior as well as make the booking process more convenient.
Pre-stay: Segmented upsell messaging. During our discussion with Kessler, we touched on another prominent theme that will shape the coming decade beyond recovery: optimizing TRevPAR or the total revenue per guest. Given the current need to keep a lean team, technologies are now vital to automate promotions and to ensure a consistent flow of guests to these ancillary revenue streams.
In the period between reservation and arrival, guests tend to forget their exact booking details. Sending out reminders not only reassures them, but also allows you to include some bespoke offers to enhance their stays. As an example, ask guests to make a restaurant reservation because spots are filling up and may not be available by the time they arrive.
In-stay: Surveys for swift service recovery. With so many operational changes and new SOPs as a result of the pandemic, a few staff mishaps are to be expected. Sending out a two-minute questionnaire on the first night, and then analyzing and automating the responses, will help hotels find those guests who are dissatisfied and take corrective action before they leave your property in a less-than-desirable emotional state.
Post-stay: Building your review response tone of voice. With COVID-19 still very much on people’s minds, prospective guests will be sensitive about how your team answers past visitors. This means that you have to respond quickly, compassionately and expressly to what was mentioned in their review. Having an aggregated platform to organize and automate responses allows senior managers to safeguard a brand’s management response strategy as well as ensure full accountability for who on the team should actually respond.
Post-stay: Maintenance issues that are actually addressed. There’s a world of difference between a manager promising to fix a problem after a guest complains in an online review and actually resolving the issue. To move from apology to resolution, hotels need an automated work order system that connects a guest message right through to the responsible department. Moreover, you need case rules in place so that senior managers are notified when an issue goes unresolved beyond a certain time period.
While a travel recovery in the latter half of 2021 is much needed for the hotel industry, it will favor those properties that are ready to meet the heightened expectations of post-pandemic guests. To build revenues for the decade ahead while maintaining a lean team and staying cost-efficient, all hotels need to consider end-to-end platforms that allow managers to do far more with less.
About the Author
Together, Larry and Adam Mogelonsky represent one of the world’s most published writing teams in hospitality, with over a decade’s worth of material online. As the partners of Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited, a Toronto-based consulting practice, Larry focuses on asset management, sales and operations while Adam specializes in hotel technology and marketing. Their experience encompasses properties around the world, both branded and independent, and ranging from luxury and boutique to select-service.