After using AI to analyze travel reviews, the Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles discovered guests want to customize their breakfast, so they did away with the breakfast menu altogether and, now, allow guests to order precisely what they want every morning. Giving the customer more input and capabilities like the Beverly Hills Hotel is a top trend in restaurants, right now. Deloitte reports that 40% of customers prefer to order online, 50% who pay by phone would like to pay via app, and, by and large, customers want to be able to customize their orders. Our industry talks a lot about engaging guests and personalization, but these new levels of flexibility and customization are fundamentally about empowering customers.
To empower a guest is more than the notion of giving them total control. Empowering guests is to entrust them with the parts of their experience they can control. It is two-fold. Empowerment requires, first, offering choices where choices can be made available, and, second, giving guests the tools to make those choices where, when, and how they want. “Empower Me” is among the five guest needs Deloitte has identified as the foundation for an excellent next-generation guest experience. They say, “Next-generation guests require flexibility, and access that lets them shape their own experiences when and how they want to… on property it comes through engagement with relevant information, tools, and opportunities to help tailor the guest’s unique needs and opportunities in the moment.” Let’s break this down into the essential components: information, tools, opportunities, and in the moment. I’m going to enhance these terms a bit.
Remember when guests searched a website, made a booking, and after that, they dealt with whatever print information was available in the guestroom. Such a short time ago, really. But it’s not enough for the next-gen traveler. Guests want to know what’s available in greater detail than ever, on property and off. With big data, hotels can get a clearer picture of how to tailor that information for guests so that they aren’t receiving irrelevant or overwhelming amounts of details. More than ever, guests need flexible, on-the-go access to that information, be it hotel details, concierge services, map views, or packages and offers. Hotels must cover all the bases. A relatively static website only serves a short-term, pre-stay purpose, and even then, only part of the time. Guests are working off their mobile phones as well as their own tablets, sometimes the in-room tablet, and require easily navigable apps they can click to go directly to what they want. At a certain point in the guest journey, they don’t want to fuss with search engines and URLs anymore, nor should they need to.
Integrative, Interactive Tools
Tools are the highest degree of empowerment resides. Hotel tools that appeal to next-gen travelers should be interactive, allowing for rich communication and a high degree of engagement. Information is about figuring things out; tools are for making things happen. For instance, two-way chat should enable all manner of guest communication, from basic questions to housekeeping requests. A Comm100 report showed that travel ranks high, third among industries, receiving chat requests from mobile devices, with its close cousin recreation ranking the highest. As more hotels embrace two-way chat, more travelers will use it to empower their stay. The benefit most hotels find is in increased responsiveness to guests. Kerry Sholly of the Four Seasons notes, “Instant messaging keeps unhappy guests away from more public social-media outlets such as Twitter or Facebook, giving a hotel the opportunity to deal with an issue privately” (Washington Post).
Another example: allowing guests to order via app with customizable menus, from anywhere on property without having to find staff or dial a number. Proximity location tools empower guests to order immediately when they’re ready from the lobby, the pool, the business center, and so forth. Total flexibility.
Giving travelers proactive opportunities to engage means serving them personalized messages and capitalizing on the moment of inspiration. Personalized push notifications allow hotels to create moments of connection that lead to ancillary revenue. Consider a family staying at a beloved resort. The mother has come before to visit the spa for a weekend, but this time the children are in tow. A morning message arrives: Let us take care of the kids in our afternoon camp for children. We’ll book your massage for the same time. Suddenly the experience was tailored to her stay and just got a whole lot more rewarding.
In the Moment
Empowering guests is very much about making your property and its tools available at any moment, which means on whatever device for whatever purpose. It’s little surprise that millennials, the Now Generation, rate the importance of empowerment approximately 20 times higher than those age 55-70 (Deloitte). Millennials’ desire for “everything now” stems not so much from entitlement as the fact that these tech-savvy, digital natives know it’s possible, so why not?
On-the-go information + integrative, interactive tools + proactive opportunities + in the moment = empowered travelers. These are intersecting functionalities—information and opportunities are delivered via interactive tools, which allow communication in the moment. What binds them all and makes them powerful are the tools at a hotel’s disposal for delivery. While we’re focused on the guest here, it’s worth noting that the service industry reaps the rewards when guests are empowered. Service levels are higher, response times are shorter, reviews are more positive, and guest spend increases. Deloitte’s restaurant report showed that when technology is used to place an order, frequency of visit increases 6% and average spend per visit increases 20%. Mobile tools, once touted for their ability to be monetized, are more about giving guests access to more of what they want when they want it—this is what leads to revenue.
About the Author
LinkedIn profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/david-millili/
Seasoned business leader, David Millili, is the CEO of Runtriz™, a leading developer of innovative mobile software solutions for hotels, resorts, and casinos. He has more than 25 years of experience in the hospitality industry with practical experience in all aspects of hotel operations and management. As the GM of two iconic New York City Times Square hotels, his experience ranges from managing pre-opening operations to spearheading multi-million budgets. As co-founder of Timeless Hospitality, Millili was directly responsible for the successful launch of a startup company that generated impressive profits within six months of launch. Timeless Hospitality provided hotels with internet reservations, marketing, and management products and was one of the first e-commerce platforms developed for the exclusive purpose of generating web reservations for independent hotels.
David Millili served as the chief executive officer and board member of Pegasus Solutions, a global leader in providing technology and services to hotels and travel distributors. In this position, he was responsible for the company’s global operations, technology and shared services as well as the company’s reservation and distribution service lines. Millili assisted in the sale of all three business units. Millili also founded and led Open Hospitality to become a recognized industry leader in providing innovative hotel internet marketing services including web design, development, and hosting, mobile platforms, online search, and marketing. Open was sold to Pegasus in October 2011. He currently sits on a number of boards and as a former hotel general manager, he has valuable experience in all aspects of hotel operations and management.
Runtriz delivers magic moments utilizing an open guest service platform that enables guest service amplification. We strive to enhance both the staff and guest service experience to optimize their time. With over 2000 hotels in 120 countries covering 50 + languages, Runtriz has the knowledge and experience to support your hotels’ digital and guest engagement goals. We help our partners increase guest service results be delivering what today’s guests want. To learn more visit Runtriz.com