Before 2020, the trend toward the contactless guest experience was already steadily gaining traction and influencing standard hotel operations. When two-thirds of travelers said they want to use their smartphone as their guest room key, the hospitality industry responded with greater investment in contactless technology. Over the past several years, major hotel operators added some of these contactless features into their VIP guest offerings. And smaller, independent hoteliers were introducing contactless technology to favorable reviews from guests and with beneficial results for their bottom line.
Now, however, this hotel industry trend has fully arrived – or at least guests’ expectations for it has. With AHLA guidelines and safety standards listing contactless technology as a key component of safe hotel operations, it’s no surprise 70% of hotels indicate they already are or are planning to adopt this technology. And consumers agree with this move, citing contactless credit card payments (35%), digital room keys (26%), and digital messaging services (20%) as the top three services that would make them feel more comfortable staying in a hotel. For those who were not early adopters of contactless hotel systems, this year is the time to launch.
In terms of hotel management, incorporating contactless technology and services necessarily reshapes hotel operations. Whether its mobile check-in and digital keys altering the role of the front desk or physical distancing requirements altering the ways of working and duty of care for all employees – the contactless guest experience presents significant operational shifts. But for innovative hoteliers, this experience also presents a unique opportunity to embrace a different operating model. One that can provide business advantages now and into the future.
Here is a look at some of the changes a contact-free experience brings to your hotel operations, and 8 ideas for leveraging them for immediate and continuous service improvement that benefits your guests, staff, and your business.
1. Mobile check-in, check-out and digital keys
As one of the first touchpoints and a ready avenue to boost consumer confidence in your hotel’s strategy for health and safety, contactless check-in and digital keys are the cornerstone of a convenient, modern guest experience. As they skip the front desk and go straight to their hotel room, guests begin their stay in a way that leaves them feeling cared for.
Hotel operations opportunity: With the easy scheduling of automated check-in notifications and digital key activation and expiration, hotels can opt to stagger check-in and check-out times. And guest choice in arrival time adds a personalized touch as well as safety benefits. Not only can this help modulate traffic flow in public spaces like the lobby and elevators, but also it can support staggered staff scheduling. Teams like housekeeping don’t need to begin their shifts at the same time, reducing the challenges of physical distancing in employee spaces like locker rooms and break rooms.
2. Automated guest assistance
Whether your guests leverage the informative FAQs on your hotel’s mobile app, the intuitive help desk chatbots, or your online food ordering system, you can answer many of your guests’ questions and meet their needs without social contact.
Hotel operations opportunity: When much of your basic guest assistance is automated, your hotel staff can redirect their efforts to the enhanced cleaning of public space and high-touch surfaces that are now the baseline for hotel safety. Furthermore, the teams whose loads have been lightened by a contactless mobile platform can spend more time on employee and business development, like cross-training, upskilling, and incorporating your hotel’s “downtime” projects into their day-to-day. A diversely trained staff that can wear many hats is an asset now more than ever.
3. Mobile concierge
The personal touch of hotel concierge services is preserved – rather than displaced – when it goes mobile. Guests can access your property information, in-the-know local recommendations, book your services, and use two-way chat from your mobile app or concierge platform.
Hotel operations opportunity: Mobile concierge technology allows you to digitize the knowledge and expertise of your concierge staff. This ensures this valuable information is archived, systematically improved, and won’t be lost with staff turnover.
In addition, this technology makes it easy for concierge staff to provide a new version of a classic service: acting as a guide to the current reservation-only restaurant culture. As restaurants limit their capacity and curtail or eliminate walk-in table service, your mobile concierge can inform guests of their options (on-premise and off) and facilitate reservations. Some hotels even work with local restaurant partners to set aside a block of tables as a standing reservation for the inevitable guest who didn’t know to make advanced plans.
4. The mobile phone does it all
There doesn’t seem to be a limit to what hotel guests can do on their mobile device with contactless technologies – open their hotel room door, order food and room service, adjust the thermostat, even act as the TV remote control. These are features guests have already come to know in their homes, so they are a welcome addition to their hotel experience.
Hotel operations opportunity: The smartphone as the all-in-one tool can also extend to the way your staff works. Staff can leverage digital cleaning checklists, access your food and beverage platform or property management system, and respond to two-way chat with guests – all on their personal devices. And when hotel staff use their personal mobile devices instead of shared, high touch work stations, adhering to cleaning and physical distancing requirements is easier, while still providing superior customer service.
5. Contactless technology UI as the primary guest interaction
When the guest experience goes contactless, the user interface of your app or mobile platform is paramount. An intuitive, personalized, and on-brand user interface is essential for providing seamless service.
Hotel operations opportunity: The quality of your guests’ user experience with your contactless technology may seem like it’s primarily the purview of your app designer. But that is not the case. No matter how tech-savvy your hotel guests are, user issues are bound to come up. For this reason, it’s important to train all your staff to troubleshoot. What’s more, encouraging your staff to familiarize themselves with the guest-side of this technology can help them provide valuable insights for design or content improvement.
6. Guest self-service and the self-guided hotel experience
These days, empowering hotel guests to make the most of your property and their stay calls for a self-directed approach. Hotels are supporting this by providing easy access to all the information guests need when they need it, both physically and digitally.
Hotel operations opportunity: Whether you are updating the physical signage that helps guests navigate public space or using digital alternatives to provide relevant real time information, your marketing or PR teams are your best asset. You can leverage their skills and knowledge of your guests to determine the best ways and words to communicate the expectations of the new normal, as well as promote guest self-service options that drive additional revenue.
7. Spotlight on staff health and safety
One of the premises behind the current demand for contactless guest services is the promise of a safe hotel stay. So now more than ever, consumer confidence is influenced by the priority a hotel places on the health and safety of its staff.
Hotel operations opportunity: For a hotel’s general manager, ensuring staff safety in the current environment has multiple components. On a basic level, it includes navigating supply chain issues to provide necessary personal protective equipment and sufficient hygiene supplies. It can also include supporting employees with enhanced de-escalation training to help staff expertly and confidently handle any guests who balk at new safety protocols and mandates.
And for many hotels, prioritizing staff safety also entails adopting a technology strategy for remote-first management. This means daily stand-ups, team meetings, training, performance reviews, and interdepartmental communication are, as much as possible, remote-first. To achieve this, hotels are using technology solutions like team chat platforms, webinars, and mobile bulletin boards to promote employee physical distancing while improving operational efficiency.
8. Rebooted standard operating procedures
As contactless services evolve to meet guest needs and expectations, hotel standard operating procedures also evolve to work synergistically with the technology. Guests look forward to safe and increasingly high tech experiences that inspire trust and consumer loyalty.
Hotel operations opportunity: Embracing the contactless guest experience is, for many in the hospitality sector, a digital transformation. And like any business that adopts new technology, it comes with operational change and calls for new metrics and tracking methods. Activities like completing enhanced, digital room cleaning checklists, documenting in-person interactions for purposes of contact tracing, filling mobile concierge requests, responding to guest chat inquiries – these and more will change the definition and means of evaluating operational efficiency.
But the key to a superior guest experience and continuous improvement is identifying these metrics and tracking them over time – something the best contactless hotel technology builds into your experience.
Ready to take the first step in your hotel’s contactless guest experience? OpenKey, the industry leader in digital key solutions, is here to help. Schedule a demo today and see the benefits for your hotel operations firsthand.