Is Self-Service the New Guest Experience?

The hotel guest experience traditionally relies on exceptional staff services. From the front desk, concierge, room service, and amenities throughout the hotel, services were requested by guests and fulfilled by individuals. This type of guest experience was based on human touch – and it delighted guests. Hospitality is defined by these relationship-based interactions.

But the guest experience is evolving. Now, the technology that is instrumental in our everyday lives is changing what hotel guests want and what a positive guest experience looks like. And 2020 accelerated this change – not just in hospitality, but across industries. Consider how many people tried curbside grocery pickup for the first time this year. Market analysts predict that 35-45% of consumers will continue using those services in the future. 

This year has given many people a taste of the on-demand and online versions of numerous products and services. And, it turns out, consumers enjoy being able to control when and how they engage with services and being able to do so at their own pace. It’s simply what we’ve come to expect.

Naturally, this expectation extends to travel and hospitality as well. From buying plane tickets and choosing our own seat, to booking our hotel rooms, to ordering rides and meals on apps, to asking chatbots basic customer service questions: self-service is now the norm.

Self-service by the numbers

In the hospitality industry, there is a growing suite of hotel technologies that make these self-service offerings possible. This hotel tech has been gaining traction for years, but it has really come to the forefront in our new normal. In late 2020, a Metova survey found 90% of people would prefer to stay in a hotel that allows them to manage their stay with a mobile app. The same survey also found that 82% of respondents believe that the shifts in 2020 will create changes to the on-premise lodging experience that will last well into the future.   

And hoteliers are listening. In response to these lasting shifts in the industry, 85% of hospitality brands will implement self-service technologies in 2021, according to an IDC survey in late 2020. 

But if self-service is the new guest experience, how do hotels still delight guests with the high-touch experiences and relationships that define hospitality?

Let your guests guide you to the experience they want

Tech touch – or when customers interact with your hotel through technology instead of a staff member (human touch) – requires a shift in how you deliver customer service to your guests. Optimizing tech touch is the key to enabling guest self-service, which is fundamentally about giving control and choice to your guests. Through your self-service options, your guests will let you know what they are looking for in their guest experience. 

The reality is that guest preferences have dramatically changed in the last year and will continue to evolve. Surprising new trends, like consumers opting for staycations at hotels in their own or nearby cities, will keep cropping up. Self-service technologies allow your hotel to listen and react to these new types of guests and changing expectations. Further, this technology embeds more channels for guest feedback throughout their stay, giving you another level of understanding of your guests.

Your hotel tech solutions can give you in-depth insights into your customer journey and what your guests want. Analyzing guest data like when they check in and check out, what they order from F&B, and what questions they ask chatbots all inform you of your guests’ needs. You may find, for example, that your guests want to have more options for a late check out (something trends in 2020 have shown and offers an easy upsell, as well as a more personalized experience).

When you fully leverage the capabilities of self-service technologies, you don’t have to pinpoint your guests expectations, you simply need to enable your hotel staff to follow your guests’ choices. 

Provide self-service options throughout the customer journey for guest satisfaction

Sixty-eight percent of guests say they prefer mobile check-in because it allows them to go straight to their rooms. Sixty-one percent say that keyless entry to their room via a mobile app will be one of the top three changes that will deliver the most value in a future hotel stay. Fifty-five percent include mobile concierge services in their top three as well.

To envision these new preferences put into action, imagine a family traveling with children at the start of their vacation. They’d like to use their phone to check in and receive their room key before they even arrive at the hotel. And after a long day of travel and kid corralling, this mobile self-service option gives them the peace of mind that they’ll be able to go straight to their rooms instead of waiting in line at the front desk. Once in the room, they want to connect to your Wi-Fi, stream Netflix for the kids, and be able to discover what your hotel has to offer on their phone as they relax.

In this scenario, the guest knows they’ll be able to walk into the hotel, go right to their room, and immediately begin enjoying their vacation. From the start, you’ve given them control over their guest experience. This makes them feel catered to and taken care of. Though they haven’t directly interacted with any of your staff, they feel delighted by your hotel’s ability to deliver a unique, personalized experience.

Today, delivering an outstanding guest experience means offering your guests easy, tailored access to your services throughout their journey. And that starts before they enter the hotel. You can take steps to build a relationship with your guests immediately after they complete the booking process, as soon as they check in on your app – even after they leave your hotel and start dreaming of when they can come back.

With self-service offerings, you get many more touchpoints with your guests before, during, and after their stay. Every time they open your app to look up hotel amenities, order from your restaurants, or ask a chatbot questions, is another touchpoint to develop your guests’ relationship with your hotel.

And offering your guests a contactless technology experience doesn’t have to break the bank. With customers seeking out these services and the many affordable solutions on the market, budgeting for contactless is achievable for any hotel. 

The ideal guest experience is a mix of human and tech touch

While the completely self-service model may fit a portion of your guests, most guests will still look to your staff as part of their overall customer experience. But what self-service technologies allow you to do is to anticipate those opportunities for human touch and allow your staff to focus on those moments of guest engagement.

Building hotel operations around a contactless experience allows you to put your staff in high impact areas. For example, with mobile check in and digital keys, you might be able to have one staff member at the front desk instead of two. That second staff member can then start to focus on delighting your guests.

In this way you deliver guests the choice of experience they are looking for while being able to address their evolving needs. The human touch of hotels is not going away. Some guests will continue to prefer it. But most guests will be looking for a mix of tech and human touch during their stay. And this gives you an opportunity for your staff to listen to your guests and create new human touch services that meet the needs of your guests during a time of change. 

Ready to take the first step in providing the self-service options your guests want?  OpenKey, the industry leader in digital key solutions, is here to help. Schedule a demo today and see the benefits for your hotel guest experience firsthand.