Being able to meet guests’ needs is essential but challenging for hotels in a culture that is becoming more accustomed to receiving services via mobile. This on-demand culture is driving hotel guests’ demands and expectations. As a recent survey demonstrated, other industries are utilizing mobile solutions while the hospitality industry lags behind.
The 2018 Customer Engagement Study found that retail and airlines have set guests’ expectations for room selection and booking, purchasing gift cards, redeeming coupons and managing reservations via mobile device but the hotel industry has yet to adopt available mobile capabilities such as mobile check-in, keyless entry and more on a widespread basis.
Of the 500 people polled for the survey, 254 of them were women, while 246 were men. Fifty-two percent of respondents said they traveled 2-4 times a year and 28 percent travel five or more times a year. An overwhelming majority—80 percent—consider themselves “seasoned travelers,” while 77 percent say they travel for leisure.
30.2 percent of respondents fell in the 18-38 year-old range while 34.4 percent were between the ages of 39-53. Only 30 percent of respondents prefer to stay in an upscale hotel, compared to 48 percent who preferred mid-scale hotels. On the hospitality-industry side, 118 executives—including hoteliers, managers professionals—took part in the survey.
The survey is helpful in seeing a larger picture of the state of mobile and technology expectations that guests have when staying in a hotel. A key takeaway of the survey is the finding that technology influences bookings: 65 percent of guests will pay more for available technology, the survey found. A previous article detailed a number of hotel-tech features that will influence guests’ booking decisions, such as guests being able to make a reservation from a mobile device. The survey found that 50 percent of respondents would choose a hotel offering mobile reservations over one that did not. The survey also found that 42 percent are influenced by how robust a hotel’s mobile app is.
Mobile functions that hotels offer versus what guests want:
Survey results showed that hotels were offering only 3 out of the possible 24 mobile functions guests desire from hotels.
Where Hotels Are Meeting Guest Expectations
Hotels are widely adopting and seeing success in using guest mobile devices to facilitate room reservations, loyalty program management and viewing a calendar of hotel events. The survey showed that a majority of hotels polled - 80 percent - offer guests the ability to reserve rooms via a mobile device while 68 percent of guests want to be able to make reservations in this manner.
At 57 percent, a little more than half of the hotel respondents have mobile loyalty-program management, a feature that 49 percent of guests indicated that they want. While only 37 percent of guests indicated a desire to access a mobile version of a property’s calendar of events, 50 percent of the hotels participating in the survey currently offer this functionality. All of these mobile services are fairly well established in the restaurant industry so it’s not surprising to see hotels offering them and guests expecting to use them to improve their stay experience.
Where Hotels Are Falling Short
The survey results are helpful in identifying opportunity areas for hotels. There were several mobile functions identified that guests desire, creating a roadmap for improving guest stay experiences through mobile engagement.
Considering that mobile payment had the largest discrepancy between what guests want (51 percent of guests asked for this feature) and how many hotels offer this (just 28 percent), mobile payment is an area where hotels can make a few changes to readily meet guests’ wants and expectations. Allowing guests to pay via mobile refers to offering Android Pay or Apple Pay at check-in, eliminating the need for a physical credit card swipe or cash.
Paying via mobile device is a convenience that more guests will expect as it becomes mainstream in other industries. Apple Pay transactions have tripled year over year through June 2018 with 31 percent of all iPhone owners now using Apple Pay. Mobile leaders such as Samsung and Android are committed to improving their mobile payment platforms which will increase the velocity of adoption among users and businesses worldwide.
While currently only 33 percent of hotels polled offer the ability to request services via a mobile device, 53 percent of guests want this ability. These requests can range from asking for extra towels to reporting a burned-out light bulb. With 76 percent of travelers naming their smartphone as their most important travel companion, allowing guests to make service requests via mobile device is clearly an important element to improving the guest experience.
When hotels enable mobile service requests, response time and staff-guest communication improve. According to research conducted by Alice, “Guests feel they have a right to complain if hotel staff does not respond to their text requests in about 12 minutes, to emails in 26 minutes, and via social media in 27 minutes or less.” Using a mobile guest-services solution improves response times while also providing guests with the flexibility, speed and efficiency they expect from a hotel property or brand.
Only 35 percent of hotels polled offer Mobile Key, which is the ability to unlock a room door with a smartphone, while 41 percent of guests want this ability. Allowing guests to use their phones instead of a magstripe or RFID card improves the guest experience in many ways as well as being environmentally sound. In fact, guest-satisfaction scores jumped seven percent on average when hotels offer mobile-key access.
People in general don’t like standing in lines. This doesn’t change when we’re staying at a hotel. The survey found that 53 percent of guests want to skip the front desk visit, yet only 48 percent of participating hotels offer this option. Considering that a recent survey found that guest satisfaction drops by 50 percent when the wait is longer than five minutes to check-in, reducing or eliminating the check-in line is an opportunity for significant guest experience improvement in the hotel.
An additional benefit of mobile check-in is that it decreases front-desk traffic by about 20 percent, freeing hotel employees to work on other tasks while reducing the wait time for guests who prefer checking in and out at the front desk.
On-demand Culture Driving Guest Desires
The survey found that guests are accustomed to receiving services via mobile devices from other industries such as airlines and retail. It’s natural for guests to expect similar capabilities from the hospitality industry given the service-focus present in those businesses involved in tourism, etc. Evidence is mounting to validate the premise that hoteliers who refuse to recognize the importance of keeping up with evolving guest expectations will ultimately pay the price through lower social review scores, occupancy and ADR.
The Competition Is Delivering On Guest Needs. Are You?
Nearly half of hotels studied have successfully integrated a comprehensible mobile experience for guests, while 40 percent more are planning on implementing it in 2019. What these figures highlight is that your competition has not only recognized the value of offering mobile capabilities to guests but is actively moving to deliver on those guest expectations to better compete.
Establishing these mobile services can be hard to navigate for many hoteliers, but there are experts in hotel mobile technology that can make the process of integrating these highly desired features easier. For example, OpenKey provides Mobile Key, Mobile Check-In, Check-Out, and other mobile guest services solutions to assist hotels in moving to a more tech-savvy business model.
As the hotel industry gets more competitive in 2019, smart hoteliers will look to adopt those guest-facing technologies that offer competitive advantages. Delivering on guest expectations around mobile services such as booking, mobile payment, service requests, keyless entry and check-in/out are proven methods to improve guest social reviews, repeat visitation, occupancy and ADR - all of which will be the differences between those properties that thrive in the years to come and those that do not.