Hotels add high-tech touches to enhance hospitality

Internet of Things and the hospitality ndustry

19 Jun Hotels add high-tech touches to enhance hospitality

In the hospitality industry, financial success is driven by engaged employees and satisfied guests. Wow them, and they’ll return. But today the expectations of guests are changing: Online bookings are up. Mobile payments are becoming a thing. Technology is transforming the business in a big way. And consumers want to spend less time waiting in line and more time enjoying their stay.

Serving customers in this industry really is a journey. Companies must look at how they can improve reservations, arrivals, check-ins, the stay itself, the check-out process and the relationship after the guest has departed. To address all these areas requires more than just a device or an app. It demands a set of solutions that mirrors all aspects of that customer journey.

Hospitality companies are introducing new ways to transform the actual stay experience. This week at the HITEC conference in Austin, Texas, we’re demonstrating how hotel rooms might look in the future with a concept called the “Connected Room.” This is just one way we are helping companies from around the globe take a digital approach to serving customers while maintaining the essence of every hospitality brand — people.

The customer journey

On average, a typical hotel guest will spend about 12 minutes figuring out the thermostat, light switches, TV controls and how to find hotel amenities. The Connected Room is designed to streamline that process.

While hoteliers are increasingly looking at tablet PCs and other devices to facilitate this change, the Connected Room, developed in partnership with Intel, Teknikos and Technovation, is taking the concept a step further with a voice-activated solution built on Windows 10. Multiple pieces of technology are coming together to make this solution possible — bringing together environmental controls, room service menus, information about the property and in-room entertainment into a single system controlled by voice commands.

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While our Connected Room is just a prototype, other companies are already using this approach to great effect with specialized industry devices based on the Windows platform. Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group’s iRiS solution is a suite of touch-enabled apps delivered in each room through a Surface Pro tablet. iRiS gives guests immediate access to information about restaurants, spas, exercise facilities, room service and what’s happening in the local area, along with the ability to request essential hotel services.

Replacing bulky binders in the room with a sleek new device is a great way to enhance the brand while also letting guests find information the way most people do today — digitally. Other opportunities to enhance guest experiences with technology include kiosks, beacon technology to provide location information or push offers to customers, and even lobby tables with touch interfaces. Properties like Caesar’s Palace and the Hyatt Hotel in Bellevue, Washington, have taken the latter approach, creating a digital lobby space that incorporates touchscreens into tables to make a new experience for guests.

Empowering staff

While the guest experience is the most visible element of the transformation in hospitality today, there is a lot going on to connect and empower the organization too, with mobile devices, the cloud and the Internet of Things. Providing the right tools can enable organizations to not only serve customers better, but also to gain insights on everything from guest satisfaction to financial reports to energy use.

Here again, new devices such as enterprise-class tablets or mobile phones can help staff get out from behind their desks to have real, personal interactions with customers. Collaboration software such as Skype or SharePoint portals can help staff remain on the same page when it comes to giving each guest a unique experience on the property. Staff are also using social media to make the customer experience better. Socially connected staff can communicate and collaborate with their peers and properties much quicker, which allows them to share insights and customer feedback to improve the overall experience across the company.

All these interactions create the kind of data to build real business intelligence as well. In hospitality, this often means developing a better understanding of guests’ preferences, whether it’s meals, wines, room settings or the way they use various amenities. Recently, Holland America Line began taking advantage of robust BI tools to dive more deeply into this form of real-world personalization. By taking this data-driven approach, Holland America has been able to quickly fine-tune offerings aboard its ships, simultaneously increasing customer satisfaction and sales revenues.

An ongoing relationship

As great as the stay may be, ultimately it’ll be checkout time. While technology tools can streamline the process of getting guests smoothly on their way, it’s also important to look at that ongoing customer relationship and social media’s role in growing that relationship.

It all comes back to helping properties provide a personal experience for each customer and making that customer journey more seamless. By putting the right technologies in the right places, organizations have a chance to make the entire interaction more personalized and build loyalty based on those experiences.

 

Source: Microsoft – Business Matters

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