Hospitality professionals are especially tuned in to this conversation, as we work to piece together a blueprint of the optimal guest experience. After all, in such a tech-driven world, it's hard to beat the convenience and simplicity of one-click, self-service digital connections and touch-points. But as brick and mortar hospitality is rooted in the traditional provision of a high-touch guest experience and accommodations, we can't neglect the timeless desire for an older, vintage tech - humans.
A 2017 research report revealed that many companies across industries had placed too much reliance on digital technology in recent years while neglecting the more traditional service model. According to the report, companies need to develop experiences that allow their customers to easily move between digital and human interactions so that they can get the experience and service they want. It was also revealed that 77% of surveyed individuals crave human interaction when they need guidance.
In fact, studies indicate that while 62% of consumers are in favor of using self-serve technologies (such as kiosks) to improve the in-store shopping experience, 78% are in favor of giving technology to sales associates to enhance their shopping experience instead. Not only that, but 68% of consumers had not yet used chatbots to get in touch with a brand, largely due to their desire to engage with real people when accessing services.
So, what does this all mean? Hoteliers should use technology to enhance, not replace, the human element within the guest experience.
When we consider the current, dominant trends shaping the modern guest experience, the topic of hyper-personalization is undeniably top of mind. Studies show that more than 55% of business travelers want customized offers for loyalty program credits and 84% of travelers think that a personalized hotel experience is "somewhat" or "very" important. Fortunately, technology empowers hoteliers to curate a more personalized experience that would otherwise be extremely difficult to achieve. With the help of artificial intelligence (AI), the internet of things (IoT), machine learning, and new-age platforms driven by actionable data, hoteliers can finally gain access to a more holistic view of each guest and their expectations. Further, with the use of these platforms, hotels can offer self-service options (such as mobile check-in/out, keyless entry, mobile concierge, s elf-service kiosks and more) to inspire a more efficient and convenient operational model. This all sounds fantastic, wouldn't you say?
Of course, this brings us back to the original dilemma. If hotels are implementing new-age PMS and CRM systems that aggregate data to streamline previously manual touch-points, is that technology replacing the human touch? Not at all. While this technology surely inspires a more hands-off (or low-touch) service model for those guests who would prefer to interact with technology rather than staff, it ultimately implores guests to choose their desired service model. The inclusion of self-service, one-click technology that boasts a fast, frictionless experience is not meant to replace the traditional touch-points of interpersonal interaction with staff and high-touch attention - it's meant to complement it. When a hotel's operational structure is no longer overwhelmed with long-established frustrations (front desk lines and unnecessary delays), staff are finally empowered to interact with guests more freely, and in a more personalized and genuine manner. Not only does this pave the way to improved connections with guests, but with the actionable insights, prompts and upsell suggestions from intuitive PMS platforms, staff can truly personalize each interaction. Ultimately, guests are free to choose the path to service that best serves them at any given moment of their travel experience. Wherever a digital or self-service option exists, there also exists the choice to interact with a hotel staff member. It's this seamless transition from online to offline interactions that allows hotels to marry the perfect balance of high-tech and high-touch guest service.
Ultimately, the need for technological investment and on-going digital reform is undeniable, but the dedication to a service model that is both accessible and personable remains paramount.. For the modern guest, convenience and choice are synonymous concepts - the more choice you provide each guest grants them access to a more personalized, seamless experience. Your new-age PMS or CRM platform is not the guest experience; instead, it contributes to the overall guest experience. Also, catering to what guests want? That's a value proposition with studies showing that more than half of shoppers are willing to pay a higher price for the customer experiences they value most.
When considering your current operational ecosystem and the technology you have in place to capitalize on this blend of high-tech and high-touch service, consider the following:
If your current stack of hospitality platforms fails to deliver these primary features and allow you to bridge the gap between high-tech and human touch guest service, it might be time for an upgrade. Click here to learn more.
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Ryan King is a former hotelier with almost 20 years of experience that has spanned just about every department through the course of his hotel career. He worked at TravelClick where he spent a good amount of time consulting with individual properties and large management groups helping them find technology to improve RevPAR and increase profitability. He has a love of technology that helps him discover new methods enabling hoteliers to better engage their guests and thereby increase revenues through better service & marketing. He now spends his time working with other hospitality tech companies to help strengthen the StayNTouch eco-system in order to provide a world-class offering to all of the StayNTouch's clients.