June 6, 2019

Hotel Inefficiencies that Hinder the Guest Experience

2019 Hotel Inefficiencies Blog

Other than increasing bookings and revenue, reducing operational costs is a top priority for hotel owners and managers.

As data from CBRE shows about 77% of hotel expenses are labor and operating costs.

This presents a huge opportunity for hotels to revisit and analyze their operational processes and identify areas where both labor and operational costs can be reduced by leveraging the right technology and updating procedures to improve the staff’s ability to provide fast and efficient service.

In this article, we will highlight key areas of inefficiency and tips for improvement.

Slow Check-in

First impressions are crucial when it comes to the guest experience. From the time your guests step foot on your property to walking up to the check-in counter, this process should be fast and smooth.

One thing is for certain: Guests don’t like to wait in line as a study from Cornell’s Center for Hospitality Research showed that guest satisfaction decreases by 47% if check-in takes more than 5 minutes.

Delays during check-in are rarely due to technical issues, but rather process.

Not every guest at the check-in counter is looking to check in or out. Some guests may have questions about the hotel, some looking for directions or to make a reservation or looking to complain about an issue. All of these things can factor into a slow check-in experience for guests. So what can hotels do?

It all starts with preparation. If you know that there will be a busy day in the week and time where there will be an influx of guests checking in, make sure you prepare for that by increasing staff at the front desk during check-in times.

Also, to help speed up check-in, you can dedicate certain staff to handle only check-ins while others handle questions and other requests.

Knowing your guests before they arrive can also speed up the check-in process. Most of the time, hotels are asking for information during the check-in which slows down the process. If you can capture most of the necessary information during booking or through a confirmation email, your front desk staff can quickly pull up any special requests or preferences and confirm it with the guest to help speed up the process.

To help reduce long lines during busy check-in days, offering a mobile check-in option is useful as it can reduce the number of guests waiting in line to get checked in.

For example, a guest could send in a text message to the hotel letting them know they have arrived and based on how busy it is, the hotel staff can respond with an estimated time they can come to the front desk to retrieve their key. Or if the hotel offers mobile keys, you can even send the guest the keycode via in-app or text message so they can bypass the check-in counter completely.

Notifying guests of their room-ready status has proved to be beneficial as research from OpenKey found that it can reduce lobby traffic by 20%.

Slow or Unresponsive Service

Service is at the core of the hotel industry. No matter how beautiful your hotel is or how comfortable the beds and pillows are, bad customer service is a surefire way to send guests home angry and dissatisfied with their stay.

Speed, convenience and accuracy all play a part in providing great service. When one part is lacking, it can make the entire experience a bad one.

Developing a more efficient process to service guests by leveraging technology is one way hotels can reduce the time needed to fulfill a request without sacrificing quality or accuracy.

In the traditional service request process, a guest calls in, front desk answers and writes down the request, then manually enters the request in the service ticketing system and then the right team member is notified to resolve the issue. While there is nothing wrong with this process, it can be quite lengthy and prone to errors depending on how busy the hotel is.

This is an area where mobile messaging and system integration is crucial. By enabling your guests to easily send a message, your staff can field multiple requests and questions simultaneously, rather than answer them one by one over the phone or in person.

Additionally, by integrating your Property Management System, Service Optimization System and your Guest Engagement Platform, your guests can simply send in a text request and the service ticket would be created automatically without the need for staff to take a call and write it down.
By doing so, you can potentially reduce service response times as well as fulfillment time by eliminating several manual steps in the process.

Many hotels are now enabling service requests via text message, mobile app messaging as well as voice-controlled devices in rooms.

Lack of Personalization

Driven by today’s top brands like Amazon and Netflix, hotel guests want that same type of personalization when it comes to their hotel experience. When done right, personalization can be the difference between a guest choosing your hotel over the competition.

However, personalization is easier said than achieved.

Data is the fuel for personalizing the guest experience. Without data, every guest is just a number and makes it nearly impossible to customize the experience for a specific guest.

There are numerous amounts of data about your guests, but if you don’t capture it or ask for it, then it can’t be used.

Here are some data sources to help you personalize the experience for guests:

Website Behavior: Look at the pages that the guest visited during booking to see what they are interested in.

Booking Form: Ask additional questions during booking to capture personal preferences, special requests, and other unique information about the guest.

Survey/Quiz: In the confirmation email, include a fun survey or quiz that captures additional special interests.

Marketing Content: See which marketing emails the guest is opening and clicking on to see what types of content is relevant to them.

Transaction History: Analyze past transaction history (if available) to recommend things based on past stay.

Once you have identified the data you want to use, you need to integrate the various systems into your main CRM or PMS so it can be used to communicate with guests throughout their entire journey.

Here are 3 ways you can personalize the guest experience:

  1. Personalized Welcome Message: If guests have opted into receiving informational and/or promotional messages, the guest could be sent a text message welcoming him and his family. The message includes early check-in rate along with shuttle instructions because the guest traveled cross country by air.
  2. Relevant Recommendations: Guest arrives at the hotel and checks in with front desk. Agent welcomes guest and confirms he is with his wife and two kids. Provides special treats for the kids and an extra roll-away bed. The agent also suggests activities and restaurants that are family friendly.
  3. Post-stay Engagement: If guests have consented to receive special offers, guests could be sent a post-stay email or text with enticing promotion for a next stay.

Chatbots

It’s no secret that “AI” and “chatbots” are top of mind for hoteliers today. With the promise of artificial intelligence and robots taking over hotel operations, it’s no shock that hotel executives are taking a closer look at chatbots to save on operational and labor costs.

But the truth is that unless chatbots can consistently solve guest issues, they can do more harm by delaying guest issues and leaving potentially loyal customers frustrated and angry.

Our Zingle research team recently conducted a consumer survey on the effectiveness of chatbots for customer service and found that only 8% of consumers found chatbots to be useful in solving their problems.

Building a chatbot is no small feat and there are many reasons why chatbots fail, including lack of data needed to make decisions, the technology is not robust in that it’s built off of basic decision trees, lack of understanding context and others.

Instead of relying on chatbots to replace one-to-one human interaction, hotels need to have a balance where automated responses can be set up for commonly asked questions like “what’s the WIFI password?” or “What are the gym hours?” But the technology must be able to identify more complex issues and escalate to the right human rather than frustrate guests with the wrong answers.

When a hotel operates at maximum efficiency, it’s a win-win for guests and staff. However, it can be a huge challenge with so many moving parts in a hotel. Before taking the first step in improving operations, map out your guest journey and the processes involved within each stage. By doing so, you can identify areas of opportunity and begin taking steps to improve.

Take a phased approach to ensure you analyze each step and build from there. Remember, crafting great guest experiences is not a destination, but rather a journey unto itself.

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