How video, streaming & other tech tools can reduce contact & empower amazing customer experiences
Technology is taking the lead in helping hotels recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Video, streaming services, contactless technology, and other connection tools like CRM play a huge part. A hybrid model seems to be emerging – digitization of many customer experience touchpoints, with tangibles deliverable by hygienically minded on-site service.
Virtual relationship tools can actually help hotels deliver highly personalized experiences that limit contact, emulating many of the benefits hybrid online/retail companies have deployed for years, and catering to our collective migration to handle most matters on our phones.
Whether it’s managing guest preferences, on-property requests, F/B or wellness, these virtual connection tools can offer warm, personalized and exceptional service to guests, while respecting social distancing.
We want to travel to new places and have new experiences, but we’re also attached to our phones the entire time. The intimacy that we feel to people we watch in videos, livestreams, chats, etc. has been rising for many years. This is a chance for the hospitality industry to take the next leap and evolve to meet the new ‘normal’ behaviors of the population that don’t mind, and in some cases, actually prefer virtual interactions vs. in person ones for many matters.
The importance of data for a contactless experience
We expect data management to become more important in the day-to-day operations, especially in guest on property activities and preferences, hotel restaurants and facilities popular with events and conferences. If we have data online that’s easily accessible by staff and entered by guests, we don’t have to have people entering info on keypads of giving that information to a worker on site in close contact.
From a business perspective too, while travel is restricted and face-to-face contact difficult, hoteliers need to embrace video conferencing and digitized tools to automate and streamline business processes for areas like group sales, operations and other departments.
Up the tech infrastructure
Now is the time to go all in for investment in fast WIFI, strong networks and other tech tools to support the virtually led hotel experience and increased use by guests. In addition to infrastructure, focus on usability as well. Think accessibility for all: both free and ease of use. Make sure accessing the technology is easy for anyone. Picture your Gran trying to access and adapt WIFI and other virtual connectivity tools so she would be able to do it!
CRM can also lend a big helping hand in reducing contact. Guests and staff can log preferences in advance of a trip and during it, so room preferences, allergies, and amenity requests are handled automatically without requiring physical interaction. A CRM helps hotels serve clients more remotely, with less contact throughout the guest journey.
3D video should be used on your hotel’s Web site to showcase every angle of your property. Beyond photos, guests want to see video of what both rooms and the property looks like, including the restaurants/markets/bar/lounge and outside areas. Is there lots of space? Video tours help guests feel safe about social distancing precautions put in place, as well as the cleanliness and hygienically minded changes you’ve made to the rooms.
Chat services (with video if possible) would be another great thing to put on your hotel’s Web site, so your representatives can talk through any concerns a guest might have in the consideration phase, inspiring confidence in your measures, so they can complete the booking.
Video chat, pop-up chat or text messaging is another great tool that can allow guests to ask questions prior to arrival, reducing their need to stop by the front desk or make a call on the in-room phone (if that still exists). Pre-arrival surveys also reduce contact while catering to guest needs, encouraging guests to provide additional information in advance, so matters are handled prior to their arrival. Using a CRM, you can also serve up very personalized pre-arrival emails with dynamic content based on location and information pertaining to the booking and/or facilities available.
How great would it be to have a virtual concierge you could video chat with throughout your stay on your phone? You could video chat with the concierge and ask for advice for spots to visit, like nearby open spaces, parks, restaurants that maintain social distancing protocols, best places for take-out or anything locally specific about safety measures the guest should be aware of.
Virtual fitness – classes & personal trainers
With most hotel gyms closed or open on a limited basis with sign ups required for use, why not offer streaming fitness classes where an instructor lives streams from a gym and guests can watch in their room on Smart TVs? Or how, about live personal video training sessions between coaches and guests they can do in their room? Wellness is still top of mind for guests and showing your hotel can accommodate is super important.
On-demand video chats with bartenders/chef
Bar staff could walk guests through cocktail kits / wine flights that are dropped in the room. When you open it, guests video call the bartender and he walks you through how to make the old fashioned or the notes of the wine/beer flight. For food, your hotel restaurant’s chef, via video, gives guests an overview of the food sent to your room that you’re about to taste, where it comes from, how it was prepared, etc. It adds that personal touch to the experience, where guests are connecting with the F/B experts you have on staff, from the comfort of their room.
Digital notices can be used to provide real-time updates to the pool timetable or restrictions on access for example. Other notices could be elevator capacity, F/B protocols or instructions for hotel entry and exist. Hotels can do this by providing online notices on a digital concierge or by sending via text or email to let guests know digitally in the comfort of their room or wherever they are on property everything they need to know.
Mobile control of the room
Can you sense a trend? It’s all about empowering guests to use their personal phones to reduce contact while on site at your hotel. For example, mobile check in with a digital key that breaks a seal when they open the door to their room. Once inside, guests can use their personal phone to control the in-room TV, lighting, temperature, room service, everything without touching surfaces.
Digitizing groups and events
To reduce contact for groups and events at your hotel, hotels will need to shift to digital management of many elements and increasing their tech stacks. Events for example, offer digital registration that’s completely contactless. For group sales, offering video chats between your sales team and prospective clients, alongside virtual tours, to avoid a site inspection visit to the property. Hotels will also need to show their live stream capabilities, WIFI strength and video conferencing abilities in their proposals, as well as their modifications for social distancing in meeting spaces, as this will become increasingly important.
Hotels should also really look at the automation deployment of their online surveys and requests for guests to post on review sites. As the check-out experience becomes increasingly contactless, this will be your chance to hear directly from your guests on what they loved, liked and felt could be better. It’s ensuring you have a feedback mechanism built in that shows you’re listening. You’ll likely get some really valuable feedback, especially on the new modified guest experience, you’ve deployed. And hopefully, you’ll get some rave reviews out of it as well on Tripadvisor and Google!
Whether this new normal is here to stay is up in the air, but regardless, we can use this cultural moment to embrace how we can better utilize technology to provide excellent hospitality to guests in 2020 and beyond.