Hotel stays can be incredibly frustrating.
So, how can digital tools be used to make them more convenient?
In my previous digital hospitality blogs I talked about the need for both recognition and personalisation within the hospitality industry - mega trends globally in most consumer facing industries as well as in our society as a whole.
Let’s face it; most of the digital tools we use these days require registration and personal profiling, forcing us to allow others to track every detail of who we are and how we live. Companies use this data to build a relevant and meaningful dialogue with us to create brand loyalty, and when done well, this is truly helpful.
There is an ongoing need for convenience, too, and during the past half-century we have seen incredible advances in our never-ending desire to make things easier and faster.
However, many of us do still feel inconvenienced is when we stay in hotels. The hospitality industry still manages to get some of the most basic things wrong.
- You’re trying to check out after a business trip only to find the queue is some 40 people long.
- You need to access your booking email to check in with your kids in tow but the Wi-Fi code is tediously long and complicated.
- Which light switch is for which lamp? Where is the mains plug?
Regardless of whether your stay is for business, pleasure or necessity, there isn’t an excuse for these issues of inconvenience.
So what can hotels do to solve these convenience problems?
Well as a designer you’ve got to put yourself into these contextual situations and consciously force yourself to create desirable solutions.
It’s an exercise in mapping all possible scenarios and designing in fixes or fall back strategies if things go wrong.
Hilton Worldwide hotels are one of the many hotel chains now leveraging mobile to bring super convenience to their guests.
For the frequent business traveler especially, being able to skip the check-in and out queues without ever talking to another person is a very welcome development.
Of course this kind of service also alleviates a considerable amount of work from front desk staff allowing them to focus on more valuable face-to-face interactions.
Scandic hotels in the Nordics listened and responded to the frustration of their guests, who had to type in long codes from paper vouchers given at front desk.
The Scandic ‘Easy Wi-Fi’ allows returning guests the benefit of clicking one button to reconnect whenever they visit a Scandic hotel. Guests only provide an email or phone number once, the first time they sign up to the service.
Again this very simple kind of digital initiative not only meets a convenience need from the guest, but also saves back of house operations from managing millions of printed paper codes.
In regards to the physical problem of charging and mains plugs, many of the more user-centric hotel chains now have super handy devices on the bedside tables that double up as clock, mains unit and USB charger.
If all hotels just did this one thing, it would make me stay with them again and again.
We’ve all done it right. Not only do you often have to wait in the tedious check-out queue, you also need to ask the front desk staff to do something other than check-out, slowing everything down and making all the other angry waiting people behind you even more frustrated.
A much better solution in this case is to take the digital self-service approach and build a cab ordering service right next to the exit so you press one button on your way out with no hassle. Failing that just use an Uber.
We need a guest-centric mindset
It has to be said though that delivering this kind of convenience is usually not at all convenient for the hotel brand to implement.
Behind the scenes, hotels often need to make radical changes to their IT infrastructure and the physical hotel environment. They are also dealing with legal and contractual issues that have been in place for many years and cannot easily be changed.
Hotel tech systems are usually bought and maintained from third party providers that supply the whole industry and these commercially- driven tech companies have never really had the end user needs in mind.
In order to create real convenience for the guest, all staff must ultimately adopt a different, more guest-centric mindset. Staff usually have to go through a time consuming and expensive training programme to learn to adopt new ways of working.
So as easy as it looks from the outside, this level of digital seamlessness requires hotels to transform the way their organisation is set up and forces them to prioritise different developmental decisions.
It means balancing the investments differently and putting more money aside for digital service.
The hotel business is as old as the hills and built around physical assets so it’s true to say that building a desirable digital service layer has come to the hotel businesses rather late in the game. Many are feeling the pain of being left behind from the digital disruption happening all around them.
In the end, to deliver convenience or not is no longer a choice, or else hotels risk losing guests.
There’s only one way for the hospitality industry to go and that’s toward a more user centric, convenient delivery. It’s already underway and staying at a hotel is about to get better.