In 2008, Apple launched the now world-famous App Store, which triggered the rise of mobile phone apps. Everyone wanted to get in on the action, and overall app usage grew by a huge 58% in 2015, which is even more impressive after only seven years of expansion. Within the travel industry, many airlines already have apps which have been created to encompass the whole flying experience.
From booking your flight to checking in at the desk, accessing your electronic boarding pass and getting accurate real-time flight information (including any changes or delays), there is so much you can do. Some hospitality groups have even started to integrate features such as keyless entry and check-in on these apps, which creates a device that covers the entire process.
However, it can be somewhat daunting if you are after something which impresses on all levels and cuts across several departments. Changes are required in operational mind-sets and getting different systems to interact with one another and work productively.
In order to help you get started there are some important things to consider when exploring the options which are available on today’s current market. Guests will only download and continue using an app if it is multifunctional and serves more than just one particular purpose. Consider all of the possible interaction points and make things easier in the process. If you want people to get in touch quickly, without any fuss, then this is definitely the way forward.
Your guests’ stay experience begins as soon as they have made a booking. That’s when exceptional customer service comes into play. The pre-arrival period is the time guests might welcome specific information such as local events, changes in weather conditions, places and points of interest and promotions happening during their planned vacation dates.
Tailor content accordingly so that they do not have to scroll through tons of unrelated information in order to find out what is actually relevant. Offer assistance if they have any special arrangements, or recommend nearby restaurants or pubs if you are a smaller hotel and only serve breakfasts in the morning. You must take into consideration any specific dietary requirements and preferences as this is guaranteed to result in positive reviews and encouraging feedback.
This is a fantastic opportunity to create an instant connection even before they have arrived at your door, and assure them that they have made exactly the right decision. If they are returning guests, use what you already know about them in order to offer personal recommendations, as this will make them feel extra-special and valued. Targeted communication can also considerably increase their on-property spend.
Checking in and out is often seen as a time-wasting exercise with guests who are in a hurry and need to catch a quick flight home or are on a fleeting business trip. Make this process even quicker by allowing them to do this through your app. This will reduce the anxiety and stress of long wait times, and allow them to plan out their time more carefully. Fewer guests queuing in line also ensures front-desk staff can focus on delivering top of the range service which is less administrative and uber-efficient.
During their stay, guests may very well ring housekeepers to request certain items, or even want a suit pressing urgently so that it is ready in time for an important conference or crucial business meeting. Making these accessible through hotel mobile apps and in a language they are comfortable with can go an extremely long way when it comes to reducing the chances of miscommunication and hesitation of getting in touch with staff.
What’s more, notifying guests through a tailored app when their requests have been fulfilled is both non-intrusive and informal, and keeps them satisfied.
With connected homes gaining popularity, it will only be a matter of time before guests come to expect smart controls in their hotel rooms too. This means no more fumbling around with light switches which are placed around the room in order to detect which lights they control. What they do not want is separate apps to access control lights, entertainment systems, temperature settings and mobile keys, as this just makes things more awkward.
They just want a single app which they only have to download once, and that allows them to do everything they need throughout their stay. If it can retain their preferences for future visits then even better!
Guest convenience is only a small part of what you expect from an app. There is absolutely no point if your guests are having a fantastic time using your app, but staff feel like it is an extra burden on their day-to-day operations. Guest requests should automatically be channelled to the relevant departments whenever possible and even down to individual staff if this is at all feasible.
This means that guest-facing apps have to be connected to a back-end management console and tailored staff app. A well thought out workflow can determine how and when tasks are handled, and monitor activity throughout the day. The ability to track how long it takes from the time a specific guest request is assigned to a member of staff to the time that task is resolved will allow you to identify any areas which need improving and ensure you keep efficiency to an optimal level at all times.
Hotels in general use a multitude of different systems from property management and room management systems to door access and point of management systems. Your app should have the inherent ability to interface with a number of providers, and offer a seamless, hassle-free experience for both staff members and guests.
With all of the fantastic features in place such as control of guest rooms and keyless entry, it is also important to guarantee that you have regimented security measures in place and proper authentication. The very last thing that you want is for a guests’ room to be intruded upon by another individual so that their privacy is invaded. It is also worth checking how an app can manage multiple devices for exactly the same room.
Whatever your main reason for wanting an app, one of the key outcomes from implementing one which is of a high standard is the enhanced overall guest experience. Just as you have the innate ability to personalise and customise webpage content and e-mail communication, you should expect to be able to modify and tailor content delivered through an app based on your guests’ requirements and personal profiles.
Allowing them to set up their default room environment and preferred channels before they arrive and then storing this information for future events is another way in which to build relations and generate repeat custom. It will also build loyalty and result in positive feedback.
The amount of features which you can have on an app is limited only by your own imagination. Yet it is sometimes the case that more is not necessarily better. Everything has to be well-thought out and have some sense of purpose. You have to understand what works for your brand, your staff, your guests and your budget and then begin to make plans.
Remember to be flexible and accommodating and you will come up with some attractive business propositions. Working with a partner who can help you devise innovative, inventive, cost-effective solutions is always a good idea, as two heads can be better than one.
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