How Hotel Tech Powers Proactive Guest Service
By Sarah Duguay
Last updated August 12, 2022
5 min read
Mobile messaging, chatbots, contactless check-ins—-we wouldn’t blame you if the thought of instituting technology feels cold and unwelcoming. After all, advances in hotel tech are a result of streamlining operations in favor of a more automated approach. But the why behind hotel tech is not about less hospitality, it’s about better hospitality.
Hotel tech is often touted as a time saver, which goes hand-in-hand with better hospitality. Time freed from conducting mundane paperwork thanks to hotel tech can be rerouted to providing other guest services, from organizing surprise-and-delight initiatives to in-person guest assistance.
But the most compelling argument for hotel tech is how it supports proactive hospitality. Traditionally, hoteliers would cast a large net to catch guests, with hospitality commencing upon booking and check-in. Yet with developments in hotel technology, hoteliers can define their target market (or guest segments), create appealing content, and develop personalized offers and service—taking hospitality to the next level. Moreover, hospitality doesn’t end when a guest checks out. Through hotel tech, hotels can nurture relationships with their guests in a proactive way that garners repeat bookings.
While at first glance hotel tech may seem to lack a human touch, the opposite is true. Through the thoughtful and human-designed application of chatbots, websites, email automation, guest databases, and guest messaging, hoteliers can provide personalized guest experiences through every stage of the guest journey: pre-stay, stay, and post-stay.
Chatbots, online bookings, online check-in, guest profiles,
The pre-stay part of proactive hospitality includes your marketing efforts (website) as well as booking and pre-stay communications. At this point in the customer journey, anticipating your guests’ needs secures more bookings and then builds trust and excitement leading up to their stay.
Customer service begins at the moment a guest begins their search for a place to stay. As an extension of your lobby, your website is important for answering guests’ questions 24/7. A carefully designed information hierarchy, including an FAQ page, is key to giving guests the information they need, but questions will still arise and any delay in having them answered is a barrier to booking. Think of a chatbot as your online front desk agent. A chatbot presents a proactive approach when it pops up to prompt visitors to ask any questions they might have or to announce special promotions. You may even program your chatbot with specific key messaging depending on the page and duration a guest is visiting.
A prominent, intuitive, and responsive online booking engine is one of the easiest and most important elements of proactive hospitality. As 83% of US adults want to book their trips online, it’s important that they’re able to do so at any moment, easily and conveniently. Including relevant upsells and add-ons in the online booking process helps you present proactive guest service while boosting your bottom line.
Online registration and check-in
Once guests have booked, you can offer proactive pre-stay hospitality by offering advanced guest registration and guest self check-in. Providing guest agreements or terms of stay ahead of time reduces wait times for physical check-ins and, when integrated with mobile key and payment gateway solutions, enables guests to bypass the front desk entirely so they can get to their room sooner. Online check-in also provides another opportunity to present special upgrades and offers to guests as well as ask guests if they have any special requests.
Getting to know your guests begins by gathering data at every customer touchpoint, from bookings and guest registration to onsite ancillary purchases and special requests to post-stay surveys. Guest data is collected and stored within guest profiles in your property management system and/or CRM so that you can offer more personalized service to returning guests and also determine your core guest segments to offer more personalized, proactive service to new guests as well.
Simply put, if you identify that a significant portion of your guests are business travelers seeking a workation experience, you’ll be able to anticipate their interests and create offers and services suited to meet their needs. Knowing your guests is at the crux of personalization and is not only integral for creating satisfying guest experiences but for making informed business decisions.
Proactive hospitality during your guests’ stay involves anticipating their needs but, even more so, it’s about checking in on their satisfaction in an unobtrusive way while providing a delightful stay.
Keyless entry is an elegant add-on to online guest registration and check-in, providing room access via the guest’s own smartphone. Packaged together, this allows guests to bypass the front desk and head straight to the serenity of their room—for a smooth and relaxed arrival, which is the best welcome a guest can expect. Hospitality can be further delivered with a warm in-room welcome on a handwritten card and through your guest messaging system.
Guest messaging is an essential component of any customer relationship strategy, whether that’s through email or SMS. While most hotels communicate digitally with guests prior to their stay, few do so after guests have arrived. It’s astonishingly simple yet incredibly impactful.
Did you know that 85% of guests have a smartphone? This makes checking in with guests easier than ever. SMS can offer the same kind of immediacy (if not better) as a front desk for welcoming guests, letting them know when rooms are ready, and even providing personalized offers. For optimal proactive hospitality, use SMS to ask guests during their stay if there is anything they need, from extra towels to room service, to make their stay more comfortable. Guests aren’t always comfortable advocating for their own comfort. Anticipating what they might want with friendly suggestions is your proactive invitation.
Alarms and guest notes
Alarms and guest notes are simple yet valuable functions of your PMS that are fundamental to providing proactive and personalized in-stay hospitality. Special requests/requirements and surprise-and-delight initiatives can be recorded in reservation folios and set to display on check-in and housekeeping reports or as a pop-up alert on the reservation to remind front desk staff to follow through.
Housekeeping reports provide a failproof method for delivering personalized housekeeping services. Including checklists and real-time status updates, and accessible by mobile device, the housekeeping report ensures efficient and effective room cleanings post-check-out. Yet it can also be used to deliver proactive guest service. Front desk staff can add room-specific notes and requests to be actioned by your housekeeping staff. For example, when a booking comes in for a repeat guest that likes extra shampoo and often makes use of room service (you know this because this information was recorded in their guest profile on previous visits), you can add a note to the housekeeping report requesting the housekeeper to put extra shampoo in the guest’s room, in addition to a coupon for room service to surprise and delight.
The guest's journey is not complete upon check-out. In fact, it’s important hotels continue to nurture guest relationships post-stay. Doing so builds loyalty, gains repeat bookings, and may win you additional guests through positive word-of-mouth.
Post-stay emails and personalized offers
Post-stay emails are a powerful way to provide proactive guest service. Begin with an email flow that sends an email of thanks from your manager, along with a request to complete a survey about their stay. Survey responses provide you with actionable insights, particularly if the guest had a negative experience you’re able to correct before they take to social media or online reviews. Post-stay emails can be automated within your property management system or via integrations with CRM software, ensuring no guest is missed.
Many hotels are proficient in sending post-stay marketing emails. Such emails become proactive when personalized offers are included in accordance with your guest segments and guest stay history. Why? According to research, 80% of customers say they are more willing to do business with a company that offers a personalized experience. Of those, 83% are willing to share data if it means a more personalized experience that provides more value. When you proactively give your guests more value, you build loyalty.
Whether based on points, instant rewards, or partnerships, loyalty programs promise to boost your bottom line by building an emotional connection with guests through incentivizing and personal investment. Taking a proactive approach, a loyalty program can be very successful when your property management system is integrated with your CRM to develop targeted offers that are valuable and relevant to your loyal guest segments.
Research shows that more than 50% of consumers will take their business elsewhere if a brand doesn’t routinely anticipate their needs. Proactive guest service is an essential step toward superior hospitality and increased profits. Anticipating guests’ needs may sound like a daunting task at first, but with modern hotel management software on your side, it is not only possible but accessible—as well as practical. The result? Streamlined operations, loyal guests, increased bookings, and a better bottom line.