Is going digital the way forward for hospitality?

We see innovations happening everywhere and in every field. It is no longer uncommon to see new products and technologies being rolled out year after year by big tech firms. The Hospitality industry has been somewhat slow in catching up with the rest due to the age-old legacy of treating customers with personal care and attention. But as we step into the new normal, all of this is about to change as hotels all over the world adapt to newer digital technologies to improve their services and cater to the digitally mobile generation.

The aim is providing an excellent guest experience by balancing a mix of human and machine interplay

Hospitality has always been guest centric; hence, human touch is a of vital importance. However, interventions through machines “digitally” can greatly increase the loyalty, likeability and trust factor that a guest has on your business. They present opportunities for easy, transparent and smooth operations. Several businesses around the world have used digital technologies that add on to their already superior service models. These technologies also help staff to spend less time on screen and more on providing a better experience to the guests.

Companies must be able to strike the right balance between human touch and machine augmentation. They must continuously calibrate this balance based on purpose, target customer segments and evolving behavioural trends. 

“We’re moving from a task-based approach to a role-based approach,” said Chris Adams, vice president of hotel strategy and solutions at Oracle Hospitality.

As per Chris, in the past there were a thousand ways to perform a particular function. But now, they focus on what exactly does the person need while performing a set of tasks. An example was given of a Front Desk Agent. Oracle has learned about designing business tools that have a simple interface and are purpose driven or “role based”.

Going digital is not just about building a swanky new webpage or having a million subscribers on social media, it is also about giving importance to your staff’s needs and adapting your systems to newer and digitally advanced technologies. 

Experience based services are to become a hallmark of hotel offerings in the next couple of years

Hotels will be able to precisely anticipate customer needs and design their offerings based on that. As data is “king of the future”, the hotels we visit frequently can hold vast amounts of data on us, and develop their services accordingly. It is already proven that inspiration has become an increasingly important tool in generating revenue and gaining market share. 

As options continue to evolve and businesses in the travel and hospitality sector continue to go digital, the stakes will be higher to nurture a traveller’s dream and match with their expectations. 

Several hotels will start advertising and promoting their business along with breathtaking pictures of the destination. To show off their properties they may also tie up with social media influencers who will help them target the tech-savvy millennial travellers. Going a step further, hotels may also provide a virtual experience to attract prospective bookers. As virtual reality provides a more compelling and persuasive sales pitch than a static image, it is to be seen how soon the industry adapts to it. Several hospitality businesses are already experimenting to understand its best use. 

Chatbots will take over answering questions and suggest services by knowing guests’ needs

With hospitality quickly adapting to in-house apps and instant messaging, chatbots are expected to simplify communication over phone and email. As with the emergence of artificial intelligence or AI, chatbots can eventually perform a series of tasks. Observing from a guest’s perspective, a chatbot is highly convenient and available 24×7 to answer any queries. Several airlines are already using a chatbot that is designed to answer specific questions and take the load off call centres. 

Growing costs will drive hotels to adapt to bots in several sections of their business. For example, a booking bot may be able to upsell rooms and services while assisting in fulfilling reservations. As hotels increasingly collect data, they can design bots to be integrated with this data to provide customers with personal offers and promotions.  

Adapting to digital technologies will do a major shift in a hotel’s internal operations

It’s not just the guest experience that will see a major change by adapting to digital technology, the hotel’s internal operations will also be smoothened and streamlined. Areas where going digital will prove beneficial are workforce management, staff support and development, process automation for housekeeping and smart sensors to streamline operations.

The impact will be massive especially on operations. Employees can focus on providing an exceptional and memorable experience to customers than performing rote behind the scene tasks. This will help in driving up consistency and quality.

Digital strategy in a time of crisis

As per a recent report by McKinsey & Company, data shows that we have leaped five years ahead in consumer and business digital adoption in a matter of around eight weeks. Banks have transitioned to remote sales and launched digital outreach to customers. Grocery stores have shifted to online ordering and delivery as their primary business. Schools in many locales have pivoted to 100 percent online learning and digital classrooms. Doctors have begun delivering telemedicine, aided by more flexible regulation. The list goes on.

This further cements the expectation that going digital is the way forward for all businesses, ever more for customer facing roles such as in Hospitality. In the last one year we have witnessed what digital technology can do and how it can make our lives easier. 

However, as rightly said by Sean O’Neill, Senior Travel Tech Editor at Skift, “Even consumers who embrace technology may worry that companies are exploiting them through so-called personalization. Hoteliers need to balance digital ingenuity with a human touch.”