Leading hotels take great efforts to know their guests profiles, preferences, spending, activities and feedback. There is no doubt this focus on knowing the guest - so much the holy grail of hotel management that the phrase is almost cliché today - has improved guests experiences and loyalty. Back in July 2012, a Hotel News Now article entitled "Access to Hotel Data is 'Priceless'" heralded the evolution of "the comment card".
This data - primarily due to better tools to analyze it and enable its actionability - has only become more critical to guest services and overall hotel management decision making in more recent years. Yet there is a growing chasm and gaping hole in the existing data gathering infrastructure of the hotel industry.
The growing chasm
It's not news that hotel guests - like everyone else - have become glued to their mobile connected devices. Whether traveling for business or pleasure, iPhone and Android devices have disintermediated the hotel from the information gathering, excursion planning, and especially the transactional activities of their guests. For years, these interactions were excellent data gathering opportunities, but they are becoming rarer occurrences.
The hotel's influence over the guest while on their property has gone from significant to scant in just a few short years. And with that shift, has grown a blind spot for hospitality properties. Quite simply, for the vast majority of guests, hotel management has little idea why they are visiting and no idea how they are spending their time. The mobile internet is a juggernaut that the hotel industry is rightfully embracing, but it has created an undeniable and growing chasm between the hotel guest and staff.
The gaping hole
The gaping hole, if it's not obvious, is data on the guests intent or wishes while at your property. What do your guests want that your property does not today offer? What are they interested in that may be beyond the guests expectations that you can provide? What are they asking your staff for in passing that isn't provided and isn't ever never noted? And even if intent data is translated from a human interaction into a guest profile, how is this data being aggregated across guests to drive business decisions. This data - properly utilized - can supercharge a guest experience, optimize hotel services, and, perhaps, open new revenue streams for properties. Today's guests simply aren't telling hotels what they are searching for, they are telling Google.
The underlying problem
Hotel managers don't want to hear this, but many guests trust the wisdom of the crowd on the internet more than they do the concierge. And many others today are simply more comfortable engaging with a piece of technology than your staff. CNN reported this back in 2012! Sure they want the benefit of your property's service, but they don't care to interact with, let alone truly engage, your staff during their limited time in your destination. Sure there are exceptions, but this is the rule today.
As evidenced by the omnipresence of technologies that attempt to foster guest communications - whether by SMS, iPad App, or TV touchscreen, among other media - hotel managers recognize their guest's growing distance and the crater in the middle of the data that drives their business critical decision making. The challenge is that none of these tools capture guest intent or wishes and that utilization of these tools - given the significant learning curve for guests - is woefully low. Guests simply don't want to download an app or learn a new system for a short term stay. I recently conducted an interview of a frequent traveller who told me he doesn't even like learning a new television remote control when he stays at hotels.
The solution is to insert a frictionless technology driven experience controlled by the hotel between the guest and his or her own mobile device. To ensure its use, the interface must be simpler, easier, and more fun than the mobile device that your guest keeps in his or her pocket from morning until night.
It must be so simple that guests can learn it with their proverbial eyes closed and so accessible that guests can engage it without using their hands. It must be so comforting that guests are willing to open up and share their every desire.
Imagine your guest requesting coffee be brought to the room while his or her head is still on the pillow. Envision your guest booking lunch at your hotel restaurant or scheduling a tour while in the shower. Consider the power of engaging with your guests while they do yoga or exercise in the privacy of their room.
There is only one such means of engagement today: Automated Voice.
This article was originally published at http://www.hospitalitynet.org/column/154000392/4078151.html