With the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) recently publishing its Stay Safe Guest Checklist, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the wellbeing, safety and comfort of guests and employees is highly dependent on an organization’s ability to deliver a superior contactless experience.
In fact, as hotel staff across the country have prepared for reopening over the last couple of months, many have turned to various pieces of research which illustrate just how important a contactless experience will continue to be. Our own COVID-19 and the Future of Commerce report, for instance, found that 79% of consumers say they will seek out information on a business’s health and safety standards before visiting in person.
For the hospitality industry which is built on high-touch personal service, the above certainly presents its fair share of challenges. But with contactless options front and center in the AHLA’s safety checklist, all evidence points toward a future for hospitality where touchless interactions provide the best path to recovery. With an effective communication strategy in place, technology like text messaging can power real-time guest experiences at scale, with almost no physical contact. In fact, hotels can transform up to 80% of risky interactions to contactless while elevating the guest experience.
From prioritizing pre-arrival communication to establishing a two-way dialogue through a guest’s stay, hotels across the U.S. are finding ways to deliver unrivaled experiences that meet their guests’ health and safety needs and concerns. Here are just a few ways hoteliers can remove non-essential interactions, reimagine their operations and modernize the guest experience to ensure guests and staff feel safe enough to return to their properties.
Unlike in the past when a guest’s journey was underway the moment they set foot in a hotel’s lobby, today, it begins as soon as they book their stay. With anxieties understandably rife as a result of COVID-19, many travelers are looking for reassurance from their favorite brands that should they decide to stay as a guest, their health and safety will be prioritized. This means pre-arrival communication is vital to getting guests back through the doors.
Booking confirmation emails, for example, provide a prime window for hotels to reach out to guests and communicate their cleaning and sanitization processes. Within the email, guests can even opt-in to text messaging for fast, easy and contactless communication with staff pre-stay, during their stay and post-stay. This will enable staff to communicate their contactless check-in procedures, safety guidelines (e.g. 6 ft social distancing, masks worn in public spaces) and other important updates that provide visitors with peace of mind that their wellbeing is a top priority throughout their stay.
A major component of hoteliers’ response to COVID-19 has been the complete overhaul of check-in and checkout procedures to minimize the need for waiting in lines and in-person interaction at the front desk. For example, brands like Hilton and Marriott have accelerating efforts to make contactless check-in available across their portfolios through their mobile applications and digital key technologies.
The truth is, contactless check-in — namely mobile check-in — is something consumers have wanted since long before the crisis. A 2016 study from Zebra Technologies found that 68% of hotel guests said they want to avoid the front desk by utilizing their smartphones for check-in.
Other technologies like self-serve kiosks are available, but text messaging can also be used to create low- or no-touch check-ins. By sending guests a pre-check-in message the morning of the arrival date, hotels can ask guests for their expected arrival times to ensure the room and front desk staff are prepared, or guests can ask to receive a ‘room ready’ message when their room is available. These options eliminate the need to wait in long check-in lines and most importantly, hotels can better manage the challenges of social distancing and relieve guest anxiety.
MGM Resorts International recently rolled out a detailed seven-point safety plan, which includes a variety of contactless check-in options for their guests utilizing digital keys, self-serve key encoders and their mobile app.
No matter the solution, real-time communication is crucial to keeping guests informed of the options and safety protocols and then coordinating a seamless experience.
Touchless Feedback Pulse
With 75% of guests admitting they don’t report all issues that affect their experience to staff, hotels are often left in the dark on areas that need improvement. Today, however, as hotels seek to remain nimble and open to serving customers in new ways, initiating easy opportunities for guests to communicate their needs with a post-check-in feedback pulse is imperative as hotels look for greater visibility into the new experiences they are providing.
With text, hotels can send their guests post-check-in messages to make sure they have everything they need and invite them to text staff with any questions and requests that may arise during their stay, thus limiting the need for in-person interactions. By creating these two-way conversations, staff can also gauge how their guests’ are feeling in the moment, and identify and fix any issues that might be hindering their experience which otherwise could result in a negative online review.
With stats showing 88% of travelers filter out hotels with an average rating of below three, and 79% will read at least six to 12 TripAdvisor reviews before choosing a hotel, the benefits of these two-way conversations cannot be underestimated — especially today.
Additionally, hotels and their guests can use text to arrange for housekeeping (by communicating the specific times that they’ll be away from their room to minimize contact), place orders for room service (and receive a text when their food is left safely at their door) and even communicate with the concierge in real-time.
The Future of Contactless Hospitality
When one New York City hotel reopened its doors to house healthcare workers working long, stressful shifts in the city, they leveraged these forms of contactless communications to coordinate check-in times, facilitate guests’ specific requests and, most importantly, create an efficient and contactless experience that kept all staff and guests safe, and provided peace of mind.
It was a defining moment in this hotel’s history and evidence for others of what can be achieved with the right technology in place. As we adapt to the evolving landscape and consumer demands for contactless experiences grow, it will be a blueprint for the future of the entire industry.