Creating a Human-Focused Future for Hospitality

Contactless technology has been nothing short of a lifeline for businesses throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. In fact, with the end of the crisis in sight as restrictions continue to be lifted, it’s the perfect time to reflect on just how valuable it has been in enabling hotels to stay open and even surprise and delight guests in unexpected ways. For example, of the 40% of Americans who stayed at a hotel last winter, 63% rated their experience as four stars or above according to Medallia Zingle research

While it was instrumental during the crisis, hoteliers have embraced contactless technology as a pivotal piece for success going forward. After all, consumers have strongly voiced their preferences and expectations for contactless experiences in the future, meaning hospitality brands looking to scale their digitization strategies have had to do so in a way that still prioritizes the human-focused service they’re renowned for.

In this five-part blog series inspired by our recent 5 Contactless Hotel Technology Trends for 2021 report, we’re exploring the value of contactless technology for hotels and other hospitality brands, as well as how they can leverage them as an extension and enhancement of guest service post-pandemic and beyond.

Having already dove into the power of contactless technology for gathering real-time feedback, how guest messaging can stitch together an omnichannel customer journey, the value of AI and personalization to take the guest experience to the next level, and how hotels can safely welcome guests back through their doors with contactless operations, we will now explore one of the biggest benefits of contactless technology in this fifth and final installment: how it allows hotels to continue delivering human-focused hospitality.
 

Empowering Teams to Focus on What Matters Most: Serving Guests

Mixing together a unique blend of automation and personalization, contactless technology has enabled hotels to streamline operations in a way that to some, might seem counterintuitive: it has allowed hotels to continue to deliver human-focused hospitality.

How? For one, time-intensive activities such as check-in and reservation management have not only significantly benefited from automation, but have also freed staff up to focus on the tasks that really earn guests’ trust and appreciation — like front desk, concierge, and other personal interactions. Further, these types of technology help service teams scale their communication strategies, enabling them to deploy automated responses to simple, frequently asked questions and allowing them to handle the queries and requests that come in that could benefit from a human touch.

After all, while consumers have strongly expressed their wish for contactless experiences to remain post-pandemic (87% of consumers say they think brands should continue to offer options for things like curbside pickup that limit the need for in-person visits), their desire for personalized interactions haven’t gone away. Recent JRNI research shows that nearly half of Americans view the human touch as an integral aspect of their consumer experience, and almost a third say the pandemic has only ignited their desire for more personalized experiences.

This data suggests that hoteliers’ ability to strike the right balance between high-tech and high-touch will be vital for their success going forward, as they use contactless technology and automation as an extension of human-focused service, rather than a replacement.
 

Giving Guests More Control Over Their Customer Journeys

To put it another way, contactless technology is empowering hotels to prioritize what’s truly urgent and important in a more nuanced and human way. Because while Covid-19 has reiterated the significance of human connection for consumers — even if it’s from a distance — it has at the same time caused them to realize how they want to control their own customer journeys.

Skift research from last summer found that 46% of travelers chose branded hotels for accommodation during the pandemic because they felt comfortable being able to control their environment — data that highlights the calculus many travelers are making today. That is, that they’re fine relying on self-service and online information for certain aspects of their guest journey, but expect hoteliers to be able to personalize service in-the-moment, too.

Contactless technology is vital for them to be able to do this, offering hotel staff unique insights into guest behavior so that they can identify when to automate and when to act with genuine warmth and care. For example, many hoteliers are using contactless communication tools to text customers pre-arrival to ask if they are celebrating a special occasion. They’re then using this information to figuratively roll out the red carpet at check-in, whether it be with champagne for couples celebrating their anniversary or sweet treats for big birthdays.
 

Scaling Personalization with Contactless Technology Post-Pandemic

Even as the risk posed by Covid-19 diminishes, the role of contactless technology will continue to evolve and become increasingly personal. And, even as people are becoming less concerned about safety, they’re counting on automation and contactless technology to meet their rising expectations for streamlined experiences and hospitality that’s built on a human touch.

However, with all the above said, it’s important to remember the role that hotel staff play in this human-focused future. After all, as a workforce, they’ve been one of the hardest hit of the pandemic, being forced to do more with less as Covid-19 created an undeniably unpredictable environment. And while contactless technology has been one of the biggest buzzwords in the hospitality space in the past year, its successes wouldn’t have come without hotel teams integrating that all important human touch.

So as we prepare for this new era, it’s important to remember that while contactless technology is not a replacement for human interaction, hoteliers can significantly enhance the experiences they deliver when they leverage its scalability and flexibility. Something that is, after all, vital for a people-driven industry like hospitality, where personalized interactions and human connections are paramount for its success.

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