6 ways to build the guest experience around automation

Technology and automation are changing everything... but the guest experience is still in the hands of hoteliers. Photo credit: TextMagic

There's no substitute or shortcut for a wonderful guest experience. But technology is changing the expectations and experiences of travelers around the world.

Automation offers self-services to enhance—not replace—the service experience. Instead of worrying about reservations or room types, your guests will be welcomed with their preferences at their convenience. This doesn't mean your staff will be replaced by robots. It means your staff can focus on what truly matters—your guests.

As guest experience and customer loyalty gain increasing momentum as brand differentiators, it has never been more important for hotel managers to provide unparalleled service. Opportunities for self-service provide courtesy and convenience—but they should never detract from the personal experience with hotel or resort staff. From a mobile-friendly reservation to an exceptional customer review, here are six ways to improve and innovate your guest experience.

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1. Optimize Online

Your brand experience begins on the web, where more than 55 percent of all travel arrangements are made. Modern hotel websites allow customers to view room options, take virtual tours of amenities and read unbiased peer reviews of real-life experiences. Those options aren't only for desktop computers—65 percent of same-day reservations are made on a mobile device. Remember, the user experience of your website may be your first, or last, impression.

Unfortunately, more than half of customers surveyed found online self-service options to be difficult to use. Areas of improvement, especially during the reservation and information-gathering process, should be intuitive across all devices and modern browsers. Creative use of media, aesthetics and content should be accessible and easy to use while staying on-brand.

A poor online experience is no longer acceptable in hospitality. Photo credit: TextMagic

2. Your Room Is Ready

One of the easiest and most obvious uses of automation is during the reservation process. Guests want a simple, streamlined experience that makes them feel at ease while preparing to travel. A simple confirmation can provide a warm welcome before your guests arrive. While most reservation systems use email to confirm reservation details, short message service and mobile application notifications provide an even more personal touch.

Let your guests know their room is ready and they are welcome to check in. Provide directions, parking or valet details before arrival. Keep your communications cordial or even friendly to welcome guests before, during and after they settle into their rooms.

3. Present Opportunities

Leisure travelers are the most likely to create their own itinerary, and a perfectly timed promotion could be the opportunity they need to book their summer vacation. Send packing tips two weeks before vacation, or supply a list of restaurants and entertainment venues in your area.

Offer rewards or travel tips for email opt-ins, and continue to nurture the relationship before your guests check in. Once your guests arrive, use automation to send offers for roomservice or present a welcome message that details your amenities.

4. Be Proactive

What's worse than a dissatisfied customer? A missed opportunity. Automation can provide proactive feedback during a stay to make sure any issues are addressed before check-out. How was your roomservice? Did you have any questions about restaurants or entertainment? Is there anything we can do to make your stay more refreshing?

A friendly reminder can turn around unexpected issues before they show up as a surprise on TripAdvisor. Create opportunities to make every stay amazing before check-out and address concerns. Finally, don't be afraid to ask for an outstanding review after check-out, and use this feedback to find areas of excellence—and improvement—within your hotel.

Hoteliers like to say they are in the "people business," so they can't afford to stay silent on social media. Photo credit: TextMagic

5. Stay Social

Customers expect brands to be active on social media. For the hospitality industry, this means more than occasional discounts and marketing promotions. Start conversations to inspire adventure, share wonderful experiences and communicate the passion behind your award-winning service.

Seventy percent of social-media users share status updates or pictures on vacation, and this provides an opportunity to turn your guests into brand advocates. Personal referrals are still a major source of information for travelers, and no amount of marketing can replace a glowing review from a family member or close friend. Use automation to track trends and reach out to customers about their ongoing experiences at your hotel or resort, and consider incentives to have your property tagged in each photo.

6. What You Can Expect

Because you can use automation before and after arrival, the benefits of self-service opportunities are far-reaching for both you and your guests. Customers can experience a reservation process that "just works" and "makes it easy" for them to stay with you. Your front-desk staff can spend more time with people and less time troubleshooting technical details.

Finally, expect to see the results on the books—and online. A fantastic experience is sure to make a difference on social media, in guest reviews and on your bottom line.

Alexa Lemzy is a customer support & content manager at bulk SMS marketing service provider TextMagic.

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