How mobile is changing the guest experience

This article is part one of a four-part series on mobile in the hotel industry.

Self service can be superior service, especially when it comes to mobile and hotel guests. Mobile check-in/check-out is perhaps the biggest trend regarding mobile in the hotel industry. Bypassing the front desk and getting to their hotel room faster is key for most millennials, studies say. But according to JD Power’s 2016 North American Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study, only about 3 percent of guests use mobile check-in and the number hasn’t grown much over the past few years.  

“Mobile check-in is the check-in method associated with the highest satisfaction, although it carries with it the dual-edged sword of potentially reducing interactions between guests and the hotel,” said Rick Garlick, global travel and hospitality practice lead at JD Power. “Our data still show that high levels of staff interaction are associated with high satisfaction and likelihood to return. So you have to somehow manage to maintain high levels of interaction while not getting in the way of people trying to expedite their check-in/check-out.”

Marriott International offers mobile check-in and check-out across 4,300 hotels in its brand portfolio worldwide. “Through the Marriott mobile app, we are personalizing the mobile experience for our guests,” said George Corbin, senior vice president of digital at Marriott International. “Our guests want to engage with us from wherever they are, when they want and in the way that they prefer—which is increasingly through mobile.”

Marriott recently rolled out mobile requests, where guests can use their phone to request extra amenities, ask a question or chat with an associate, to 700 hotels globally.

Hilton Worldwide’s HHonors app allows members to check-in, choose their desired room and enter that room with their smartphone as their room key, and the brand recently added Uber integration to the app. In May, Hilton integrated Google Maps into the app, which gives guests additional context of the hotel’s surroundings and the room’s potential view, said Dana Shefsky, Hilton’s director of digital product innovation.  

“We want every innovation to be purposeful and to solve common travel pain points,” she said. “From granting guests the flexibility to skip the front desk with Digital Key to providing the ability to choose their desired room, we are continuing to prioritize the features that make each stay that much more personalized. We’re truly giving our guests the ‘remote control’ to their stay experience.”

In addition to offering increased opportunities for mobile check-in, innovative hotels are using text messaging to ask guests about arrival times in advance so they can better plan their room turnover activities, Garlick said. Hotels also are using text messaging to ask if the guest needs a car, directions or anything else upon arrival. But not all guests are looking for that level of service.

“We know that some guests will only engage with us through mobile, and others will always want to communicate with an associate at the front desk,” Corbin said. “We’re giving them that choice. Our mobile technology is making the human moments at our hotels better, more effective and more personal, rather than replacing the human moments.”