Plenty of hotels talk about embracing technology to manage operations, deliver services, and enhance the guest experience, which is what many call a “digital transformation.” The importance of digital transformation in the hotel business cannot be overstated, especially in today’s competitive environment where digital can be the differentiator. But, being ready to take on digital transformation is an entirely separate conversation.
Digital readiness speaks to how prepared you are to use technology to increase your hotel’s impact. Do you have the tools, the data and the know-how to quickly pivot when customer and community needs shift? Likewise, do you have the infrastructure to support your digital ambitions?
Assessing digital readiness before you dive into a project is critical to delivering an experience that resonates with your stakeholders, including staff, customers, funders and others. There is no one action you can take to ensure readiness. But, there are three broad ways to determine whether you have the right foundational elements in place to secure long-term success. Without these cornerstones, any investments you make in design, accessibility and tool development will be wasted.
1. YOU REALLY KNOW WHAT EXPERIENCE YOUR GUESTS WANT
How do you know what experience your guest wants and needs from you? Unless your answer is “through qualitative research,” then you have work to do.
Too often, hotels make decisions about their guests based on a gut feeling. Your gut might lead you in the right direction, but relying on gut instinct alone risks wasting funding and time you can’t get back on digital experiences your guests won’t use.
Your customers are an oracle. They’ll tell you what they want and how they want to interact with you — if you listen to them. That means research. Customer check-out surveys, interviews and workshops are all fantastic ways to gather data. Google Analytics, heat maps and other tools can provide further context by revealing how customers interact with your existing digital assets.
Armed with this information, you can develop qualitative guest personas and journey maps to determine what they really want, as well as how they make their decisions. And, personas aren’t just for helping you make decisions about user-facing digital experiences—your entire organization can use these personas to improve marketing, operations, customer service, and more.
2. YOUR EFFORTS ARE GUIDED BY A DIGITAL ROADMAP
The next measure of readiness for digital transformation is knowing where you want to go and how you will get there. Naturally, your digital roadmap should be guided by the personas and journey maps you developed. It should also be informed by one-, three- and five-year look-aheads, along with a plan for building out your infrastructure to support this vision.
Much like stakeholder research, this is not a step to be skipped or rushed. Start with the outcomes that matter most to you, and shape your tools from there. Doing so helps to ensure you are investing in your business goals rather than pursuing digital for the sake of digital, or to mirror a competitor hotel. It will also keep your key performance indicators front and center so that you can effectively measure ROI — and prove the value of your efforts to stakeholders.
3. YOU HAVE A DIGITAL CHAMPION WHO IS ACCOUNTABLE FOR YOUR ROADMAP
Digital is so all-encompassing, who owns it isn’t always clear. But distributing accountability for your digital roadmap across functions is a sure-fire way to lose momentum. Instead, you need a champion with decision-making capacity and a seat “at the table” to head up your digital transformation strategy. By marrying the strategic and financial perspectives of your transformation with a single point of contact, you’ll have greater success developing a cohesive strategy, marshaling resources and seeing your plan through.
ARE YOU READY FOR DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION?
Digital readiness, like digital transformation itself, is not a one-and-done event. It is a process you need to engage in regularly to detect new areas of weakness and discover emerging opportunities. Truly mastering the process involves shifting your thinking from stand-alone launches to innovation sprints that are responsive to your customers’ changing expectations. Before you know it, the sprints will accumulate and morph into hotel apps allowing for online booking, housekeeping requests, ordering food, touchless check-in and check-out, and even radio-frequency identification tags to access the room. And even that is just another step in the digital transformation marathon.