Every time we visit a hotel, frequent a restaurant or hop on a plane, we as customers see evidence that the hospitality world is morphing as the use of digital technologies increases. Marriott hotels are experimenting with voice activation so that guests can ask an in-room assistant for tourist advice. McDonald’s is renovating some of its restaurants to include digital menus and self-order kiosks. Wi-Fi on airplanes is no longer an exercise in extreme patience. However, this is just the tip of the innovation iceberg.
Like many industries, customer experience (CX) in hospitality is quickly becoming the number-one brand differentiator, and the possibilities to offer upgrades and memorable experiences are plentiful. As consumers we have seen an explosion of exciting new technologies used in hospitality over recent years, but we are at the beginning of a new era. Hospitality is on the cusp of being forever changed in a way that brings CX to the forefront of action, transaction and design.
Here are four key areas where digital technology in hospitality is going to make a difference in the near future.
- Personalization: Customers willingly and eagerly share personal data with their favorite hotels, and this is benefiting them in myriad ways. Using artificial intelligence (AI), resorts can determine whether a guest is interested in spa treatments or golf packages based on past website searches — and then preemptively offer these perks accordingly. Hotels are experimenting with facial recognition technology to make a guest’s stay smoother - quick check-in, no room key and charges sent instantly to room bill just by a glimpse of your face. Restaurant servers might greet a patron by name and offer her a glass of her favorite wine based on past orders. And when guests check into their cruise cabin, they just might find it’s been heated to the temperature they last set it to on an earlier cruise.
- Communication: There are a plethora of apps that keep guests connected with what is happening every step of the way, from booking a luxury experience to checking out. We’re going to see it become easier and easier for customers to communicate with their companies of choice, with one another and with the outside world as more tech lounges, location-based services and mobile hubs are developed to make the world a seamless bubble of interconnectivity.
- Service automation: We’re moving quickly beyond Pepper the Humanoid robot. We’ve now got robots that flip burgers, make lattes and even act as a bellhop. Guests don incredibly cool tech-loaded wearables and RFID tags that allow for a variety of benefits like GPS, cash-free purchasing and keyless, hands-free room entry. Increasingly, there are voice-activated assistants provided to rooms or dining tables so that a guests every whim or order can be collected — and hopefully fulfilled — almost instantly. We’re going to be seeing new apps on our mobile devices and chatbots that will help you along the way in your travels, whether it be booking a room that provides beachside drinks, setting up a massage at your hotel post-check-in or making a dinner reservation.
- Marketing: A lot of this boils down to reaching the right customers and encouraging the current ones to share their opinions through word of mouth (well, over social media). Consumers are now seeing targeted ads from their favorite hotels letting them know about a new virtual reality tour that allows them to test the waters before plunging.
If a restaurant or airline reaches out to them with an announcement about an event they previously enjoyed, they may be more likely to push a couple keys to return to their websites. Target marketing makes for happier customers who receive a seamless individualized experience that they feel was built for them from the very beginning.
This is just a small sampling of areas where technology is impacting hospitality today. Exciting advances in AI and AR over the next few years will bring a new level of digital transformation for those that invest in innovation. Hospitality companies making changes now to prepare for the future will be the most successful when it comes to offering superior CX.
About the Author:
Jorge Agnese is Vice President of Consulting - Travel and Hospitality, OZ