Picture this guest journey: After a long flight and taxi ride, you arrive at your hotel only to be greeted by a line of people shouting reservation numbers and waving their ID at the front desk. You booked this stay months ago, yet you must verbally repeat the information you entered online: your name, reservation details, credit card number, and ID. By the time you access your room, you’re exhausted and flat - hardly the best start to a stay.
By and large, hoteliers are still missing opportunities to use mobile technology in transformative ways that can improve the guest experience and streamline operations. Digitizing the guest journey presents an exciting new age for hospitality - one that sees technology and humans working in harmony.
A crucial step in the guest check-in process is identity verification and as it stands, many hotels don’t have the technology to help automate this. Guests are still expected to wait in line and hand over sensitive documents (often with hoteliers disappearing from the front desk to scan or photocopy them) to physically prove their identity.
In a digital age where travelers crave instant, one-tap experiences, no hotel can afford to isolate itself - and digital identity verification is a crucial cog in the mobile check-in experience. Are hotels offering a truly seamless experience if guests must wait to have their physical ID cards examined? Are hotels truly operating at optimum security and efficiency?
Here’s why hoteliers operating a digital-first model with ID verification at the forefront will set themselves apart this year.
Preventing fraud and chargebacks
Fraudulent activity and unwelcome chargebacks are a constant source of pain for the hotel industry – not ideal when there are larger and more complex issues like staffing that need to be dealt with right now. As well as eliminating friction in the back end of hotel operations, hoteliers should think of mobile check-in and digital ID verification as a shield from fraud and chargebacks.
Digital ID technology validates that an ID is authentic, further mitigating fraudulent activity and deterring bad actors. In addition to scanning their ID and providing biometric data, guests must take a photo of themselves which must fit specific criteria - including visible facial features and clarity of the image - which is then cross-verified for authenticity. A good example of this is CLEAR, a biometric solution primarily used in US airports to fast-track through security, but now rolled out in hotels.
Without this technology place, anyone with the right confirmation number, email address, or false ID can access someone else’s reservation, creating gaps in a hotel’s security and making hotels vulnerable to exploitation. With the added encryption and authentication of digital ID verification, hotels can protect guests from malicious attempts at identity theft and ensure their own defense is in place to shield them from fraud.
While these mobile systems may not be able to provide details of what a guest did during their stay, they can prove that a guest was actually at the hotel. For hotels constantly fighting chargeback disputes, this is revolutionary. If a guest claims they did not visit the property, you have direct evidence that they did - and can even complete an audit trail.
Creating a seamless and personalized guest journey
Every element of the hotel tech stack should tie into guest experience in some way or another. In a competitive, fast-moving sector, no hotel should sleep on guest expectations - and a lengthy check-in process with laborious face-to-face interactions will be enough to put many guests off.
The truth is, travelers have already adapted to digital processes in other areas of their lives (verifying their identity when ordering a ride with Uber or booking a stay on Airbnb, for example). It’s the hotel industry that is currently playing catch-up - and for hoteliers resistant to change, there’s a risk of falling behind.
Digital identity verification eliminates the friction of another touchpoint in the guest journey, allowing travelers to bypass the front desk, check-in, and access their room key with a few taps on their device. In the same breath, hoteliers can instantly access a guest’s reservation data - room preferences from their last stay, credit card information stored for add-ons, dietary requirements, and so on.
The opportunity to truly tailor and personalize a guest’s stay will be an invaluable tool for hoteliers moving forward - and in more ways than one, digital identity verification holds the key.
Simplifying compliance and operations
It’s time for hoteliers to work smarter, not harder. Hotels have a legal obligation to keep paperwork of their guests on file. However, gathering details and scanning the ID of each guest is not only time-intensive, but also creates room for error. By integrating digital identity verification into the mobile check-in process, hoteliers can ease multiple pain points across their operations: first, by removing the need for front desk staff to check each guests’ ID against their profile; second, by automating what is a legal requirement.
When a guest uses digital identity verification to check-in, the required documentation and verification automatically enter into a hotel’s records. This ensures that both the guest and hotel are compliant without any human labor involved - something that is becoming increasingly crucial as labor shortages across the industry continue to create profound challenges.
Technology should complement the guest experience rather than lead it. Mobile check-in and digital identity verification should perform the heavy lifting on mundane operational tasks - such as scanning IDs and handing out key cards - freeing up staff time to focus on other elements of the guest experience.
Walking into a hotel lobby should be exciting for guests, not a source of frustration or impatience. For hoteliers and guests, the check-in process should be quick, seamless and effortless - a staff member available if a guest needs assistance, but guests should not rely on someone behind the front desk to start their stay.
With hotel daily room demand heading for an all-time high in 2023, it’s time for the hotel industry to play catch-up – starting with check-in.
About the Author
Prior to co-founding Virdee, Nadav was the Head of Engineering at The Guild, where he managed engineering, project management and IT. In the last 17 years, Nadav has managed product teams of software engineers at companies including Zynga and Check Point. His expertise centers around leading the development of new products, scaling teams and creating software go-to-market plans. Nadav holds a BS in computer science from the University of Bar-Ilan. Nadav served in the Israeli Army for three years as an air force coordinator. Out of the office, Nadav enjoys working on backyard projects and hiking with his family.