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11/09/2015

Modernizing the Guest Experience

Several years ago, the in-room guest experience could often seemed dated and uninspiring. With all the technology advancements available, it was a mystery why the guest experience seemed locked in 1995.
 
Fast forward a few years, and the in-room hospitality experience has changed radically with the introduction of open, cloud-based software systems. These new technology platforms enable anyone in the hospitality industry (from retail to cruise to hotel) to connect with customers and guests through a smart digital display which delivers targeted content, ad messages and interactive features.
 
Companies in the hospitality industry continually seek to increase brand engagement and loyalty and utilizing modern technology ensures a higher quality user experience as well as the ability to tailor communications to an increasingly savvy guest market. Open, cloud-based solutions enable new levels of personalized service and targeted marketing, while opening up new revenue streams and increasing guest satisfaction.  Here, UIEvolution discusses the impact this technology is having on the lodging industry.

Customization begets customization
Open software programs allow designated employees the ability to customize, control and update the customer experience while still using existing hardware and content providers. Best of all, these systems provide brands with the ability to collect data on customer behavior and preferences that can be used to adjust marketing strategies, strengthen brand and identify revenue opportunities. Because these solutions are cloud-based, updates can be delivered simultaneously across the entire ecosystem.
The Heathman Hotel, a 91-room luxury hotel on Lake Washington outside of Seattle, recently implemented one of these open systems in an effort to reach a younger demographic. Their new cloud-based system is built on an HTML5 architecture and offers guests a customized, interactive welcome screen used for express check-in/check-out services, listings of restaurant hours and menus, in-hotel events and local information, as well as access to applications and content provided by their content partners.
 
A benefit of the new system is the ability to gather information on guest behavior and preferences, enabling the Heathman to deliver a more targeted, customized experience. They can see right away who is watching what types of content, whether or not a guest is a loyalty member, if she enjoys wine or frequently books time at the spa, and start to serve up content accordingly. An added benefit is the ability to see which programs are driving revenue, and which aren’t. The Heathman experimented recently with offering taxi services through the screen, but quickly found that guests did not engage with the service in that way. They were able to rethink the program before they had invested significant resources.

Immediacy & consistency can happen in the cloud
For major hotel properties with multiple locations, ensuring a consistent guest experience is tantamount to the overall brand and image of the chain. National chains with locations in various parts of the country have traditionally set branding and design standards for in-room displays from headquarters. Local hotels were then able to take the format and add in the details specific to their individual markets. With more traditional, closed systems that are installed on site, any changes or updates required a manual update process that wasn’t consistent from location to location.

Cloud-based systems are changing all that. Today, updates can be made and immediately pushed out to all systems in the hotel chain. For major brands, this capability dramatically reduces the time and expense involved in making updates to the system, and ensures a consistent guest experience, regardless of location.

Integration made easy with open systems
Open, hybrid cloud-based systems have been a boon to operators in the cruise industry as well. Like the implementation at the Heathman, today's technology solutions are designed to be hardware independent, which allows cruise operators to focus less on the hardware they'll use long term and more on investments in the software and the experience they'll to deliver to guests.
Perhaps the biggest benefit to cruise operators is the ability to upgrade and customize content in-house, without needing to work through a service provider. With the closed systems traditionally used in the cruise industry, every time a system upgrade or change was required, cruise operators were locked out, required to turn in a change request to a third party supplier and wait for service.

Today, they can build their own applications experience, make upgrades themselves or work with third parties to bring applications into their ecosystem. These capabilities not only allow for customizing content on different ships and sea routes, but allow cruise operators the ability to deliver an up to date guest experience much more easily and cost-effectively than ever before. Princess Cruise Lines and Holland America Lines have both adopted an open platform where passengers can enjoy interactive maps, weather reports, lists of sightseeing excursions and more.

Thanks to open, cloud-based systems, the in-room guest experience of today is rich, dynamic and interactive. Best of all, these solutions allow hotel and cruise operators to focus less on the technology details and more on the guest experience, which is what they do best.