Omnichannel Moves to Omniscient and Omnipresent
At HT-NEXT 2019, I had the opportunity to moderate a discussion that focused on how hoteliers can or should be replacing an omnichannel experience with an omniscient and omnipresent experience. The topic suggests a review of the omnichannel experience that guests and travelers encounter – supported by the hoteliers and businesses in hospitality, but that is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
While considering the topic in preparation for this discussion, I found myself contemplating several questions, including: What process is needed to drive hoteliers to look beyond the omnichannel experience; what are the actionable moments in the here and now; and what are the intended outcomes? I hoped to get these questions answered during this discussion.
The conversation was fueled by both theories and examples of execution from stakeholders at G6 Hospitality, Hyatt, Delaware North, and solution provider and sponsor Tech Mahindra. The conversation started with thoughts about the guest experience within the omnichannel. In particular, the discussion touched upon the approach that Google is taking by becoming a one-stop shop for sorting queries for direct bookings to OTAs and what that really meant for the guest experience.
OTAs spend quite a bit of time trying to tie the travel experience together into a tidy package of flight, hotel, car rentals and activities, but Google’s new approach to push booking directly with hotels from the consumer’s search results could fragment that business model. Executives agreed that it is imperative to find the right balance in that ecosystem and that it will become just another way of doing business.
The executives also agreed that more often than not hoteliers generally don’t consider walk-ups as a component of the omnichannel experience. Jessie Burgess, CIO of G6 Hospitality, noted that a considerable fraction of G6 business in the omnichannel comes from travelers on the road looking for a place to spend the night simply by using roadside signage. Burgess highlighted that Motel 6 has traditionally operated in that model since the early 1960s, and it remains a part of the brand’s strategic focus.
During this conversation, we also discussed how a guest’s omnichannel experience makes it much more necessary for staff to be omnipresent. Hotel executives commented on the need for the next phase of property management systems to be purpose driven to deliver on a connected ecosystem that would empower staff to be aware of any and all guest requests as well as what has or has not been attended to in a timely fashion. Burgess noted that Motel 6 uses a PMS designed specifically to allow its staff to provide top-notch customer service and exceptional housekeeping. It places a high priority on these two amenities since these two services are typically lacking in the economy sector.
Knowing the Hotel Guest:
Omnichannel’s First Order of Business
As the discussion progressed, Lawson Kelly, Hyatt Global CTO, outlined the primary application of omnichannel strategies as being able to utilize the technology stack to coordinate and distill decision-making data. The challenge with interconnecting data points relies on selecting the right technology as there isn’t a single technology that “checks all the boxes.”
Omnichannel in and of itself is a broad topic and can be interpreted in many different ways. However, all of the hoteliers seemed to agree that omnichannel strategies can result in a more engaging experience for guests.
The next phase of omnichannel transcends segment types as hotels from economy, to business, to mid-market, or resort will need to utilize omnichannel practices to provide the omniscient and omnipresent tools that both guests and employees desire.
Joe Rembold is an Innovation Architect for Delaware North, a global hospitality company.