I recently stayed at a hotel and tried to connect to its WiFi network. It was not seamless. How many of us have experienced this scenario…
After my smartphone found the hotel’s network, I was directed to a hotel website where I had to login. The page asked my last name and room number. I tried it a few times and it didn’t work. It was nearly midnight and I was tired, so I thought it was user error. I finally had to call the front desk. It turns out that the receptionist had transposed my first and last names in the computer system. I had to login with my first name, instead of my last.
This wasn’t the end of technical challenges. I wanted to dash off a few work emails before I went to bed, but my laptop wouldn’t connect to the hotel’s WiFi network. The network only allowed me to connect one device. I gave up and went to bed. If you’re like me, I want to FaceTime my family on my tablet, work on email, and text a colleague – all at the same time. By 2020, it’s estimated that we’ll each own an average of 3.4 devices, most of which will likely come with us when we travel.
We’ve all had similar experiences in hotels. Hotels guests crave connectivity. Providing fast and reliable Internet is a basic service guests are now expecting. It’s not only important to guest satisfaction, but is the platform for creating future guest experiences and developing new technologies dependent on high-speed Internet access, like keyless room entry.
Today’s travelers have grown accustomed to using their smartphones to accomplish even the smallest daily tasks, especially millennials who will account for half of the world’s hotel guests by 2020. For hotels, this means providing a high-quality network connection and mobile app -- a far cry beyond the landline phone connection and basic cable channels of generations past.
For hoteliers looking to move to the next phase of digitally transforming their guest experience, building on their current efforts with additional technologies will improve guest satisfaction, streamline their internal processes, increase their quality of service, and at the same time provide value to the hotel owners.
Take stock of what’s possible
The first step to digital transformation is considering how to deepen current technology -- consider what you have, and how to make it better. For mobile-minded guests who are accustomed to handling their travel arrangements via smartphone apps, hotels can give guests the tools to perform certain tasks on their own, like choosing room amenities or locations. These apps can be taken to the next level by integrating in-app directions around the premises, and loyalty program account access. Ultimately, an app can act as an extension of a hotel’s concierge service.
In the hotel room itself, connectivity technologies are now sophisticated enough to allow guests to control comforts like temperature, lighting and window shades through smartphone or in-room controls. Standard hotel TV services can be replaced with an entertainment hub that offers access to a guest’s streaming service accounts, games and on-demand movies. For business travelers, digital transformation means that their hotel room should be an extension of their office, with lightning-fast internet connectivity that enables videoconferences, presentation and webinar streaming, and the ability to connect virtually with coworkers. For personal travel, their hotel rooms are an extension of the home.
The possibilities are endless, thanks to an increasingly digital native population. Once hotels have determined where they can use technology to add value to the guest experience, the next step is ensuring they have the infrastructure to support it.
Get the right infrastructure in place
If you deepen your technology offerings without updating your network, too, the changes could backfire -- slow response times, poor performance, and a possible network crash are some of the worst scenarios. In an industry where a single bad review can deter future guests, a new technology roll-out needs to be seamless. To support new digital amenities and services, hotels require a high-performance network.
Fiber-rich Ethernet services will provide the bandwidth to support guest WiFi connections and high-volume applications. Such a network also will support a full range of Internet speeds up to 100 megabits per second. The WiFi network has to be able to handle Netflix, Hulu and other video streaming services without glitches, because guests are turning to their own devices for in-room entertainment. The hotel also has to ensure that guest traffic does not interfere with back-office traffic.
Increasingly, hotels are connecting lights, locks and other devices to the Internet to create a “smart” room experience. The proliferation of the Internet of Things is adding more complexity to the network. Centrally managing network performance and security is possible through software-defined networking technologies. This ensures optimal business applications management across all locations.
Hotel’s reputations have always hinged on the ability to impress guests with the in-room experience. In my case, that experience was shaped by the lack of seamless connectivity. For hotels to stay competitive, they need to meet and exceed guest expectations by providing a digitally-focused in-room experience with technology that meets modern demands.