The Hotel Industry has evolved at a rapid pace in the past few decades. From accommodation types to the sources of reservations, from hotel management systems to guest experience strategies, everything has come a far way, thanks to technology. Today, you can look for and book a room in a hotel thousands of miles away, take your family and your pet along with you on the trip, select activities you’d be interested in doing during your stay with them, pay for everything online and receive a ‘thank you for choosing us’ message from the hotel in a matter of minutes! (I’d say seconds, but since the assumption is that you have a pet, I take it that you could have been distracted for a while!).
But jokes aside, as someone who has seen this revolution unfold layer by layer, since the early 90s, I am a huge fan of convenience-led innovation. I know our generation has some serious lifestyle-dictated health complications chasing after, but that’s not the point here. The point is that we are at a place today, where the pace at which technology is evolving is immeasurable.
The hotel industry has been fortunate in seeing a tremendous transformation in a very short span of time. But for convenience, (see what I mean!) we will consider only the last two decades. Technology has empowered us with the internet, cloud-based Hotel Management Systems, third-party intermediaries supporting PMSs & HMSs, several marketing and distribution channels, infrastructural components to improve the experience, the guest experience revolution and, of course, Artificial Intelligence.
What’s taken the industry by storm over the past few years is the marriage of the latter two- using AI to improve the guest experience. To narrow down the context, I’m talking about guest self-service portals. And this, somehow, just feels like the best thing to happen to the hotel industry. The benefits that this marriage can bring to the service ecosystem are numerous. Listing them all in one blog wouldn’t do justice to the magnanimity of it. And for this reason, in this blog, we will focus on one of the most promising benefits of the guest self-service kiosks for your hotel.
But first, what is a guest self-service portal?
When a guest makes a booking at a hotel, the PMS automatically sends a confirmatory email to the guest. In this email, there is also an embedded link along with the customary greetings and information. This link takes the guest to their self-service portal from where they will be able to directly manage things like pickup & drop arrangement, upgradation of room type, check-in, checkout, etc.
Similarly, a self-service kiosk is akin to the one you must have seen, the airline self-check-in kiosk, bill payment kiosks in banks, etc. A guest self-service kiosk at a hotel allows guests to check themselves in and out, upgrade rooms, get the keycard, make payments, etc.
Basically, a self-service portal helps guests take control of some important aspects of their stay by eliminating unnecessary delays in arriving at your hotel, waiting in a queue for their turn to be checked-in, etc. It lets you empower your guests to independently handle otherwise time-consuming processes.
Why is a self-service portal important?
We’ve discussed how it is beneficial for guests and how it saves time and effort for them. But the real magic lies in the plethora of benefits it brings in for hoteliers. Check these out:
1. Staff can focus on human interactions
Traditionally, a significant chunk of your front desk staffs’ day goes into staying put at the reception counter- welcoming, checking-in and checking out guests. This is not only highly time-consuming but also an obsolete way of doing things. A decade ago, it made sense to manually lead this process. Today, it can be easily automated.
The biggest advantage of automating long and tedious processes with a guest self-service portal is that your staff has the luxury of time. With check-in and check-out digitized, your front desk staff can invest more time and effort in building better guest relations, personalizing guests’ experience and establishing a deeper human connection with guests. Nothing compares to genuine service, and this can only be offered by a real person- not an email, neither kiosk, nor a bot.
2. Increase chances of upselling- rooms as well as services
Another major benefit from self-service portals is that upselling becomes very easy and less awkward. Forget about training your staff to upsell rooms and services to guests! List out all the possible upsells in your hotel- all the room types, amenities available, services they can avail, activities they can do, etc.
By making these options visible on the guest self-service portal, you gently nudge the guest to choose an upsell or two. They feel like you give them the choice of picking whatever service, activity or room they want without being coerced to do so.
3. Revenue uplift
If done right, upselling is a solid source of revenue. The key here is to make it look as subtle as possible. Nobody likes to be forced to do something they don’t voluntarily want to. When a hotel staff pressurizes a guest to check out the spa or to go on a safari against their will, it negatively impacts guest experience which, again, costs you dearly. Negative guest experience leads to negative reviews and we don’t want that, do we? Get smart with the placement and presentation of your upselling options on your self-service portal/kiosk so you can witness an uptick in your revenue.
But upselling aside, guest self-service portals drastically change the way guests perceive your hotel brand. It conveys to them that you value time, which speaks volume about the hotel’s culture. This can go a long way in shaping their perception of you, which is the basis on which guest experience is defined. This could even potentially lead to guest loyalty, and loyalty is great news if revenue uplift is what you’re after.
4. Reliable, error-free guest data
Fairly self-evident, this one. The fact that guests get to build their own profile on the portal means that there is zero scope for errors. Guest data is crucial for any brand that is on the hunt for guest relations management. The self-service portal also provides you with guest history details, based on which you can proactively plan their stay. You can familiarize yourself with their tastes and preferences, surprise them if their birthday or anniversary is around the corner, stock the refrigerator with their favorite beverage, the possibilities are endless!
5. Stay informed about your guests’ itinerary and agenda
The guest service portal allows you to notify guests about your hotel policy. You can also furnish other details of early check-ins and early checkouts. Should a guest feel the need to check in earlier than scheduled, they can do it automatically from the portal (depending on availability). Stay updated about any such changes in the plan so you can plan accordingly. No more rude shocks, no more embarrassment!