Hoteliers: Your Best Laid Plans Will Go Awry Without Strong Wi-Fi

In today’s smart, digital world, the average guest experience isn’t so average anymore. Traditional room service, for example, is being replaced by in-room kiosks that offer guests interactive experiences at the touch of a finger. Virtual concierges can now arrange for everything from guests’ daily papers to checkout applications. The days of hotel card keys (let alone actual keys) are dwindling as more hotels enable keyless room entry via smartphones.

Technology has become an integral part of the way we work and live, and that certainly includes the way we travel. It’s not surprising, then, that forward-thinking hoteliers are working to quickly adopt emerging new technologies to enable next-generation guest experiences. At the heart of this massive technological shift, however, is one critically important thing that cannot be underestimated: Wi-Fi.

Wi-Fi: Once a Luxury, Now a Necessity

Wi-Fi has never been as significant for the hospitality industry as it is now, especially considering the rise of new mobile network standards like 5G (pilot networks are expected to be available by the end of next year).

Whereas Wi-Fi once meant offering guests uninterrupted music and video streaming, it today means an integrated mobile app experience that enables anywhere/anytime service, supported by faster response times and more anticipatory engagement. In fact, this is something 81% of hospitality leaders we recently surveyed said they’d like to incorporate for improving on-location services. For hotel management, this means streamlining staff communications with dynamic Unified Communications (when asked what most negatively affects the quality of their guest experiences, nearly 40% said fragmented team communications).

These key objectives are dependent on a strong Wi-Fi network. In fact, “network Wi-Fi” was cited by those we surveyed as having the biggest impact on improving the guest experience. It makes sense, then, that over 40% of hoteliers plan to upgrade their Wi-Fi service by the end of 2017.

This is certainly a good thing, especially as hospitality leaders look to make their properties more multifaceted and profitable. Imagine larger hotels, for example, being able to send automatic text notifications to convention attendees informing them of changes to a schedule of events. Or, consider smaller entities—like boutique hotels and B&Bs—being able to maintain their classic charm while amplifying backend operations with a robust data network and IP phone solution.

Regardless of size, hospitality leaders and/or IT decision makers can agree on one thing: the right Wi-Fi network is crucial for supporting today’s next-generation guest experience, as well as mission-critical operations.

Simplifying the Solution: Five Things You Need from Your Wi-Fi Network

The right network solution can transform large and small properties alike (we should know, we currently provide solutions to over 2,500 hotels worldwide). If you’re part of the almost half of hoteliers looking to improve Wi-Fi networking in the coming year, we encourage you to look for a solution that:

  1. Meets the ever-evolving needs of today’s next-generation guest:

    Your network should offer reliable and scalable applications that enable you to expertly handle guest communications via any point of interaction: voice, email, fax, video, Web, IM, social or mobile. As I mentioned in a previous blog, open and extensible network architecture supports this dynamic communication environment with the ability to create apps that customize and extend your hotel’s call center.

  2. Allows you to easily expand:

    For many hotels, continuous expansion is a challenging yet necessary goal. The key is to implement a network solution that can seamlessly scale alongside your property. Consider Best Western Premier Boulder Falls Inn. The Oregon-based hotel—newly opened in 2015—implemented an Avaya data network, Wi-Fi, and an Avaya IP Office phone solution to not only meet its current needs, but those that would inevitably arise as the property further developed. Future expansion plans, according to General Manager Nia Ridley, include the addition of a luxury spa, as well as a focus on hosting regional and state conventions.

  3. Supports legacy architecture:

    Restructuring older networking can be exceedingly difficult, especially when legacy solutions have been heavily invested in and, for the most part, still run efficiently. In this case, it’s important that a hotelier’s new network investment supports an intelligent migration from existing technologies to next-generation networking with little to no interoperability issues. This is especially important for international hotel groups, where all entities must move at one unified pace of innovation.

  4. Streamlines back-office operations:

    Your network solution should fully and seamlessly integrate with key hotel administrative platforms—like your property management and call accounting systems—to simplify and maximize back-office support. In addition to seamless integration with existing vertical applications, you should be able to easily extend or customize your telephony and UC features as you see fit to improve your various back-office systems.

  5. Embodies ease and reliability:

    In the end, you need a flawless system implementation that quickly creates value for your organization. This means a network solution that is truly easy to implement and manage. At the same time, it means a solution that is reliable, secure, and agile enough to support whatever is on the horizon for your property—from withstanding unexpected conditions to enabling strategically planned growth. Just consider Best Western Premier Boulder Falls Inn. The hotel was preparing for its grand opening when leaders decided on the last-minute addition of a second-floor bar, which required serious reconfiguration of the building during construction. Nevertheless, the property “came online faster than any hotel in the history of Best Western,” according to Ridley.

There is no shortage of opportunities for hospitality leaders to transform today’s guest experience. Just as significant as these advancements are, however, is what makes them all possible: next-generation wireless networking.

Related Articles:

Hospitality Leaders: Don’t Put Front Office Innovation on the Back Burner

The statistics make it clear: consumers’ expectations for services are climbing year over year. Almost two-thirds have stopped doing business with a brand due to a poor service experience, and the majority consider customer service a vital part of brand loyalty. To meet these expectations, nearly 90% of businesses today compete solely based on the CX.

So, why do 65% of customers still believe they put in more effort than a brand to resolve service issues? Why do 87% think companies fail to deliver consistent brand experiences? The answer has a lot to do with front office operations (or, more accurately, lack thereof). We especially see this in one of today’s most customer-centric industries: hospitality.

From international chains to cruise lines to boutique inns and B&Bs, the hospitality industry has hundreds of millions of individuals checking in, checking out and expecting next-generation guest experiences in between—so front office operations are crucial for growth and continuity.

How can hotels competitively differentiate their front offices? They need the right combination of skill, strategy and technology. They must transform traditional client-facing processes—welcoming guests, carrying luggage, front desk registration—with technology that is open, agile, and integrated enough to support the future of the customer experience. At the same time, hotels must empower employees with a certain level of architectural power and application functionality to make their jobs easier and more engaging. This is a serious issue, considering that the hospitality industry is coming off five consecutive years of employee turnover rate increases.

There are many paths that hotel owners, operators and consultants can take to improve on these fronts. The way we see it, however, there’s only one that will transform front office operations the way organizations need them to, and it involves deploying smart communication architecture. This kind of open, software-based architecture effectively and securely supports a services-based ecosystem, enabling organizations to reimagine business outcomes and CX possibilities in ways never thought possible.

Here are three key ways hospitality leaders can innovate front office operations using smart communication architecture:

  • Launch an integrated mobile app experience:

    Today, nearly half of hospitality leaders believe mobile apps have the biggest impact on the guest experience of any technology. It’s easy to see why: an integrated mobile app lets guests initiate any number of front office requests—from changing reservations to requesting a new room key card—with just the touch of a finger anytime, anywhere.

     

    And with the ability to embed custom communications into the mobile CX, hotels can let guests seamlessly escalate self-service experiences to any other form of communication (IM, phone, video), whenever and wherever needed. A customer can chat live with an agent before making a reservation online, for example, or with a concierge to let them know they’re running late. It’s no wonder 81% of hotels are striving to create high-functioning mobile apps within the next five years.

  • Stop guessing and start resource matching:

    The goal is to ensure callers are routed to the perfect subject matter experts as quickly and intelligently as possible, regardless of where the expert resides within the organization. The ability to embed custom communications into employees’ personal mobile devices supports staff with always-on availability. Meanwhile, a real-time data repository supports them with the contextual and situational awareness needed to drive guest interactions at the individual account level. Smart communication architecture enables organizations to harness the explosive amount of data—both structured and unstructured—that exists across their various teams, processes, and customer touch points. So employees can track, collect, and share relevant information in a way that truly transforms customer-facing processes.

  • Initiate unique new customer touch points:

    With so many guests simultaneously engaging with a property, being able to support any mode of communication is key. This means being able to seamlessly support the myriad of mobile devices that customers use today, from smartphones to tablets to smartwatches. It also means being able to support larger interaction platforms, like on-site kiosks, to innovate the CX with new client-facing functions. Just as importantly, this means transforming the in-room phone into a smarter, in-room communications hub. Move beyond analog to a fully integrated, digital experience—a concept that only 11% of hotels are currently entertaining.

The hotel of the future is already here, and it’s built on the promise of enhanced customer experiences (and returns). Hotels that innovate and embrace this digital transformation will naturally continue to meet their guests’ evolving needs, while identifying new revenue opportunities in the process.

Five Ways Hotels Can Build a Successful Digital Strategy for Improving Guest Experience

If research has shown us anything, it’s that companies across virtually every sector are realigning around digitization. So much so that 80% of companies identify digital transformation as their top strategic priority, and nearly half of CIOs plan to spend 50% or more of their time in digital activities by 2021 (compared to 13% currently). Overall, IDC expects spending on digital transformation to surpass $2 trillion by 2019.

With digitization proven to enhance business outcomes, cost savings, and CX possibilities, implementing a digital strategy seems to be a no-brainer today. At the same time, however, 62% of companies believe the current pace of change related to digital transformation is “accelerating significantly” in their industry, making it hard to keep up.

This without question includes the hospitality industry, where hoteliers are working overtime to stay ahead of today’s rapid pace of innovation. Just consider that 35% of Americans believe outer space travel will become a reality within the next 15 years. So, how can hotels stay ahead? Here are five ways hospitality leaders and/or IT decision makers can begin building a successful digital strategy:

  1. Extend customer communications beyond the call center:

    Customer relationships are shaped across every business unit at every touch point, so why quarantine communications within the call center? By extending communications organization-wide, customers can be immediately put in touch with the best resources—billing representative, property manager, housekeeping supervisor, event planner—to meet their exact needs. With the right technology, organizations can even build learning algorithms to bring intelligence into the last mile of routing selection, enabling them to match customers based on several deeper variables such as personality, emotion and call outcome.

  2. Build/embed custom communications into the CX:

    Hoteliers can tap into new engagement opportunities by creating or embedding custom, real-time communication capabilities into the customer experience. For example, they can uniquely differentiate themselves by embedding video into the mobile customer experience. By doing so, guests can escalate any mobile interaction to a video chat session with the touch of a finger—anytime, anywhere via an integrated mobile app (more on this below). As customers increasingly use digital channels to interact with the brands they love, it’s imperative that hotels can support a personalized, omnichannel experience that drives insight and engagement at the individual account level. With the ability to build and/or embed custom communications into the CX, they can seamlessly do so.

  3. Invest in a media-agnostic solution:

    This kind of solution should support multiple customer devices (i.e., smartphones, tablets, smartwatches), as well as larger interaction platforms like kiosks, to innovate the CX with flexible new touch points. Consider Caesars Entertainment: the corporation—which owns and operates over 50 hotels and casinos—launched self-check-in kiosks in properties such as the Rio and Planet Hollywood last summer. In addition to being more responsive to and convenient for guests, research shows that customers are also more receptive to upselling and cross-selling via digital platforms. For example, a study of McDonald’s self-service kiosks found that customers were 20% more likely to buy products offered through the kiosk.

  4. Enable data to be shared organization-wide:

    The hospitality industry serves millions of travelers who are generating, sharing and consuming their fair share of data each day. It’s imperative that hotels take advantage of this seemingly endless array of data to reimagine business outcomes and CX possibilities. Consider Starwood Hotels and Resorts: the company uniquely leverages social customer data to meet and exceed guest expectations, like the time a customer tweeted that his hotel room was cold only to soon after be surprised by an Alpaca throw blanket, a box of tea and a handwritten note on his bed. With the ability to share all relevant interaction data across all teams, processes and customer touch points, hotels can easily capture the kind of customer and situational context needed to reimagine engagement possibilities.

    Of course, this also means customers will be less likely to repeat themselves or face the frustration of being transferred across multiple departments. For example, when on the phone with a customer, a front desk worker may see that the individual engaged in a live chat session with an event planner two days ago about reserving a room block for a wedding. With enhanced data visibility, outcomes can be achieved more quickly, efficiently, and in the customer’s favor.

  5. Offer an integrated mobile app experience:

    In today’s world where 40% of people feel they can’t live without their smartphone, mobility is a vital part of digitization. This is especially true in hospitality, where over 75% of travelers consider their smartphones to be critical. Hotels should enhance the mobile UX by offering a sophisticated and integrated mobile app experience—one that seamlessly integrates a myriad of service channels, as well as out-of-the-box features designed to engage and entertain. The Ritz-Carlton, for example, offers a mobile app experience that lets guests make and edit reservations on the fly, initiate service requests, view and track bill charges, and even transform photos into vintage-inspired travel posters that can be easily shared via social.

With research showing that a hotel’s digital tools have a moderate to strong impact on 70% of guests, it’s clear that hoteliers should be working to build a successful digital strategy. To do so, however, they must invest in technology that enables their organization to be open, agile and integrated enough to support the future of the customer experience. At the same time, digital transformation must be considered an enterprise-wide initiative in which all lines of business move at one unified pace of innovation—something that research suggests only a fraction of organizations successfully do.

The right technology, combined with the right approach, will enable organizations across every sector to master digital to a point of competitive differentiation.

6 Ways Avaya Guest Assist Can Help Make Your Next Hotel Stay Extraordinary

Avaya Guest Assist is a mobile app that serves as a hotel guest’s personal “concierge” or “butler.” Not only can hotel brands differentiate themselves with a guest-centric app, guests feel like they are in control and are receiving personalized service.

Here are six ways that Avaya Guest Assist can help make the guest experience better:

  1. Personalization: Receive personalized welcome messages and a menu of room options that can be controlled from the app, such as setting up your wake-up call or do-not-disturb settings.
  2. In-Room Concierge: Access concierge services without leaving your room or walking to the concierge desk.
  3. Ease of Ordering: Place an order for in-room dining by browsing an interactive menu.
  4. Reservations: View on-demand videos of activities available around the area and make reservations directly.
  5. Communication: Access your in-room phone from anywhere on the property.
  6. Direct access to Guest Services: Request hotel services by simply pressing a button.

Benefits for hoteliers include higher revenues, as guests spend more money during their stay on advertising and promotional opportunities, as well as increased productivity, by servicing guest requests with fewer service touch points.

See how Avaya Guest Assist can create a truly enjoyable and unforgettable hospitality experience. Learn about this software and other Avaya technology for the hospitality industry by visiting our hotels and lodging page.