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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.