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.