Customer experience is a prerequisite for any business – to stay afloat, an organisation must cater for the demands of its stakeholders. This means adapting to diverse requirements and evolving with the wider industry. However, there are still companies which misconceive customer experience as something they dictate rather than a service that must be provided on consumers’ terms. The hospitality industry is a prime example, and one from which other verticals have plenty to learn.
For today’s hoteliers, delivering the right guest experience is vital: a positive guest experience has become one of the main criteria travelers use to select hotels, particularly with the rise of online review web sites. Just take a look at the popular television series Hotel Impossible – online reviews and rankings are among the first indicators veteran hotel operator Anthony Melchiorri analyses to understand why a hotel is struggling.
If anything, a hospitality company’s biggest asset is guest profiles – physical properties are just one component of that overall experience. The problem is that with technology playing an ever-increasing role in every industry, guest expectations have changed. The days when clean sheets and a well-stocked minibar were enough to ensure a satisfied customer are long gone.
All hotel brands, from the budget chains to luxury venues, are facing the same challenge: how to obtain the right information from their guests to enable them to deliver experiences that exceed expectations, and upsell on those experiences to earn greater revenues. While hotels are turning to technology to help them service guests and enhance their experiences, these solutions are too often disconnected, making it hard for hoteliers to properly compete in an environment where experience is everything.
From Customer Service to Experience Agent
Guests today need the facilities to initiate contact through a variety of mediums and channels. These must be integrated – customers don’t want to receive fragmented experiences. While a guest may be happy making a booking in the restaurant online via their mobile, if they want to ask a question or find out more information, the hotel should be able to seamlessly transition them to speak with a customer service agent. And every time the guest makes contact with customer services, the agent should know their history and be able to anticipate their requests.
Rather than guests calling the switchboard and being put through to different service locations, hotel mobile phone apps should make it easy to click to talk to an ‘experience’ agent who has the guest’s information at their fingertips. This means a guest can order room service from a visual menu, book a massage or spa treatment and then reserve a place on an excursion. If the times clash, the experience agent will be aware and able to suggest different options that ensure the guest gets the experiences they want.
To date, loyalty schemes have been the primary method for extracting information to deliver more personalised services and provide upselling opportunities. But even these programs are very limited.
Avaya is focusing on helping organisations of all sizes take the next step through digital transformation. As specialists in customised, integrated solutions that allow organisations to provide customers with memorable experiences, our objective is to enable these businesses to develop communications services and applications that accommodate their unique requirements.
In the case of hoteliers, to continue the example, the magic bullet is a customer experience that leverages today’s mobile app capabilities. We are working with hotels to integrate their customer services within an app that intelligently and contextually recognises guests from almost before the moment they log in, prioritises them based on their profile, and maintains the engagement from booking through arrival, during their stay and after check-out. These apps can suggest different services for the guest during their stay, and can be used to push information to them – for instance, a QR code could be sent to the guest’s smartphone allowing them to bypass check-in, and go directly to their rooms. The app would deliver information about promotions and offers available in the hotel, and third-party services could also be hosted, making it a value-creation mechanism for the hotel.
Retaining the Basics
Of course, personalised service should always come with an emphasis on the personal. Organisations need to remember that whatever else gets automated, one key element is always going to remain human – the customer. While many customers, especially – but not exclusively – younger people, are typically going to be more comfortable in using apps and mobile devices to initiate contact, that isn’t going to apply to every interaction.
Just like many hotel guests still like to have a traditional in-room phone as their main point of contact with customer service, so too must businesses within other verticals provide more traditional mediums of contact in order to cater for their diverse customer bases.