“Siri, Change The Sheets!” How Technology Is Changing The Guest Experience

31 August 2021

There can be no argument technology has improved our lives in countless ways. From being able to ‘Shazam’ that song on the radio to life-saving medical monitoring technology, new tech is cool. So too are hotels internationally keeping their finger on the pulse…

“Never before in history has innovation offered promise of so much to so many in so short a time.”

When Bill Gates came out with this pearl of wisdom he was most likely talking about his computer empire. But he could well have been talking about a recent hotel stay. As technology accelerates at an exponential rate, the hotel industry must not be left behind. The hotel experience is getting better, faster and smarter.

While smarter ways of improving guest experiences are continually appearing many hotels are approaching these with optimistic caution. Yes, moving with the times is critical. However each technological arrival must be carefully assessed.

The last thing an accommodation provider wants to do is to jump on the latest technology bandwagon without doing the research. Adopting inferior technology risks making the stay more frustrating for guests rather than improving it.

There is also the financial factor to consider. There is no benefit investing vast amounts in a new technology if it doesn’t deliver value – whether this is through cost savings, growing the customer spend or adding value to the guest experience.

We take a look at what new hotel tech is out there and what’s worth considering for your business…

1. The chat cha-cha-cha

Guests want ease of interaction and peace of mind when it comes to gaining information about their accommodation. However, for some guests, the thought of dealing with a human doesn’t inspire confidence they’ll receive the correct information quickly and clearly.

For the modern hotel, it’s a convoluted dance to weave. Human touch is needed – but not always wanted. It’s why chatbots are now often on the front line of customer interaction.

One such chatbot, Book Me Bob, is now in use by a number of hotels and resorts in Australia and New Zealand. Trained to answer 50,000 hotel-related questions and, according to its developers, learning all the time, Book Me Bob can take the pressure off busy frontline hotel staff.

The chatbot answers online questions from guests while staff work without the added pressure of dealing with the online queries. Recently hotels have been successful in using AI technology like Book Me Bob when a major announcement is made, a special deal is released, or an update on Covid restrictions is released.

2. Unlocking the future of room keys

Mobile room keys are a headache for everyone. The environmental and financial costs of production are high. Then there are the issues of lost, damaged and demagnetised cards. Thankfully there’s a new cure for the pain – and it’s something guests already have in their pocket.

Room access via a phone app is fast becoming a game-changer for hotels. With consumers already familiar with using their phone as a wallet, using their phone as a key is not a big stretch.

Just as the days of a clunky old key ring were replaced with room keycards too will these soon be a thing of the past as phone-enabled room access improves the guest experience. This technology is particularly relevant in these Covid times as it reduces the need for close contact and allows staff and guests to keep a safe distance.

3. Room service?

The good old ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on the door handle will keep them safe from an enthusiastic housekeeper but nothing will insulate the guest from smart occupancy sensors. Hailed as the next big thing in hotel technology, smart sensors send notifications to guests when they are in the room to encourage them to order room services or make purchases based on their previous ordering history.

Sending push notifications to a guest’s phone, guests can expect to receive personalised suggestions on what to order next. This technology is not new. Food delivery apps use push notifications to send messages to customers at their most frequent ordering times or days.

4. Alexa, give me fries with that

Voice assistant technology is expanding beyond the lounge room and into the hotel room. Smart assistants (Alexa and Siri as you probably know them) are popping up to offer guests a more tailored experience.

This type of technology has the ability to personalise many aspects of a guest’s stay and allow hotels to increase room service revenue. If a guest orders room service via a voice assistant, the technology can recommend additional dishes or up-sell purchases based on the guest’s previous behaviour.

As the guest’s history is stored from previous stays when they arrive back the voice assistant recalls previous orders and offers them the same again. It’s much like walking into your favourite coffee shop where the barista remembers your order.

And if this all sounds a little too futuristic it appears the majority of guests are up for stepping into the future. A recent survey of travellers revealed 79% were happy to receive predictive room service at some point in the future.

Whatever the future may bring, we can expect the hotel experience to develop rapidly as properties adopt smart phone apps, smart assistants and smart sensors to create personalised stays. As New Zealand hotels are quickly discovering, it’s simply the smarter way of doing thing…

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