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Beacons and Virtual Concierge

beacons

This year has seen lots of futuristic technology come onto the scene, and the travel industry has not been immune. Due to its location-specific nature, travel may end up being the biggest area for beacon technology to shine.

Beacons are small wireless sensors that can be placed almost anywhere. For hotels, this could mean placement near the bar, the front door, or the spa. The beacons communicate with individual devices as they move along the location. This means that, as a guest moves through the hotel property, their smartphone can pick up signals from the beacons and communicate with them.

This can bring a new dimension to a virtual concierge. A guest may receive a promotional offer as they walk by the spa or restaurant, or perhaps pull up a map as they hit the hiking trails. Other applications could include virtually guided tours, contactless payments, automated check-ins, and even content personalized to the particular guest.

Later this month, our own beacon expert will be sharing his insights on beacon use in the hospitality industry and beyond. Stay tuned!

Hotels and the Sharing Economy

economy

The sharing economy seems to have wiggled its way into every part of the travel industry. For better or worse, it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere in spite of the cautionary tales that crop up every week or so. People like the idea of crowd-sourcing – whether for products or experiences, I think it lends an opportunity to support something you believe in, feel like a part of something bigger, and contribute in a new way. The main draws of this type of travel are local immersion, unique experiences, and collaboration – all, of course, on a budget.

If turnabout is fair play, hoteliers can surely wiggle right into a few new markets by borrowing a few of those ideas.

  1. Local Immersion – Perhaps the most obvious answer is getting with local merchants. Be sure your staff knows where the best places are to eat, shop, and have fun. A virtual concierge can put all of the best local spots in the hands of your staff AND your guests. Aside from that, get to know local artists. Display paintings and sculptures in your lobby and guest rooms, use local musicians for live or even ambient music, and replace mass-market tchotchke with handmade crafts in your gift shop.
  2. Unique Experience (on a budget) – This may be the part where everything falls apart. Overhead costs are not going anywhere, which prevents offering guests a major rate reduction. However, this is where hotels can be the best at what sets them apart. Be the best at providing what sharing sites cannot always guarantee. Set travelers at ease in terms of safety and comfort, not to mention cleanliness and basic expectations. Then provide value where you can – offering breakfast, great coffee, or snacks could make the stay just affordable enough for guests on a tight budget. Provide discounts by partnering with local merchants, and be sure you are upfront on prices and additional charges.
  3. Collaboration – Many hotels are already having guests collaborate by using their photos in marketing and engaging them with social media contests. Lots of people feel invested in an area they enjoyed on vacation, even after they have left. Guests who have enjoyed a fantastic experience at your hotel may be interested in putting “Best Of” lists together for future guests. Hosting a contest around this may give them a little more incentive.

The Effect of Technology on the Guest Experience

guest_experience

Our friends at Software Advice, known as a free source for reviews of hotel management technology, released a report this week on how US customers feel about technology offerings in hotels with these key findings:

  1. A combined 60 percent of respondents are “more likely” to choose a hotel that allows guests to check in and open doors with a smartphone than a hotel that doesn’t.
  2. On average, 13 percent of smartwatch owners ages 18 to 34 are “much more likely” to book a hotel with smartwatch technology than one without.
  3. A combined 37 percent of respondents are at least “moderately likely” to choose a hotel with lobby technology, such as touchscreens and check-in kiosks, over one without.
  4. A total of 41 percent are likely, to varying degrees, to choose a hotel with facial recognition technology that can identify guests and enhance personalization.
  5. Forty percent of respondents say that the primary benefit of hospitality technology should be to reduce travel costs.

As our Head of Strategy and Alignment, Gene Hopper, says, today’s travelers have come to expect a certain level of new technology in hotels. Consumers who are growing accustomed to doing anything from shopping to ordering pizza through mobile apps are comfortable using their phone to interact with staff, order food, and even make payments. Technology has always been a rapid-change sector, and the devices on the market now, as well as those expected in the near future, are seeing adoption and use faster than ever.

But what is technology about in a hotel? It is not to give the guests something to play with for novelty’s sake. Hospitality technology should not break from the heart of the industry. It should surprise and delight guests by being easy to find and use, helpful across the entire guest journey, and enhancing (not inhibiting) face to face interactions with hotel staff.

Way-finding technology is becoming a game-changer for hotel technologies, and should see an increase when wearables become key players. For guests, this means easy access to great directions to their hotel, up-to-date construction and parking information, and local information. Inside the hotel, this technology can direct guests to the amenities they seek, point out interesting highlights, and even offer real time coupons and special offers as a guest walks past a particular area of the hotel.

So the real idea here is that technology facilitates moments of delight and stories for guests to tell their friends that have always been a goal for those in the hotel business. These are the moments that bring guests back to a hotel and bringing others with them.

To find out more, view the entire report here.

Preparing Your Hotel for Industry Shifts

industry_shift

Today’s post was written by Kacey Butcher, Monscierge Process and Administration. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

Communication is a tool we use each day to overcome challenges, share joy, and shape our emotions.  Without communication, we are similar to a ship without a sail. Therefore, how we communicate directly impacts our actions and reactions when engaging with others.

As consumers, we appreciate great service. Receiving such could ultimately determine how we communicate about that entity.  If we have a bad dining experience, we may share negative communication about the pain points of the experience.  Conversely, when the experience is positive, we rave praise and become loyal patrons.

Lately, you find companies such as Uber and Airbnb having the ability to disrupt the travel industry due to the direction of communication.  Consumers are increasingly sampling and then recommending new travel-oriented platforms with the latest methods of communication, thereby expanding their portfolio of services offered. For example: Booking a reservation through Airbnb allows for the traveler and the host to interact directly with one another, jump-starting the process of building trust and loyalty – and the likelihood of return bookings.  Both parties are given the choices for communicating using SMS, email, voice-call or even video conferencing.  The host can easily confirm that the traveler has directions and information about the local area. Uber creates a similar scenario, again giving the traveler options for using their preferred communication method.  These companies will continue to be disrupt several industries due to the aggressive options they create for their users.

Here at Monscierge, we have prepared for this shift in the industry.  We are in our 5th year of growing a platform with one single source for sharing local recommendations, property details, and travel information, yet can also give hotels the ability to communicate with their guests using either one specific method, or multiple sources at the same time. Hotels can drill down to one single change that will continue to build trust amongst travelers, and that is communication.

Direct bookings and owning the communication between hotel and guests will continue to be a focus for hoteliers in 2015. How is your hotel preparing for industry shifts this year?

High Turnover? 3 Ways to Maintain a Cohesive Team

cohesive_team

Staff retention is an important aspect of hospitality management. Team members are typically hard working and dedicated while maintaining calm and composure with guests. Not everyone fits the bill, which can lead to high turnover rates and contention in the ranks. So how do you keep up the team spirit if the team members are constantly changing?

  1. Recognize and reward your leaders – First and foremost, learn to recognize the characteristics that keep people in the industry. They tend to stick around for a long time provided they feel that their talent is appreciated. Leaders should have clear expectations for their team, set a good example, and follow through.
  2. Develop new leaders – Don’t get stuck in a rut of relying solely on the same few go-to staff members. Reliable leaders should not feel displaced by new staff, but newer team members should feel as if they have a place and a shot at moving up. Encourage your team to share their ideas and provide further training as responsibilities increase.
  3. Cultivate staff engagement – `Thorough training gives new staff members the confidence to shine, but be sure to encourage your leadership team to engage these new members as well. Some of the new back of house technologies can ease communications between staff members, even breaking down language barriers. The faster new employees feel like “insiders”, the faster they will become loyal members of your team.

What methods does your hotel  use to keep staff functioning as a team?

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