Are we there yet? Signing innovations that drive hotel productivity and customer loyalty.

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Service quality, productivity and customer experience are paramount in travel and hospitality processes. So why do so many hotels, travel management companies and corporates still rely on so much paper within workflows? We all know that “digital” is all around us. But what does it actually mean going digital in this sector? What impact does it have on our experience when checking into the hotels? Where can we simplify the process? Just how much faster? Will customers feel extra-valued? 

Whether one is at check-in in the hotel, going through the booking process in the travel agency, or trying to get the contract for the rental car, the industry needs to increasingly know their customer’s identity. This commonly means identification documents, handwritten signatures and flexible workflows in all parts of the journey. Travel Management Companies know this and are exploring how to improve “traveller centricity” for their Corporate Customers in their systems.

Without such innovation, from a traveller perspective travel means waiting. Waiting for each transport leg, waiting to complete yet more paperwork, waiting in queues behind others, waiting to gain access to the room, and so on. Hotels end up with too much paperwork, creased agreements and the like - wondering where to put them…how long to keep them…when is it OK to dispose of them? 

Just as guests value their time, Hoteliers facing never-ending administration so challenge inbuilt inefficiency. Traditional processes all take too much time: getting the forms ready, filling them in, stacking them up, putting them away… 

So, what’s the solution? 

Just as customers enjoy being recognised as individuals, so too the systems that assist service to customers must not only enable extreme personalisation but need to be customised in a manner that differentiates from that of competitors. The building blocks of the next generation of hotel-related systems may be categorised into their component types, such as Biometrics, Video enabled services, Paperless or Paperlite workflows, Distributed Ledger, Analytics, Social and more. 

Previous blogs comment on the first few of these. Let’s consider some specific examples.

No-one likes carrying a wallet full of loyalty cards to be recognised, nor waiting beyond expectation. Advanced electronic signatures can be used to reduce the pain of both. On booking, all necessary identity details can be captured and handled. If a visa is required, this may be provided as an optional paid or bundled video-enabled service with the ability to transact every aspect in minutes without the inconvenience of a visit to the county’s consulate. 

When the guest arrives at check-in, they do not need to carry proof of booking or identity documents – a biometric of choice (handwritten signature, sub-dermal fingerprint, 3D facial, etc.) may be used instead. Identified as a loyal guest, the reception systems prioritise this guest’s known preferences including room type.

From the constant turnover of guests, checklists on tablets which assist Quality Assuring room preparation (whether paperless or paper-digital hybrid) act to enable both in-room efficiency and better room utilisation. By integrating cleaning and guest services processes, whereby cleaners using a clipboard can sign off each completed room as it becomes ready, this information would be instantly available for front desk staff. Clients can start enjoying their preferred room as soon as it becomes available. With the increasing trend to multiple occupations through every 24-hour period, this becomes more valuable for the hotels as well as guests.

The way forward

With E-Signature technology, checking into a hotel can now take as little as 60 seconds, meaning executive clients can bypass the queues and start enjoying a hotel’s facilities from the moment they arrive. Optimising the hotel ‘check-in’ process for customers is just one benefit.

Signature devices that capture electronic handwritten signatures reduce paper, physical archiving work, time and money. It can also allow self-service by guests, potentially eliminating the traditional role of the front desk. Registration data will be complete, up-to-date, and the paperless workflow becomes much easier, making both hoteliers and travellers happy. 

This is becoming increasingly popular with chain hotels accommodating business travellers and those who want to reinforce the idea that they are innovating to meet their customer needs. Hotels already using some of this technology include the Hilton Group. They provide options for biometric and non-biometric signature upon booking and checking in. This paperless process could guarantee the recognition of a regular guest when integrated within well thought out workflows. 

Customers want to see the industry increase digital adoption. Consumer expectations in the digital era are advancing at an incredible rate. Digitally savvy customers mean organisational processes and infrastructures must run to catch up to meet the demand. Great Customer Experience consistently delivered and market out-performing productivity starts with the right technology selections. This can dramatically change people and process choices subsequently available to organisations. Easy identification of individuals using Biometrics, Video and Social tech, removes typical hassles in most client interactions from booking to locational services.

While defaulting to a digital channel is good for hoteliers, the challenge is to prove that there is a real value for customers and their experiences, beyond a minimal discount to their bill. Not all ‘digital’ is equal. Innovations such as biometric identity offer great promise. Some see biometrics in hospitality as “the next step change in customer convenience”. Icon UK is one – and coincidentally Managing Director Chris Jones will be discussing this very topic in more detail at his thought leadership seminar next Wednesday 27/9/17 at 14:45.

The way forward is to deeply understand not only today’s customer journeys from selection and booking to arriva, but tomorrow’s possible journeys in the context of how good the first contact processes through to room access are performed. 

To find out more, visit Icon-UK’s stand (#7080) at Hotel Tech Live 2017, or call 02031 501081, or email us at info@icon-uk.net