George Wiscombe, founder and managing director of award-winning digital design agency Maido, talking about how the hotel sector can embrace digital technology…
Advancing digital technology presents the hotel sector with a huge opportunity but also a challenge. With guests increasingly reliant on mobile tech to carry out day to day tasks, they expect hotels to facilitate this, whether through mobile check-in or room service. But it is tricky for luxury hotels to replicate their bespoke white glove service online.
Developing an effective digital concierge is one solution that can enhance a hotel’s customer service with exciting and innovative technology. Here are the key characteristics to consider when creating a digital concierge.
Take a customer-first approach when developing a digital concierge. Simply put, this means prioritising your guests and their needs and wishes above all else. To do this effectively, you require a detailed understanding of customer behaviour, expectations, and lifestyle so use your hotel staff’s broad experience and harness customer data to determine what services will add most value or which queries are most common. Your website, app and other online sales channels should collect and use data throughout the customer journey. Store customer information and use it to personalise online services, offers and communications, based on individual preferences. This way your hotel will not lose its personal service as it moves more services online.
Automate for speed – but do it carefully!
There are many enquiries that can be resolved without the need for hotel staff input, saving staff time and allowing swift responses to simple queries related to hotel hours, policies, directions and more. However when setting this up, hotels must be careful to limit the responses to questions that lend themselves to automated answers. They must also be written in clear personal tones so it does not sound like a robot. When a guest asks for assistance that requires further action, the request can be transferred over to a member of staff.
Ease of use
Not all your guests will be digital-savvy tech lovers so make sure your digital concierge services are accessible and user friendly for all. Virtual assistants, for example, should not require an app to download. They should work with basic SMS, social media, or any messaging app. Everything that a guest could want to do with your online service should be made apparent and simple, with concise messaging and clear ‘calls-to-action’. Don’t overwhelm people with information – make it easy for them to access what they want in as few clicks as possible. Hotels should consider voice-enabled technology like Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa for guests to give instructions or ask questions.
Prototype and test
The digital world allows us to be fast and responsive in how we use new insights about our guests or market. As a result, hotels should not focus on creating a complex digital infrastructure and handing it over completed. Getting a product to market quickly is far more effective — allowing hotels to test and refine it over time. This can be done through tried and tested fast-paced prototyping. This does not mean rushing out an imperfect product. It means releasing an initial version faster, so that we can make future decisions based on real data about how people are using it. For a digital concierge this will provide direction on which services are most popular and need further development, the most frequently ask questions and what is redundant or missing.
Make it fun!
A digital concierge is primarily about the practical assistance it can offer but if a hotel really wants to capture guests’ imaginations it should look for fun and quirky ways to add value and special features using digital technology. Consider where you can add interactive elements that will entertain and engage people such as offering virtual reality tours of the hotel or local attractions or allowing people to adapt their hotel room to suit their mood by changing the artwork, music or lighting tones through a touch pad device or send virtual postcards to their loved ones. Some hotels are now using robot butlers to deliver items to rooms – the opportunities offered by digital technology are endless so let your imagination roam.