Increase Hotel Revenue: Three Better Booking Experiences

Penned by: Frederick Sabty, Vice President of Hospitality Solutions, Avaya International

Tajawal. Trivago. Hotels.com – As a hotel executive in the Middle East, you are likely to know these brands very well. All of these offer Arabic language platforms, aimed at attracting the growing digital population of the region. With hyper smartphone penetration rates and a growing tourism source market, it is hardly surprising online travel agencies (OTAs) are targeting the Middle East.

So, how can hotels deliver distinctly better booking experiences and continue to differentiate their brand through service? Looking at the results of a 2017 survey of GCC travelers by Avaya, we can suggest three ways.

No. 1: Innovate at the First Point of Contact

A key reason guests book through OTAs is undoubtedly because their websites are tailored to be easy to use. Avaya found that GCC travelers prefer to book their room online, with 39% choosing to use an OTA, followed by 37% using the hotel’s website, and 27% the hotel’s mobile app.

It’s imperative that hotels innovate at the first point of contact by transforming the web user experience—whether this means meeting customers during the actual booking process, or delivering unmatched expertise via chat as they surf the web for deals.

Imagine a world where customers can simply click a button on your website to be instantly connected with the right staff member from any department. This kind of natural engagement drives customer experience and more lucratively, brand affinity. So, stop limiting your hotel staff with outdated tools and empower them with supportive multi-channel communications capabilities.

No. 2: Offer a Contextual Mobile App Experience

Travelers in the GCC are embracing digital solutions to enhance experiences, with 89% surveyed found to have used a hotel mobile app. This signals the need for two things: a mobile-optimized website (after all, bookings via desktop are still alive and well), and a high-functioning mobile application.

The mobile app is especially important, as consumers are increasingly seeking digitally-inspired solutions to simplify their hospitality experience. As such, this app should include unique mobile features that let hotels gain an inherent understanding of travelers’ intentions and motivations for improved bookings.

Yet, it shouldn’t end with booking. The purpose of a mobile app is to simplify and enhance the customer experience as part of the end-to-end guest journey. Tracking of bill changes and charges was found as the most useful element in a hotel mobile apps for GCC hotel-goers, at 25%, followed by the ability to explore hotel surroundings, such as nearby attractions, at 22%.

No. 3: Invest in Advanced Resource Matching

A major issue among OTAs involves a lack of transparency, from adding unexpected fees at check-out to having blurred refund policies. Worst of all, imagine arriving at the property with your family, only to find that the hotel does not even have your reservation? It happens.

Hotels can capitalize on this digital distrust by working to offer authentic and relevant information that streamlines booking—specifically, through intelligent resource matching. When selecting the most crucial factor in evaluating their stay in the hotel, GCC travelers cited a smooth and fast check-in as the most important at 31%.

Resource matching ensures customers are quickly and intelligently routed to the right subject matter expert, regardless of where the expert is within the organization. For instance, if a customer starts a conversation about billing with an agent via web chat, the customer can be immediately placed in contact with a staff accountant who’s headed back to the office from lunch.

Best of all, an advanced customer engagement platform can track customer conversations and consolidate that data across virtually any interaction channel—web, mobile, contact center. This creates a real-time data repository that workers can use to transform customer service. This includes (you guessed it) better booking, and ultimately check-in, experiences.

Differentiate Your Booking—and Guest Stay—Experiences

It may seem that OTAs have the upper hand, yet there’s an undeniable value of personal, human service. Case in point: a global industry study found 93% of customers strongly agree that despite digital advances in the travel industry, the value of personal service cannot be replaced.

Hotels should strategically capitalize on this with competitively differentiated booking experiences—and keep building from there to improve the overall guest experience.

To learn more about how Avaya is working with the hospitality sector to take guests beyond the digital experience, browse this resource guide.

ABOUT FREDERICK SABTY

An experienced veteran of the communications, hospitality and business services industry, Frederick is responsible for delivering industry-specific solutions to the world’s passionate hospitality providers.

Frederick joined Avaya in early 2007, bringingover a decade of experience in hospitality-specific consultancy. Prior to his role at Avaya, he was the Director of IT for Jumeirah Group’s Burj Al Arab, and has been a key implementer of integrated solutions for hotels in the Middle East and around the world.With 17 years of regional enterprise experience, Frederick is an advocate of technology-driven innovation with business-impact. Frederick graduated from the Haute École d’Art et de Design de Genève, with a focus on Interior Architecture.

Avaya’s hospitality solutions offering empowers the industry to deliver service beyond the digital experience, with a portfolio coveringCX within hospitals, hotels and other hospitality-related enterprises. Along with his team, Frederick enables 9 out of 10 top global luxury hotel brands to deliver seamless experiences through communications, software, and networking solutions.

GUEST POST (HOTELFY BLOG)

Travellers of today manage their daily lives through their smart phones – at home, and also when on the road. Many hoteliers are planning to get their own hotel app. The problem is that consumers do not want to download too many apps in their phones. And those who do, don’t usually keep them very long. The fact is, that travel apps are the ones, that get discarded the fastest. (TechCrunch 2017)

What we need is an ecosystem, rather than just another app, which will not be discarded after it was used once.

Customer Experience and Guest Journey are the buzzwords, that pop up, whenever we read about the articles related to hospitality. We have heard many hoteliers to say, that improving those are among the top priorities for them in the near future. But are there easy-to-implement Customer Experience Management (CEM) tools available for hospitality?

OTA-channels and AirBnB have entered the market. OTAs are even developing their own loyalty programs. And AirBnB has developed an ecosystem, which is easy to use and attracts guests with the superior Customer Experience.

Hotelfy is the concept for hotels to fight against those two – in the manner, that guests feel they are treated (again) like kings and queens, without the need to fill their precious phones.

Hotelfy enables guests to download only one app, which enables them to master their reservations, manage rooms and to communicate with all the listed hotels. Since the ecosystem covers several hotels, the guests are less likely to discard it after visiting one hotel. They may use it again and again with new visits and hotels, and thus it is already saved and in use, when they return to that same hotel again.

The App has 2 layers: General layer and the hotel layer. 

In the general layer there is the relevant data of the guest, such as room preferences, possible health details, travel habits and travel documents. The guests can also manage their data, so it is stored and shared in the way it is required in different countries.

In the hotel layer, the hotels can display their information, offering and services just like they would do in their own app. The guests can also manage their stay, room (e.g. mobile key and air conditioning) and order different products & services – also before the stay. The hotels can streamline their processes with different elements, such as check-in and -out. Two-way communication is possible before, during and after the stay.

When we have studied different apps that hotels are using, they are generally good for booking a room and maybe to manage the loyalty points. What they often lack, is the professional way to improve the guest journey from the consideration point, until the guest has left.

Hotels have different options to take part. 

Hotels do not necessarily have to integrate everything from the PMS to CRM and POS with the App. Hotels can also start with the Lite version and start benefiting from this movement in the matter of days. You’d be surprised to know how many features and benefits we can offer even with this Lite version. The guest does not necessarily even notice whether the hotel is using the Lite or the Pro – the differences are more at the back-end.

The recommendation is, that a hotel first adopts the Lite version and starts getting the feedback and experience. Once the hotel’s knowledge about the App usage has increased, we can optimise the integration of the Pro version.

Hotelfy acts also as a CEM-tool.

Another fact is, that the hospitality industry is really behind the other industries (like retail and banking) in digitalization. “The digi-leap” can be seen big and difficult to tackle or take. Hotelfy ecosystem is designed so, that the entire Guest Journey from planning a trip, to arriving at hotel and re-booking the next stay can be professionally managed in the digital way. There are many touchpoints that we can manage with the app.

When we implement Hotelfy in a hotel, we also want to design the processes around it. Hotelfy is not just another software, it is an ecosystem, which requires some re-thinking about how to best serve the guests in the modern way.

The only way to compete for example against AirBnB is to think and act differently. The hotels must re-design some of their processes and to start serving their guests in the way they want – through their smart phones (but not filling them).

If you wish to know more about Hotelfy, please read the concept: http://www.limber-way.com/hotelfy-concept

 

By Hannu Vahokoski

CEO of Limber Way

FORCIVE CASE STUDY: DATA IN HOSPITALITY

Forcive will be at HITEC DUBAI on November 14th -15th, 2017. Don’t lose the opportunity to join us at the Panel Discussion, Main Ballroom, November 15th at 10.45am.

We will walk you through our innovative way to address some of the most complex issues related to Data in Hospitality. Forcive helps you gathering the most out of your customer data lifecycle while improving the customer experience: is the key to create more engaging interactions with your guests, increase the likelihood to return and expand their spend into a focused manner. Forcive’s real-time capability to capture and operationalize any live data at extreme scale enables predictive customer lifecycle values techniques which are imperative for the hospitality industry.

Download the white paper here.

HIGH-SPEED INTERNET AND THE HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY: AN INTERVIEW WITH M3CONNECT’S CEO

Due to the growing interconnectivity of today’s guests, High-Speed Internet Access has become an essential technology for the hotel industry to invest in. HFTP and Naseba sat down with Emilio Dragas, CEO of m3connect, a leading Wi-Fi Internet Service Provider (WISP) based in Europe.

In our interview, he touched on the importance of guest interconnectivity, the challenges the hospitality industry is facing in regards to this, and the impact of 5G on the hospitality industry.

INTERVIEW

Q: In your opinion, what are the current trends in the hospitality industry that technology companies should capitalize on? 

A: A current trend that we are seeing is the creation of software designed intelligence WAN and LAN networks. The hotels need to provide reliable and easy interconnectivity for their guests so they can integrate their own devices, such as smartphones, tablets and laptops. These need to be easily integrated over the in-room entertainment system and hotel Apps. Vendors are expected to provide secure networks and backend technologies that allow for automated customer experiences throughout the hotel. In addition to that, the IoT will play a major role in managing all devices on the hotel premises. The keywords are automation, SD-WAN/LAN and AI driven network support.

Q: What is the biggest challenge the hospitality industry is facing? 

A: On the one hand guests are willing to take the risk of booking through platforms like Airbnb, not knowing what they get, on the other hand, those customers expect a perfectly smooth end-to-end service when they are booking with well-known hotel brands. Ease of booking, transfer services, check in- and out processes, loyalty points and programs, in-room services and as a matter of fact almost all other hotel services are expected to be reviewed, monitored and managed through mobile hotel apps or some other forms of online services, which in turn need to be connected to review sites like TripAdvisor, with ease of use to the hotel guest.

Q: AT HITEC DUBAI, you’ll be speaking about the power of 5G, what roles do you see 5G and Bandwidth playing in the hospitality industry?

A: With 5G we will see new applications and new business models appearing, which need to be supported in the hotel environment as well. A customer expects to be connected automatically to any network at any time. A future-proof network will need to deliver 5G connectivity in combination with local-based services. Providing Infrastructure to traditional MNO´s and their customer will be a part of the network and a new business opportunity for hotels as they can act as a neutral Host in the 5G ecosystem.

Q: You provide all-in-one solutions for your hospitality clients. What are the advantages of this approach as compared to providing individual solutions?

A: Historically hotels used island solutions to cover their needs. Those solutions were typically from lots of different vendors and the systems would not be interconnected. It was challenging for hoteliers to “manage” all those vendors and their individual contracts, let alone pinpointing and fixing a failure within the network.m3connect has developed conn4, the ultimate hospitality service platform which simplifies management of services through a single online dashboard, which can be tailored by the user, for the user. It allows for a centralized control over all locations, allowing to change all the content on all devices through its incorporated user-friendly CMS. Rolling out brand-wide marketing campaigns on all devices across all platforms was never faster or easier.Conn4 allows for a harmonized user experience across all venues and devices.

END

m3connect is a Wi-Fi Internet Service Provider (WISP), established in the hotel industry since 2001 and now one of Europe’s largest and most innovative hotspot providers.

m3connect is the lead sponsor for HITEC DUBAI and will be showcasing the full capabilities of its conn4 hospitality solution.

The full demo will not only show how they incorporate in-room entertainment, Wi-Fi, Digital Signage, VoIP and location-based services, but also how easy it is to manage all the content and services and how to quickly create marketing campaigns through the in-build CMS and the delivery of those to all end-user devices and screens.

Visit the m3connect’s booth #206 at HITEC DUBAI.