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[Startup Article] Perfecting hospitality thanks to digitisation

#Bonnes Pratiques #Startup

Founder and CEO of Tabhotel

Many hotels had already started work on digitising their services before 2020, but the pandemic has made it possible to test new forms of organisation and to intensify this dynamic. For a long time, digitisation was restricted to budget hotels, but today it extends to top of the range, and includes both the customer pathway and the operational management of the establishments.

The challenge now is to find the right balance between productivity, the well-being of the teams and customer experience.

 

Adapting to economic and social changes

The digital transformation is being brought about primarily by economic and social developments, and the sanitary context has only accelerated the trend.

The hotel sector is seeking to achieve even more significant gains in productivity. The years 2020 and 2021 have made it possible to test new organisations with increased automation and flexibility. Feedback on experience from different hotel groups of different sizes confirm the increases in profitability, in particular in managing of check-ins and check-outs, and for sales of additional services.

Beyond this economic issue, there are also issues related to recruitment and the necessary revaluation of the operational professions. Difficulties in finding and keeping staff are nothing new to the hotel sector. Are there solutions that can help to reduce the hardship of the profession, whilst improving staff loyalty? Digitising the steps that have the least value in operational professions is an essential answer, beginning with reception staff, as it allows them to focus on hospitality and human relations.

 

What travellers want today: freedom and choices

Today’s customers want to take control over their time and their stay. They want to be free to chose when they arrive and then how they plan and spend their stay. Some people want 100% contact-free solutions to reassure them after months of sanitary restrictions. Others are happy to start check-in before they arrive and to be informed so they do not miss out on opportunities. Others, such as young people and business travellers, use self-service solutions everyday and naturally expect to have this option at the hotel. And there will always be those who are looking for interaction with the hotel’s staff and will seek some “human” time. How can you meet everybody’s requirements?

During the crisis, hotel customers massively adopted digital technology, it is a real major trend! In an interview with French newspaper Le Monde, William-Alexandre François, a teacher at Lausanne hotel school confirmed that “the acceptance of digitization in the hotel industry, on the customer side, was accelerated by the pandemic”.

 

A boom in technological offerings (and it is not over)

For many years, hotel managers have tried to blend operational efficiency, customer satisfaction and experience with online technology.

From the first “self check-in” terminals launched by CitizenM in 2009 to digital keys in an Apple Wallet in 2021, the software solutions continue to multiply using NFC, RFID, Bluetooth Low Energy technologies and the IoT, QR codes or even OCR.

We can, notably, mention the following areas of progress:

Solutions for online check-in and terminals that are increasingly easy to use, user-friendly and customised to welcome each customer.

Essential services that are integrated into daily life during the stay: keys on phones, using smartphones for payments, and “where you want and when you want” orders with QR codes.

Mobile check-in at the hotel, in the bar or in a cosy area, which is particularly suited to teams in high class hotels, with check-in, payment and key coding.

There are two essential points for a successful digital transformation:

1 Ensuring that the chosen solution resolves daily points of friction for teams in the hotel: repetitive tasks, a lack of conviviality for the customer, payment issues, etc.

2 Focussing these transformations on the very nature of the hotel industry: customer service and offering a memorable hosting experience.

 

Everybody has their own way of greeting, everyone has their own way of arriving

But how far can digitisation go? When do you need to leave space for human service? How can it become an opportunity to increase the human aspect of the relationship between the guest and the host, and make a hotel more appealing?

At Tabhotel, we believe that technology must be dedicated to human hospitality. Our check-in solutions are also aimed at automating tasks with no added value so that receptionists have more time to talk to customers and to meet their needs, which is the essential aspect of the profession. As for customers, they no longer need to spend time waiting when they arrive and they control their pathway.

Our aim is to give this freedom of choice back to hotel managers and their customers. Every hotel has their own way of greeting  customers and each customer has their own way of arriving and spending their stay. This is what guided how we innovated our technology, which is both omnichannel, ultra-customisable and practical, for the owner, the teams and the customer.

Photo credit: self-service on arrival at an upmarket hotel with M3 Ferney Geneva Airport and Tabhotel terminals.

The feedback we receive from customers everyday confirms our idea that digitising checking-in and checking-out, and sales of additional services makes it possible to find the right balance between productivity, staff well-being and customer experience. The emerging trend, regardless of the type of hotel, is offering freedom of choice for everybody, which means opening up more channels, whilst keeping the character of the hotel and the teams at the centre.

Audrey Gouache

VP Customer Experience at Tabhotel

Sources:

Digitalisez-moi » Hospitality On and Samsung based on a study by MKG Consulting

Le Monde – Moins d’employés, plus polyvalents : la tentation de l’hôtellerie après la crise liée au COVID-19 [Fewer employees, more flexibility: the temptation of the hotel sector after the COVID-19 crisis]

Hospitality Upgrade Definitely Doug 21/5/21: Rethinking Guest Arrival

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