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Hospitality is Rebooting: Why You Need an Automated Guest Experience Guide

Updated: Oct 15, 2021

Guests are now returning to travel in force and hoteliers, especially those in leisure-based destinations, have managed to save the season with decent occupancy rates despite some continued trouble.

Hotels reopened understaffed, and each property had to meet ever-changing health and safety protocols while satisfying guests' needs to feel protected. If we look back, it's been a truly remarkable season for the hospitality industry — one that will produce countless case studies and learnings for everyone to look back on.

In conferences and research papers, we’ve already realized some of the success stories to emerge from the global pandemic. But just seeing the success of some doesn’t quite tell others what they can do. Hoteliers deal with high levels of uncertainty while making budget-led decisions.

The good news is that forecast reports are largely optimistic, even for business travel that was much more afflicted by COVID-19. Several reports indicate that business travel will exceed its pre-pandemic levels in about three years. Global markets, meanwhile, are booming as industries including hospitality get back on their feet and rebuild confidence.

One natural consequence of what occurred during the summer and shortly after would be that, for next year’s budget, operations and guest experience investments require increased allocations than in the past. That’s, at least, the feedback I’ve got from some partners in the industry. Other areas, however, such as the marketing budget may still need to deal with some levels of unpredictability as it’s not easy to budget too far in advance.

But if there’s a business unit that calls for attention regardless of hotel occupancy rates, it would be guest experience.

Guest expectations changed permanently during the global pandemic. Technology made a significant leap forward not only to keep staff and guests safe but to also optimize operations. Everyday tasks and issues can be addressed in just a few clicks or taps on any device. And above all else, preferred channels of communication for personal use dramatically expanded to cover business use as well. Yet, at the same time, it has lowered guests’ tolerance for standardised, impersonal answers and long, frustrating wait times.

For hoteliers, this translates into a whole new set of challenges and opportunities. From a guest journey point of view, the lion share of these challenges would be distributed between pre-stay and mid-stay interactions. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • How do we communicate with guests pre-stay to inform and manage expectations?

  • Are we interacting with guests mid-stay to secure high satisfaction levels?

  • Will our pre-pandemic processes and guidelines surpass new guest expectations?

  • How to get things done with no friction and no waiting, but keeping a personal touch?

Hoteliers with strong guest satisfaction already identified emerging pain points, obtaining insights from data on what’s needed to make sensible decisions.

Medallia, the global leader in experience management, collects both solicited and unsolicited feedback from guests with thousands of hotels worldwide. If we look at the aggregated, actionable data across all hotels, we’ll identify patterns for success.

No matter the size of a hotel and its budget, the one piece of advice that any hotel should apply is to deliver an outstanding guest experience. With a commitment from the boardroom to the frontline, any hotel has the potential to create experiences that drive true guest loyalty.

Based on data trends observed, the solution is an automated guest experience guide (GEG) — a combination of a traditional GEG and an automated, two-way messaging service. Here’s how it works.

After arriving at their room, a guest receives a text message with a GEG instead of the traditional guest satisfaction survey. The guide is a checklist that covers the more usual questions the guest might have after check-in: Is their room as expected? Do they need a reservation for breakfast, or dinner, or the spa? What’s the password for the WiFi network? Can they receive an extra pillow? You get the idea.

Each question in the GEG triggers an automated chain of actions. For example, if the guest answers with the extra pillow option, the automated system answers back with a menu of pillows and, once the guest chooses, the guest receives a confirmation message while another message alerts housekeeping to deliver the item.

Countless applications exist to leverage an automated GEG. The beauty is that the GEG offers, by definition, services that are easy to provide by the hotel. Since, for the most part, the answers are automated, it’s an effortless trick to quickly improve guest satisfaction at the start of a stay.

You’ll improve operational efficiency with an automated GEG, which is critical as many hotels are understaffed due to a labor shortage. The front desk won’t be stuck picking up phones to answer repeated questions, for example. And, from a guest point of view, some guests may prefer going through all hotel information on their own time rather than at check-in when they’re tired or thinking about other things.

As mentioned earlier, COVID-19 accelerated expectations dramatically — which is exactly why hotels need an automated GEG that allows guests to solve everything with a mobile device. Fortunately, an automated GEG can be implemented by any independent hotel because the technology is affordable as well as simple to roll out at one property or multiple properties in the same portfolio.

Medallia offers real-time messaging platform Zingle to enable two-way communication between your hotel and its guests. Zingle supports SMS/MMS for text messaging as well as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp to put your hotel in the palm of a guest’s hands. As the platform allows you to set automated responses to common questions and also integrates with your property management system, you can create automated GEGs to deliver unique answers instantly using segmentation for specific guest profiles or room types. Zingle even syncs with other services, such HotSOS, to automatically trigger tickets to be created in certain events.

So there you have it: a piece of advice that any hotel could use, and it’s one that doesn’t add to your staff’s workload or increase costs beyond your budget while still making an impact on guest experience. Now you just need the right tool in place to create one automated GEG or as many as you need to satisfy guests and keep them coming back in the future.

Interested in learning more about Medallia Zingle? Meet with a hospitality industry expert to get started.

Carlo Alvarez Spagnolo

Regional Director Hospitality | EMEA


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