How can you best meet rapidly evolving guest expectations? That's the question top of mind for many of today's hoteliers as they juggle the changing demands of a customer base increasingly accustomed to personalized, automated services. How can a hotelier retain their trademark hospitality and customer service whilst also catering to expectations of immediacy and individuality?
These are the questions that Habib Khan, General Manager of Arabian Courtyard Hotel and Spa, lends his thoughts to in today's post. We spoke to Habib about automation, personalization and the human touch - and what it means for hoteliers in 2018.
How have guests' attitudes to automation changes in recent years?
Personalization. Automation. Distinction.
These are three very important words that have changed the way we operate. Hotels are run according to these key elements that our guests have come to expect. They look forward to a more tech-savvy approach in personalizing their hotel experience and by delivering this, we achieve a certain level of distinction that separates us from our competitors.
Technology continues to shape and influence how people live. With the dawn of the Age of Assistance, a new trend has emerged. The availability of multi-platform communication channels is a double-edged sword that can both be scourge and solution to our customers and to customer service practitioners like us.
We now use automation systems to streamline the entire guest experience.
From the moment our guests go online to search using optimized booking engines, to one-click book and pay functions, up to the extensive personalization options, we get to be involved through the automated systems that we’ve put in place.
This allows us to be part of every step of the customer journey and create a seamless experience that our guests have now come to expect.
How can hotels balance automation with the human touch?
A study conducted by Accenture in 2016 found that 77 percent of customers prefer human interaction when they need guidance. At the same time, 83 percent of U.S. consumers prefer dealing with a person to solve customer service issues.
People still want to deal with people instead of talking to a machine especially when dealing with instances that require sympathy and understanding. This is because we establish emotional connections through authentic, personalized human interaction.
We can still achieve a balance between technology and the human touch when we weave our personalization efforts into the services that our hotel offers. For example, when we started online bookings, a lot of guests were relieved that they need not spend time, energy, and money to make a reservation. All they needed to do was go online and book a room. No long distance call fees, no driving down here to personally book.
What is the most interesting use of automation that you have come across at a hotel?
One of the most interesting uses of automation in the hotel setting is the use of chatbots when booking a room. In the 2018 State of Chatbots Report conducted by the collaborative forces of Drift, SurveyMonkey Audience, Salesforce, and myclever, 33 percent of respondents predicted they would use a chatbot to make a reservation. The 24/7 functionality of chatbots make it very attractive for hotel guests to use, especially for those who do not have the luxury of time.
While it is convenient for some, though, we still keep in mind to balance the use of technology with human interaction.
Most millennials and baby boomers are more inclined to use technology, chatbots particularly. However, in the same study I mentioned above, it was revealed that 43 percent would still rather deal with a human assistant. That is why we make sure that we still make it a point to talk to our customers through live chats.
What is your top recommendation for hotels trying to exceed guest expectations in the Age of Assistance?
While digital accessibility plays a significant role in meeting customer needs, hoteliers must be able to tailor each guest experience according to specific inclinations. This is essential to be able to connect to the customer and find out their distinct interests and qualities.
Setting the right expectations for your customer by being transparent, truthful and trustworthy can help you gain loyal guests.
Additionally, with the aid of technology, your systems can become more agile, efficient and timely in answering your client’s needs. Complemented with genuine care and attention, a guest’s hotel visit can certainly be a holistic experience that will exceed their expectations.
Striking a right balance between personalization, automation and creating distinction can spell success that can earn you five stars in the minds and hearts of your patrons.
This post featured a viewpoint from Habib Khan, GM of the Arabian Courtyard Hotel in Dubai. Would you like to be featured on the Triptease blog? If you have insights to share, get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.