Today, the hotel industry is being transformed by customer engagement technology (CET). According to Hospitality Technology’s 2017 Lodging Technology Study, 52% of hotels stated that the top priority for their technology investments was the improvement of digital customer engagement and loyalty.
Yet despite this apparently proactive stance, hotels are also being driven by another force – the mobile technology in the hands of almost every guest that the hotel industry serves. Guests expect to use their smartphones for almost anything nowadays. In the hospitality context, it starts with digital bookings (40% of all digital bookings are now made with mobile devices). Inside the hotel, it continues with intensive use for surfing the net, finding out about hotel services, and even controlling their guest room temperatures, TVs, and door locks.
Guest Wi-Fi a Top Priority, but What Else Do Guests Want?
It is therefore only natural that free Wi-Fi tops the list of factors influencing booking decisions by hotel guests. At 89% of respondents to HT’s survey citing this amenity as a decision factor, free Wi-Fi beats even the ability to see photos and videos of the hotel before booking (84%) and ease of the online booking process (81%).
Customer Priorities for Booking Hotel Rooms with Free Wi-Fi a Major Driver
(HT 2017 Lodging Technology Study)
However, HT also paints a disquieting picture of a “mobile divide” between what guests want and what hotels offer. While hotels and guests are largely in agreement on availability over mobile of items like room reservations and loyalty program management, other disconnects are flagrant. Customer expectations include to be able to use their mobiles for checking in and out, choosing rooms, being billed and making payment, controlling room access, configuring their room environment, accessing special promotions and discounts, and more. And while hotels may want to provide such services, a further inhibitor is the quality of the free Wi-Fi service provided, with low speeds and poor reliability continuing to dog many establishments.
Two Fundamental Actions for Hotels for Guest Satisfaction
Clearly, hotels cannot sit and wait for matters to improve. There are technology-driven answers to many of the issues above and hotels are already setting aside budgets for technology that must now be spent wisely. Two initiatives are required to start.
- Upgrade Wi-Fi installations where necessary to provide satisfactory connectivity for all guests in all parts of the hotel. The remaining hotels that still insist on making guests pay for Wi-Fi connections should review their policy, as survey results and common sense suggest hotels have more to gain by encouraging access to Wi-Fi and hence to the value-added services they can provide over it.
- Find out what their guests specifically want. While industry surveys can be a valuable guide to overall trends and competitive positioning, many hotels still cater to a clientele with its own needs and wants. The best time to find out what clients want and what they think of the services provided so far is when those clients are guests, staying at the hotel and experiencing what it can offer.
Guest Wi-Fi Performance is Available Today
Underlying Wi-Fi networking can be upgraded by competent professionals where necessary, checking that bandwidth extends to the furthest reaches of the property, and ensuring secure and reliable service. To be fair, the HT study also indicates that in budgeting to improve their customer experience management (CXM), hotels are already targeting their Wi-Fi installations. Improved Wi-Fi comes just behind the most popular objective of developing their social customer relationship management (34% for Wi-Fi, 35% for social CRM).
Simpler, More Effective Ways to Understand Customer Priorities
Understanding guest requirements is a more challenging goal. While social CRM can help hotels to gather informal information, analyzing and interpreting customer comments, exchanges, feedback, and reviews means investing in systems and expertise to gain relevant insights. Hiring data scientists to dig into social CRM data is beyond the budgets of most hotels, but other more affordable approaches exist. The CaptiveXS solution from RaGaPa, for instance, makes it easy for hotels to insert content into Wi-Fi connections, including promotions and real-time guest surveys, and collect information for immediate display of analytics and results. Hotels thus not only acquire valuable information on guest preferences and opinions, but also have the chance to improve guest satisfaction at the most crucial moment – while guests are still on the premises.
Enabling Future Customer Engagement and Experience
With the future of CET and CXM likely to include Internet of Things (IoT) device management among other things, it’s also good to know that CaptiveXS already includes Wi-Fi performance and security functions for preventing bandwidth hogging and managing rogue IoT devices, helping to keep guests safe as well as satisfied. Guest Wi-Fi will be more important than ever as an enabling technology to improve customer engagement and customer experience. Now, hotels of any size can also access cost-effective solutions above the basic Wi-Fi network to help them help their guests and ultimately help their bottom line too.