Almost every industry is undergoing a technology-driven transformation, and the hospitality industry is no different.
There are a number of solutions that have already begun to change the way that business is done, or the way that it will be done in the near future. The common attribute that they all share is the fact that they allow businesses to have a more convenient, informed and valuable relationship with their customers.
Here are seven areas in which technological advances are transforming the hospitality industry and enabling a new level of customer service:
1. Online booking systems
Online bookings are now extremely widespread in the hotel industry, with many restaurants also beginning to accept them as their popularity increases. There will always be some people who prefer to pick up the phone, but online booking systems mean that customers can reserve a room or a table outside the venue’s business hours, or any other time when calling is not convenient. This brings a new dimension to customer service and marketing, as many industry insiders now consider it essential to have an online booking service, which also requires a well-designed, mobile-friendly website with a simple interface.
An important decision for many hotels and restaurants is whether to use a third party online booking service, or to develop their own customised system. Both approaches have their own pros and cons, so businesses will need to choose based on their individual needs.
Electronic point of sale (EPOS) systems are becoming more and more sophisticated, allowing hospitality venues to operate more efficiently and provide better customer service. By integrating with CRM, inventory management and other tools, information on capacity, reservations, stock, loyalty programs and more is accessible at the touch of a button. In addition, cloud-based POS applications are becoming more common, which means that staff can process orders, bookings and payments directly from a tablet. This affords them greater mobility and adds another level of convenience for the customer.
Customer relationship management (CRM) software allows contacts and information to be organised and managed in one place. An effective CRM makes it easier to build ongoing relationships with customers, as well as making important details easily accessible to all staff via a cloud-based application.
4. Marketing automation
Marketing automation allows personalised emails to be sent to customers and prospects based on their activities and personal information. A basic example is to automatically send a discount email to customers on their birthdays. However, advanced marketing automation software allows much more complex tasks to be performed, such as emailing customers who have been visiting or clicking on certain areas of the website or social media pages. While this may be out of reach for restaurants and smaller venues, many larger hospitality businesses could benefit greatly from monitoring and nurturing their prospects to encourage repeat business.
5. Social media
A social media presence is crucial in the hospitality industry, particularly given that Facebook is a popular platform for check-ins and reviews of restaurants and hotels. Attractive images are usually the most popular type of post, so restaurants and hotels should take the opportunity to share beautiful and interesting photos of their food and their facilities. Businesses should also choose their social media platforms carefully based on their target audience, rather than simply joining all of them.
The proliferation of smartphones is yet another opportunity for hospitality businesses to improve customer service. Hilton Worldwide has taken advantage of this by offering guests the ability to check in and out, select their room, check maps and make extra requests or purchases all from their smartphones. And an even more revolutionary service will soon be made available, using security technology that allows smartphones to function as room keys.
7. Smart appliances
Advances in smart appliances and home automation are beginning to reach the hotel industry, and will no doubt have a greater influence in the future. Lighting, temperature, blinds, alarms, TV, radio and room service will all be controlled from a single tablet device, or from a single app that guests can download and login to from their own device.
Despite the many changes that are being brought on by these technologies, the truth is that they are there to enhance, not to replace, the core offerings of a hospitality business. Top quality food and customer service are still the fundamental pillars of the industry, but the technologies discussed above can make it easier for you to consistently deliver a memorable experience to your guests.
Phil Bickerton is sales manager at Saxons IT Solutions and Saxons Learning Solutions.