More sociable lobby areas in hotels where WIFI is free and technology offers guests a focus for interaction could pass as a common snapshot of the US hospitality industry in 2-3 years time. This was the conclusion of a Wall Street Journal-moderated panel discussion at the 46th Annual Journalism Conference in Denver Colorado, held by the National Association of Real Estate Editors.
Three giants of the US hotel industry took the questions on the panel: Marty Collins CEO of Gatehouse Capital Corp.; Bernie Siegel from hotel investment specialists, KSL Capital Partners LLC; and Walter Isenberg, CEO and president of Sage Hospitality. The consensus view that came out of the discussions was that the future of the hospitality industry is very likely to be experience and technology-led.
KSL Capital Partners’ Bernie Siegel was quick to point out that hotel technology is a game-changer. “We’ll see more of technology continuing to change rooms, whether it’s in video and entertainment, communications systems or the ability to book your excursions,” he said.
True to Siegel’s words the hotel industry is already gearing up to take advantage of technological innovation. Among the technologies making headway are digital signage solutions for high impact delivery of hotel information, advertising and guest promotions. This is done via LCD screens, with digital content created and served from a PC or laptop in the hotel.
Content can be served interactively too, enabling hotel owners to engage with guests and to gain feedback about their hotel stay experience. It’s all vital customer experience data that hotels can use to fine-tune their services.
Giving hotel guests what they want
As Hilton Worldwide discovered in re-launching their Hilton HHonors customer loyalty program, there is no substitute for consumer research. To give guests what they want hotel operators need to get some honest opinions – and plenty of them. All feedback is positive, even if it is the reporting of a negative experience. Likewise, all ideas and tweaks should be welcomed and considered.
But getting guests to part with their opinions is not always straightforward. Sure you’ll have folk who are not shy in letting you know how you’re doing – and that’s great. It’s getting to those guests who are less likely to express their thoughts, which for many hotels is the majority of their patrons.
How successful you are in this endeavour is governed by the strength of your customer engagement programs. Do you give your guests the opportunity to express their opinions about your hotel and the service they receive? How often do you give them this opportunity and where?
Questionnaires left on lobby tables, in rooms and in the restaurant are all very well, but it’s not really guest engagement, is it?
Hotel owners need more immediate engagement solutions – and it is right here where digital signage technology can show its worth as a vital interactive communications tool.
Imagine touchscreen units deployed in lobby areas that double as customer-facing hotel information access points and an experience engagement tool. Guests could use them to find out more about the hotel, book a taxi perhaps or plan visits to local attractions. Whatever the nature of the touchscreen content you’re offering, each page gives you an opportunity to better engage with guests, and to ask them questions about their hotel experience.
Questions connected with the content theme they’re exploring on-screen is likely to work best. But more general questions to find out what customers want will work too.
The main point is to engage with guests. Once people are engaged they are more likely to let you know what is on their mind. With technology being at the forefront of communication in today’s society, interactive digital signage displays offer a real solution to the guest feedback conundrum that hotels so often struggle to address.