Hotel apps: getting it right

priscilla-breakfastWhen Apple launched the App Store in 2008, it triggered the proliferation of mobile apps. According to Flurry Analytics, overall app usage grew by 58% in 2015, which is impressive after seven years of maturity. Within the travel industry, many airlines already have apps that encompass the entire flying experience – from booking a flight, to checking in, to accessing your electronic boarding pass and getting real-time flight information. While hospitality groups like Starwood, Marriott and Hilton have started integrating features like check-in and keyless entry into their apps, creating an app that truly covers the entire stay experience can be quite daunting. Not only does this cut across several departments, it also requires a change in operational mind-set and getting different systems to talk to each other.

To help get you started, here’s a look at some of the important things to consider when you’re evaluating your options.

1. Does it do everything most guests might expect?

Guests will only download and continue using your app if it serves more than just one purpose. Consider all the possible interaction points and make it easy for them to get in touch quickly and without too much fuss.

Access to relevant information – Your guests’ stay experience starts as soon as they’ve made that booking with you. The pre-arrival period is the time guests might appreciate information such as weather and major events and promotions happening during their planned stay dates. Tailor that content on your app so they don’t have to scroll through tons of information to find what’s relevant. Offer help on any special arrangements or recommendations on places to go. This is a great opportunity to create a connection even before they’ve arrived and give them the assurance that they have made the right decision. If they’re returning guests, use what you already know about them to offer personalised recommendations. In addition to making them feel special, targeted communication can increase their on-property spend.

Save time – Checking in and out is often perceived as time wasted for guests who just want to get to their room or are rushing to catch a flight home. Make this process faster by allowing them to do this through your app. This will reduce the anxiety of the wait and allow them to plan their time more effectively. Fewer guests in line also means your front desk staff can focus on delivering exceptional service that is less administrative in nature.

Access to services – During their stay, they may ring housekeeping to request for an item or for a suit to be urgently pressed. They may order room service or get help on what’s around the area. Making these accessible through their own mobile phones and in a language they’re comfortable with can go a long way in reducing miscommunication and hesitation of contacting your staff. What’s more, notifying guests through your app when their request has been fulfilled is non-intrusive yet adds to guest satisfaction.

Smart controls – With connected homes gaining popularity, it will be a matter of time before guests come to expect smart controls in their hotel rooms. No more fumbling with light switches around the room to find out which lights they control. What they wouldn’t want, however, is separate apps to access their mobile key, control lights, temperature and entertainment system. They’ll want a single app that they download once, allows them to do everything they need throughout their stay, and retains their preferences for future stays.

2. Does it improve operational efficiency?

Guest convenience is only part of what you should expect from your app. There is no point if your guests are having a great time using your app while your staff feel like it is just an extra burden on their day-to-day operations. As much as possible, guest requests should be automatically channelled to the right department, and even down to an individual staff on duty. This means your guest-facing app needs to be connected to a back-end management console and staff app. You should also be able to determine a workflow for how tasks are handled. The ability to track how long it takes from the time a guest request is assigned to a staff, to the time that task is closed, will allow you to identify areas for improvement, and ensure that you keep operational efficiency at an optimal level.

3. Does it have an open connectivity platform?

Hotels use myriad systems from property management systems, room management systems, door access systems, point-of-sale systems, service management systems etc. Your app should have the ability to interface with different providers and offer a seamless experience for both guests and staff.

4. Does it have adequate security measures in place?

With all the wonderful features such as keyless entry and control of guest rooms, comes the need to ensure that you have proper authentication and security measures in place. The last thing you want is for a guest’s room to be intruded upon and his/her safety compromised. It is also worth checking how your app manages multiple devices for the same room.

5. Does it help you enhance your guest experience and create brand stickiness?

Whatever your initial reason for wanting an app, a key outcome from implementing one should be an enhanced guest experience. Just as you have the ability to personalise your website content and e-mail communication, you should expect to be able to tailor the content you deliver through your app based on your guests’ preferences or profiles. Allowing them to set up their default room environment and favourite channels prior to arrival, then storing that for future visits, even at a different property within your brand, is another way to delight your guests and build loyalty.

The number of features you can have on an app is limited only by your imagination. However, more is not always better. They need to be useful and well thought through. You need to understand what works for your brand, your guests, your staff and your budget. Work with a partner who can help you customise a solution that offers the right fit for you, and is flexible enough to accommodate your specific needs.

MediaConcepts specialises in helping hospitality clients optimise the use of digital technology to enhance their guest experience before, during and after their stay. Our mobile app, Priscilla, is fully customisable and offers an intuitive way for your guests to interact with you throughout their stay. Visit www.mediaconcepts.com/priscilla or contact info@mediaconcepts.com for more details.

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