Hoteliers don’t have to wait for guests to arrive on-property to start a conversation thanks to tools that connect to their PMS.
GLOBAL REPORT—Hoteliers are leveraging technology to connect with guests before they even arrive on-property, leading to an enhanced guest experience and, in some cases, a boost to the bottom line.
“We’re trying to provide a better and quicker guest experience, and hopefully that means they will come back because of the more efficient service,” said Sheenal Patel, co-founder and CEO of Arbor Lodging Partners.
Paul Sauceda, corporate director of sales and marketing for Oxford Hotels & Resorts and director of sales and marketing for The Godfrey Hotel Boston, agreed that technology used to communicate with guests pre-stay can help improve the guest experience. His team uses a couple of different platforms that connect to the hotel’s property management system. One such system sends pre-arrival emails to guests with offers to upgrade room types, for example. Another platform communicates with guests and allows them to select room types, upgrade rooms and download any information they need in advance of their arrival. Additionally, the tool allows guests to check in via their mobile phone, which they can then use as their room key.
Karol Acosta, head of revenue management for Bogotá-based Movich Hotels, said the platform used at the company’s hotels helps to acquire additional information about guests before they arrive on-property. The technology connects to the PMS and allows the team to communicate with guests and offer ancillary services that could help drive revenue.
“This tech gives us the possibility to offer additional services to our guests that maybe at the beginning of the reservation the client was not interested,” Acosta said via email. “For example, we offer spa services or a shuttle bus that incentivizes our guests to pay for those kinds of additional services, or something like an upgrade.”
How it works
Sauceda said the technology offers a convenient way to communicate with guests pre-stay because it connects to the PMS.
“They are able to interface. We don’t have to do anything additional,” he said.
Every guest whose contact data is recorded in the system will receive a standard pre-arrival email containing information about the weather or events going on in the city, he said. The email might also include an offer to make a reservation at the in-house restaurant, creating an opportunity to drive ancillary revenue.
“It also creates the opportunity to do something nice and that is of value to guests,” Sauceda said.
While that initial email goes out to everyone in the database, Sauceda said the tool gives the ability to segment guests and target information.
“We can tag, and we can create special offers or emails surrounding events in the city that are of interest to certain groups,” he said.
The tool helps to collect guest data when it comes to interests and wants, often scanning social media profiles or past data collected. If the system is fed the name, address and email address of a guest, it can look for that person on social media and discern interests based on posts and pages he or she likes. That information can help to build a profile for the guest. In those profiles, guests can be tagged with their interests, which can help hoteliers better market to them. For instance, if a guest is tagged in the platform as a wine lover and the Boston Wine Expo is coming up, the team can use the tool to create a special email about the festival that includes a hotel offer.
“We can click a box and send the email only to wine-lover guests. We can customize it,” Sauceda said.
Integrating for success
Acosta said this tech can be useful for hoteliers but advises that hoteliers need to take ownership of it by assigning a person who knows the system well and understands how to configure reports in the system.
“They also have to check the information they are giving to their guests because they can have big legal issues because of that,” Acosta said.
Sauceda agreed that the tech should be used wisely.
“It’s like any other tech,” he said. “It’s only as good as the human effort that goes in.”
Sauceda said hoteliers have many opportunities to install technology platforms that sometimes it can be difficult to keep up with them all. However, if a hotel is moving down the path of installing new technology, he said leaders need to really vet their partner vendors.
“Understand the pros and cons to it,” he said. “Tech is, by nature, corky. You don’t want to do something that’s going to make guests’ or employees’ lives more of a hassle. It needs to be seamless.”
With that, he said it’s also important to avoid installing technology just for the sake of it.
“It has to have a benefit to guests and operations—and the benefit should be clear, especially the guest benefit,” Sauceda said. “If it’s not glaringly obvious what’s in it for guests, it’s not worth installing.”
Patel said training is key to successful implementation of the technology.
“If associates are not versed in the tech and not responsive, then it can quickly become a guest disaster, and that’s not anyone’s goal,” he said.