By Lyle Bunn
The focus was on customer experience during the annual hospitality industry technology exposition and conference (HITEC) in Toronto June 2017. Reservation systems, guest connectivity, visual media and analytics were at the top of the priority list toward increased guest satisfaction and business success.
New technologies are seen as key to helping hotel and hospitality facilities attract and meet the growing demands of the empowered consumer.
The experience journey in hospitality that includes dream, plan, book, travel and share is somewhat similar to the product purchase in retail in which consumers discover, compare, reserve, try, buy and share, so it is no coincidence that hospitality and retail are examining similar customer experience solutions.
Kurt Weinsheimer, SVP, Property Solutions at Sojern said during a conference session on technology disruption “Hospitality has undergone the same kinds of changes in price transparency and consumer sourcing options that retailers are experiencing.“
“We should not be schizophrenic about customer self-service such as cell phone as room key, as there is still plenty of room for service in the hospitality industry” said one hospitality insider who had attended the conference in each of more than twenty years of its annual operation.
Brian Clark, Partner at Hudson Crossing advised hospitality providers to “identify those technologies that meet consumer demands, including mobile and ease of payments that solve time and convenience expectations, and personalization capabilities that use CRM data to deliver relevant, informed offers”. His advice applies to a range of technologies.
Connectivity is at the top of the guest requirements list. “We understand that fast and reliable Wi-Fi is at the top of the list of services for hotel guests,” said Matthew FitzGerald, Director of Hospitality Sales Engineering at Ruckus. “As guests bring more and more devices that connect to the Wi-Fi network and the number of applications, such as TV casting increase, the demands on the Wi-Fi network will also increase. Multi-gigabit Wi-Fi is an ideal solution that will help hotels meet the increased network demands these devices and applications place on the network.”
“Seamless does not exist,” said Rob Miller of CCI Systems, noting, “It is about the quality and elegance of the tailoring as elements are integrated. Fitzgerald 2 added, “Transparency in end user access is the key issue, whether it is cellular, Wi-Fi, LTE, or radio frequencies that are emerging in the consumer telecom spectrum”.
Text to guest was a subject of many discussions. Jennifer Green of Hyatt said, “All communications must be undertaken with the intention of caring for the guest. Text messages provide an excellent forum to capture sentiment based on key words that are used.
Raman (R.P.) Rama, VP & CTO/CIO at JHM Hotels added, “Text messaging is the next wave of customer experience. Call centers do not improve CX when scripts are inadequate or there is no ability to provide service outside the prescribed frame of response. Text messages are considered more like telephone conversations than emails by consumers, and every message and interaction presents the personality of the brand, so digital engagement has to have rules and principles just as other interactions and communications do. Text messages should be as courteous, contextually relevant and as person as possible. Texting tends to be a more personal type of communications, so the operator has to use full words, correct spelling and be aware that a permanent record of the interaction is being established, and may be used against the facility”.
Analytics were also top of mind for delegates. Brian Clark of the hospitality consultancy Hudson Crossing declared “Data is providing advantage to some and leaving others in the dust. Those who use data to gain advantage are in a position to make offers based on a predicted outcome”.
Brent McKay, the CEO and Founder of Bulzi Media Inc. is bringing extraordinary levels of customer awareness with focus on the hospitality sector. “By merging robust consumer datasets with our mobile intelligence platform we can tell operators much, much more than they currently know about their customers, and this can enable highly targeted ad campaigns, customized offers and mobile marketing.”
Providers of visual media were prominent at HITEC17.
“As the industry leader in hotel TVs, LG is pleased to showcase our latest innovations at HITEC 2017. In keeping with the proliferation of high quality images, Ultra HD content and innovative design within the TV industry, LG’s latest hotel TVs enable hoteliers to provide guests the state-of-the-art viewing experiences they’ve become accustomed to in their homes,” said Garry Wicka, head of marketing at LG Electronics USA Business Solutions. “Seamless guest experiences are a priority to LG, which is why our latest 4K hotel TVs feature LG’s Pro:Centric and Pro:Idiom content management systems, as well as LG’s webOS smart TV platform so that scanning content and questing service applications is as easy as the click of a button.
“Our latest technologies from the world’s thinnest hotel TV — the LG OLED Wallpaper Hotel TV — to the new LG STB-5500 Pro:Centric Smart set-top-box with a powerful 4K upscaler, enable hoteliers to provide guests premium in-room experiences that maximize their ability to relax and travel with ease” Said Wicka.
Hospitality TV leader LG Electronics USA Business Solutions is launching an advanced new content management system for hotels called Pro:Centric® Direct that features an innovative authoring tool using drag and drop widgets as well as new over-the-top Internet video streaming and casting services. The upgraded Pro:Centric Direct platform allows system integrators virtually unlimited design options for guest user interfaces while providing them access to new streaming services in partnership with system integrators.
“With the LG Pro:Centric Direct platform, integrators now have even more freedom to create customized layouts aligned to each hotelier’s specific brand standards for delivery of entertainment services and compendium information to hotel guests,” said Mike Kosla, vice president, hospitality, LG Electronics USA Business Solutions. “This new platform is unparalleled in its ability to interact directly with guests, making any hotel stay feel personalized while providing the guests’ access to a variety of entertainment options, including video streaming from mobile devices.
Press release by LG published at http://www.digitalsignageconnection.com/lgunveils-procentric-direct-hospitality-management-system
Amazon outlined their success in what they call “skills” to their Alexa voice interface platform. The 15,000 skills are akin to mobile apps but are subject matter specific to the Alexa platform which combines automated speech recognition (ASR) and natural language understanding (NLU). Amazon wishes to offer Alexa to manage devices in the guest room (lighting, curtains, etc.) but does not go further in describing guest benefit or how Amazon benefits. It is suggested that Alexa, as with interactive digital signage and kiosks now available underpinned by a clear business model, could serve as an automated concierge to respond to frequently asked questions.
22 Miles showcased digital concierge options along with visual wayfinding and the ability to push on-location and other relevant stay information to a mobile device. “We are getting more requests for mobile as a phase one function than ever before” said Tomer Mann, SVP, Global Sales of 22 Miles. Mann added, “we are seeing more demand from a range of corporations beyond the hospitality industry. I think hospitality is just starting to understand the need for mobile as a main functional guest experience as indicated by several large brands approaching us at HITEC looking for such a mobile strategy as they are in a proof of concept phase. They want to integrate the wayfinding, but also consider proximity based beacons or Wi-Fi integrations to help guests navigate or be introduced to in-house promotions or specials while walking close to a restaurant, spa or other decision points”.
Jim Vair, President of Capital Networks Limited described how the firm’s roots in broadcast and cable television, along with its tools and experience help hotel owners create and manage their own custom in-room television channels. “These channels provide a useful resource for hotel guests by presenting local information, data driven content, local TV listings and local entertainment listings” Vair said, adding “Capital Networks is also promoting the use of advanced technologies (NFC and beacons) with in-room television channels to engage the guests’ mobile device and entice the guest back out of their room to use various hotel facilities and partnered local attractions”.
Regarding public facing media, the travelling public is quite accustomed to digital signage and getting useful information from screens all-throughout their journey. Within the hotel, digital signage is a tool to promote hotel amenities, meeting room schedules, flight information and loyalty programs. These same screens are an excellent opportunity to promote, upsell, cross-sell and build loyalty with customers. Touch screen and engagement with mobile devices (NFC and beacons) provide a new level of service to meet the needs guests.
In conclusion, the empowered consumer is adding pressure to pricing and reservation systems, to improvements to the guest experience and to visit connectivity and other service. The hospitality industry is therefore challenged with improved technology planning, assessment, sourcing, integration and investment validation.
HITEC, the world’s largest hospitality technology shows are planned for Dubai, UA (Nov 14-15) and Amsterdam (April 11-13, 2018). Watch for HITEC18 North America information at https://www.hftp.org/hitec/.
Lyle Bunn is North America’s longest serving analyst, advisor and educator in North America’s Dynamic Media industry. He serves on the BrainTrust of RetailWire.com and as Chair of the Center for Digital Experience (www.CDigEx.org) was nominated as the Elevate Awards Customer Experience Influencer of the Year. See www.LyleBunn.com or email Lyle@LyleBunn.com.