Maintaining the Human Touch in a Touch-free World

Hearts & Hands

COVID-19 has sped up the adoption of guest-facing mobile technology that reduces the need for physical interaction in hotels. While mobile check-in and messaging solutions were steadily gaining traction in hotels before the pandemic hit, these applications are suddenly more relevant than ever in a touch-free new world governed by physical distancing and sanitization requirements.

But such technology was never meant to replace the human touch. Without human connection there is no hospitality. Travel isn’t about seeing new places (you can do that online); it’s about connecting with and experiencing new places—the culture and the people. When it boils down to it, travel and hospitality are all about people.

Mobile solutions like self-check-in and guest messaging were designed to augment the guest experience and improve workflow by expediting administrative touchpoints. As consumer demand for mobile grew, the hospitality industry answered with the same kind of convenient mobile applications that we all use (and have come to rely on) in our everyday lives, from text messaging to online shopping to checking in. But whether guests check in online using an app or in person at the front desk, they expect to be greeted by smiling, welcoming hotel staff either way. While at this time hotels must be careful to limit physical interaction, they have to take even more care to maintain the human touch despite physical distancing protocols and increased reliance on self-service applications.

Communication is Key

Communication before, during and after a stay has always been key to increasing guest engagement. Now, with the threat of COVID-19 still out there, hotels should be stepping up digital communications to reassure, assist and connect with extra-vigilant guests.

In addition to reservation confirmations, pre-arrival and check-in communications are more important than ever to make guests feel safe and valued during these unpredictable times.

Whether by email or text message, pre-arrival and check-in messaging should be helpful and reassuring, providing clear information about new hotel protocols designed to keep guests healthy and safe. As well, include relevant information about hotel amenities and offerings to excite guests about their stay and let them know you are looking forward to their arrival.

While guests may prefer to avoid excessive physical contact with the front desk during their stay, guest messaging can be used to touch base with guests shortly after their arrival and to invite them to reach out via messaging if they have any questions or requests during their stay.

Upon departure, instructions for a contact-free check-out can be sent to the guest. Thank them for their stay and invite them to leave a review on your preferred platform, or contact your property directly with any complaints. As hotels begin operating under new health and safety guidelines, guests will appreciate being asked for feedback that will help refine the guest experience. At a time when businesses are attempting to minimize physical touchpoints, connecting with guests via digital communications throughout the guest cycle shows guests you care and is essential for strengthening the guest relationship and helping guests to confidently navigate their stay.

High-Touch Hotel Tech

Digital communication is essential to maintaining the human touch in our new touch-free world, but it must be personalized to be effective. Just as it is important for guests to be greeted warmly in person and not treated like a reservation number, it is important to communicate with guests in the same personable manner via email and text messaging.

Today’s hotel technology allows hotels to personalize guest communications at a level that surpasses what’s possible when greeting new guests in person for the first time. In order to identify a new guest arriving at the front desk, the front desk agent has to ask them for their name or reservation number. But with integrated messaging and check-in solutions, communications are automatically personalized with and triggered by guest reservation data, resulting in personable, proactive messaging that makes guests feel recognized and valued at every touchpoint.

The key here is data integration, with the property management system (PMS) at the core. When integrated with the hotel CRM, guest messaging solution or hotel app, reservation data from the PMS (including guest data, check-in/out dates and room and rate types) is used to automatically personalize messages and trigger message delivery at the right time. Incoming messages from guests (such as requests and enquiries) can be automatically matched to the guest’s reservation for timelier service delivery and resolution. Through data transparency and automation, integrated hotel systems result in high-touch digital solutions that increase guest engagement and reinforce the human touch. And as automated digital communications make it easier to manage routine messaging, hotel staff are freed up to focus on ways to make each guest’s experience special.

Delivering personalized digital communications throughout the guest cycle helps to maintain the human connection, especially during our physically disconnected times. Data integration allows hotels to automate communications at key touchpoints and personalize messaging for strong engagement. Integrating PMS data with guest communication solutions is key to personalizing the guest experience, improving staff workflow, and maintaining the human touch now and in the future.