Leading hotels have always sought to handle the deluge of guest requests in a satisfactory and time-sensitive manner. The challenge today lies in the fact that guests expect ever-faster responses and ever-better service quality. They also expect a vast array of options for communicating their requests.
Hoteliers, in turn, need to meet these expectations. And because the frontier on guest experience management continues to advance, they also need to ensure that they are driving optimal performance improvement on an ongoing basis. For starters, this means tracking and measuring service request response and resolution rates using ticket-tracking and other relevant metrics.
According to The 2017 Smart Decision Guide to Hotel Guest Experience Management, released this month by Starfleet Research and currently available for complimentary access, 83 per cent of hoteliers view the implementation of a unified platform for dispatching and managing guest service requests as an “important” or “very important” factor in improving the overall guest experience.
Unified guest request management solutions
While it may be possible to integrate the existing property management system (PMS) with standalone service point solutions, the system is not built to serve as a central clearinghouse. Most systems are poorly suited for that purpose and are unlikely to perform at an optimal level when it comes to guest request management, no matter how much tinkering is done.
What is needed, instead, is a single, open API solution capable of managing guest requests across all channels and touch points in a comprehensive and systematic fashion.
The service optimization, or guest request management, solution needs to be centrally accessible and flexible enough to manage the workflow of any department. It needs to be able to flawlessly index, dispatch and track guest requests. And it needs to ensure that incidents are addressed efficiently and effectively across all departments and functions across the property.
Mobility is key. The location of staff members on the go needs to be tracked and monitored for availability. Language translation may also be important. Every staff member should be able to access information about the guest, so they can interact with them in a way that not only resolves the problem but further enhances the guest experience.
Especially important is multi-channel communications support. Increasingly, guests can request services, information or amenities in person, over the phone, by email, via mobile app, or through social media. In an ideal world, guests would be able to communicate with hotel staff the same way they do with everyone else, via whatever channel they see fit.
The problem here is that text messaging and other messaging services, such as Facebook Messenger and iMessage, can add layers of complexity for hotel staff charged with managing, prioritizing, routing and responding to the constant flood of requests and complaints pouring in through these myriad of channels and touchpoints. While increasing the number of communication options can lead to increased guest satisfaction, failure to systematically manage and respond to the requests can, ironically, lead to degradation of service quality and overall guest satisfaction.
This growing complexity speaks to the need for a dedicated software solution that centralizes all guest requests, both digital and analog, including those made to hotel staff in person and by phone. The good news is that such solutions now exist.
The best of these solutions automatically dispatch requests in the form of tickets to the appropriate departments and individuals, increasing operational efficiencies and reducing wait times. They also provide accountability and transparency, saving hotel staff hours of detective work should an incident fail to be resolved. A digital paper trail makes it easy to find the context for a guest request and track follow-up, if necessary.
More than technology
Slow response to service requests is a leading cause of guest dissatisfaction. Therefore, when it comes to guest experience management, it is essential that hotels implement a next-generation service optimization, or guest request management, solution for indexing, dispatching and tracking guest requests and ensuring that incidents are addressed efficiently and effectively across all departments.
Only with the right technology infrastructure can hotels achieve a high level of performance with respect to guest experience management. Yet, according to the new research, technology by itself will invariably fail to deliver optimal outcomes.
Data integration is critical. So, too, is analytic modeling, to map the guest journey, create actionable segmentation schemes, identify the drivers of guest satisfaction and, ultimately, present guests with more personalized and relevant offers and treatments.
Also important is having the right organization resources. Some hotels are now hiring directors of guest experience management to lead the charge.
Hotels need to adopt the right guest-centric strategies and processes (e.g., cross departmental mobile task management) and instill a culture of guest centricity throughout the organization.
These days, responding to guest requests in a satisfactory and time-sensitive manner has become merely the price of entry – the minimum expectation of any leading hotel. To truly excel within the all-important realm of guest experience management, hotels need to turbocharge their service optimization operations with next-generation capabilities.
By Jeff Zabin
Jeff Zabin is Research Director at Starfleet Research, which benchmarks best practices in hospitality technology. Recent titles include The 2016 Smart Decision Guide to Hotel Property Management Systems, The 2016 Smart Decision Guide to Hospitality Revenue Management and The 2016 Smart Decision Guide to Restaurant Management and POS Systems. A globally-recognized market research executive, Mr Zabin’s bestselling business books on data-driven marketing improvement have been translated into more than a dozen languages. He has also written hundreds of popular benchmark reports and articles in leading trade publications across multiple industry sectors, including hospitality.