When a New-York-based client requested a meeting, Sarah, a consultant also based in New York, checked the calendar on her mobile phone and saw she’d be in Philadelphia with friends for a music festival the weekend before. “How about Monday afternoon?” she asked. After agreeing on a time with the client, she switched to Amtrak’s app and bought tickets for two trips: one to Philadelphia and one back to New York. Then, she sent a text message to her hotel asking to add another night to her stay.
This seamless travel experience wouldn’t be possible without cloud communications. Today, 66 percent of business travelers say they’d like the flexibility to book or manage their travel arrangements on any of their devices, according to research by consulting firm Northstar on behalf of Egencia, a provider of travel management solutions.
Because they spend more time on the road, business travelers can be much more demanding than vacation travelers. Not only that, but they have higher expectations for how technology should work. Their opinion matters because business travel is up by 38 percent since 2009, notes Elaine Kennedy, vice president of hotel market planning for hospitality technology provider Pegasus Solutions, in HospitalityNet.
However, the hospitality industry has its work cut out for it: Business travelers are also a more diverse group than ever before in terms of age, gender, nationality and career type, as Kennedy points out. What’s more, their approach to travel has changed. For many, like our Philadelphia-bound consultant, travel isn’t all about work. Often, their plans blur the lines between business and play.
These trends and changes in expectations are driving hotels to begin significant digital transformations. By integrating cloud communications across all properties and departments, hotel management not only can meet travelers’ expectations, but wow them at every step in their journey. The cloud presents hotel executives with the opportunity to reimagine even the smallest details — from simplified check-ins to anticipating a traveler’s coffee order.
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Indeed, the cloud helps hotels reinvent travel moments all along the traveler’s journey. Consider these possibilities as you evaluate vendors.
Mobile-friendly. Like most business travelers, our consultant used mobile devices to handle every aspect of her trip. When booking via her smartphone, she requested extra pillows. From the train, she used her laptop to explore the hotel’s website and learn about the on-site gym. As soon as she disembarked, she took advantage of mobile check-in. From her room, she gushed in an online review about the hotel’s new digital concierge. With the cloud, the hotel can deliver a consistent experience regardless of how their guests choose to connect.
Flexible travel arrangements. When plans change, updating reservations shouldn’t be a hassle. With mobile apps, web chat and SMS, hotels can offer travelers numerous ways to alter their travel plans. With CRM applications integrated into their cloud communications solution, reservation agents have all the information they need to make changes, so guests don’t have to start from scratch.
Seamless check-in and check-out. Weary travelers sometimes don’t want the hassle of waiting to check in. With self-serve kiosks, they can skip the line, print their own keys and get to their room. Using SMS, hotel staffers can unobtrusively ask if everything is to their satisfaction.
Real-time, personalized service. More hotels are experimenting with in-room digital assistants. These smart concierges can answer questions about local weather, book dinner reservations and call ride-sharing services. By integrating such services into the Internet of Things, hotels have more opportunities to personalize their guests’ experience, right down to the specific type of coffee they prefer.
Problems solved quickly. When problems arise, most travelers want a fast resolution. Half prefer to talk with a real person. To handle customer requests, hotels must be ready to provide a mix of self-service and agents. When most requests are directed to the digital concierge, agents have more time to spend helping guests with complex issues.
To create these kinds of seamless experiences, hospitality companies can use cloud communications to deliver exceptional service in real time. To do so, they should take an omnichannel approach and connect with business travelers in every channel. That means designing mobile apps, better integrating communications with customer and hotel management applications and even embracing automation.