Self-Service Technology: An Undiscovered Hotel Revenue ChannelJanuary 17, 2014 by Taylor Short
Today’s traveler is tech-savvy, self-reliant and accustomed to convenience. Recognizing this, smart hotels are implementing self-service technologies that enable faster check-in, provide easier access to hotel and amenity information and allow service orders to be placed from anywhere via mobile device.
Self-service tools such as mobile apps, check-in kiosks and lobby touchscreens can provide hotels with opportunities to increase sales and bookings. So I spoke with hoteliers and tech experts to learn their top three tips for taking advantage of these undiscovered revenue channels. By following these tactics for implementing self-service technology at your hotel, you can increase revenue while also improving the guest experience.
Offer Deals and Upgrade Packages via Check-In Kiosks
Self-service kiosks—typically located in the hotel lobby near the front desk—give guests the option of checking in without the assistance of a clerk. These machines benefit travelers by providing them with a quicker, more efficient way to get to their rooms, especially during busy hours when the front desk is swamped. And while front desk personnel commonly offer deals and upgrades to guests while checking them in, this too can be achieved more efficiently through the kiosks.
At the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Austin, Texas, the three self-service kiosks located just next to the front desk are popular among guests for their speed and availability during busy periods. “You put in your information, a keycard pops out, you go straight to your room and you don’t even have to talk to a person,” says Amanda Patrizi, marketing manager for the hotel.
A self-service check-in kiosk at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Austin, TX
Patrizi says the kiosks can present guests with the same special offers as those presented in person at the front desk. Guests can then redeem these offers during the check-in process if they want to upgrade their room. The hotel will also occasionally post special offers for bed and breakfast stays or romantic packages that appear on the screen during check-in.
Increase Convenience (and Spending) With Mobile Apps
Most travelers are constantly using their smartphones or tablets, whether it’s to check email, post to social media or play games. Customized mobile apps for hotels can reach guests with targeted advertisements and deals no matter where they are.
Runtriz is a company that produces mobile apps for more than 1,000 hotels, including major hospitality companies like Radisson, Caesar’s Palace and Four Seasons. Apps can be personalized for each brand and give guests fingertip-access to room and guest services, special offers, local recommendations and the ability to post on the hotel’s social media platforms.
Flinn Flexer, Runtriz’s chief operating officer, says those hotels that embrace mobile apps and do well at marketing app features to guests typically experience a 15-25 percent increase in revenue from three main sources: room service, mobile ordering (poolside, for example) and by drawing guests to hotel amenities through strategic offers delivered to their personal devices.
“Hotels can push out messages to get people to the bar when it’s slow,” Flexer says. “Using their profile information in the system, you can send them a message saying, ‘Come on down and have a drink on the house.’”
Resorts with big amenities like spas or golf courses can use mobile apps to offer special packages to guests both on- and off-site, as well as to former guests or potential customers in the area who have the app on their device. A mobile app can also give hotels more opportunities to score targeted, strategic impulse buys from guests who are already booked and on their way.
“It’s one thing to offer a room upgrade while they’re still at home focused on the trip,” Flexer explained, “but imagine if they’re en route: they just landed at the airport, and through our platform, we have the ability to know they just arrived and… can push them a welcome note that says, ‘We have a special offer for you today to upgrade to a suite for X amount per night.’”
The main page of The Redbury Hotel’s mobile app, created by Runtriz
The Redbury Hotel at Hollywood and Vine in Los Angeles (a Runtriz client) uses its app mainly as a compendium of available services and packages, effectively replicating the unwieldy book that is typically provided in each hotel room. With one touch, guests can use the app to order in-room dining, schedule yoga or massage packages and view exclusive offers from their phone or tablet.
“It caters to the do-it-yourselfer, which we’re seeing a lot more of,” says James Erickson, rooms division manager for The Redbury. ”Our guest is usually a very busy person and they have needs that they want taken care of in a simple way.”
Promote Hotel Amenities on Lobby Touchscreens
While check-in kiosks offer up-front upgrades, lobby touchscreens give guests access to a wealth of knowledge to help them during their stay: information on local attractions, weather and flight status is all available at their fingertips. This space is also prime real estate on which hotels can promote amenities and attractions that drive more direct revenue.
In January 2011, the B Hotels & Restaurants chain opened its first location: The B Ocean Hotel in Fort Lauderdale. The B Ocean was also the first location to partner with Monscierge, a provider of touchscreen and mobile technology for hotels. Guests at the B Ocean can interact with large, vertical touchscreens in the lobby or in the hotel’s penthouse meeting and conference room to find more information for planning their stay.
“It’s really like a giant iPad,” says Veronica Miranda, experience manager for the hotel. “When guests first see it, it’s interesting to them and they want to touch it and spend a lot of time seeing what’s out there.”
Screenshot of the Monscierge lobby touchscreen as it appears at the B Ocean Hotel in Fort Lauderdale.
In a similar manner to the check-in kiosks, recommendations for local businesses as well as promotions for special hotel events and happy hours are presented to guests on the lower third of the screen.
Some hotels, like the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place, have partnered with Groupon to place kiosks in the hotel that offer daily deals and local, targeted Groupon Now! deals that expire after a certain period. The kiosks also give hotels another way to generate dollars by selling advertising space on the screens and sharing the revenue.
“We’re really creating a flexible framework that allows expansion into whatever areas [hotels] want,” explains Ken Marold, chief innovation officer at Monscierge. “If they want to add new amenity types, menus or offers, it’s very possible to build in.”
Driving Revenue While Increasing Guest Satisfaction
Hotels can use this self-service technology to increase guest satisfaction by streamlining the check-in process and providing easier access to internal and external amenities.
The reality, Flexer says, is that most hotels are investing in these engagement platforms to improve guest service. But knowing the abilities of each platform, hotels can increase sales simultaneously.
“If we can improve guest service and drive revenue, then it’s a great thing that tends to happen together,” he says.
Tools such as kiosks, lobby touchscreens and even guests’ own mobile devices can be used to strategically deliver offers and amenities that guests want. By implementing these solutions at your hotel, you can increase revenue while maintaining the kind of streamlined experience many travelers want.
Image created by Josh Clark.