In our section “5 questions with”, employees of Guestfriend, customers, partners or industry experts give insights into their work and business. Valerie Wagner is an expert for digital hotel management, a passionate blogger and discusses digitization, revenue management, MICE management and e-commerce in the hotel industry on her own blog “Hotel-O-Motion”. She shares her experiences with us and gives new impulses and tips on how hosts can optimize their business digitally.
What characterises a modern hotel in the digital age?
A modern hotel should …
- … be easily and quickly bookable for its guests and customers via its own website
- … at best have its own blog
- … be present on social media, including regular postings and quick responses to comments and messages
- … provide opportunities for digital communication, e.g. through messenger newsletters and chatbots, so that guests receive quick and mobile answers to their questions
- … have a Digital Guest Directory for its guests in the room or offer its own app or web version
- … offer its guests the possibility to book all services via this app, the web version or the website and react in real time
I think communicating with guests digitally is important for hotels. They have to digitally take care of them at any time and no matter where the guests are at the moment. In addition to information about the hotel and its surroundings, this also includes up-sell offers, such as SPA treatments or table reservations.
A modern hotel should use digital tools for room reservation as well. The booking engine on the website must transfer the bookings exactly into the property management system. These days, revenue managers should no longer have to work with Excel spreadsheets, but should have a fully automated system that allows them to optimally control their revenues. Even deliveries between shifts AND departments should be exchanged digitally instead of using Word or Post-Its.
There is a rapidly growing number of digital solutions for all kinds of hotel operations. But what kind of digital tools are really useful for hosts?
In my opinion, the most important ones are those that facilitate the contact between guests and accommodations. That means everything concerning the hotel. Information about the hotel, how to get there, opening hours and offers. Where do guests book their rooms? What are the cancellation conditions? And in particular: Why should guests stay overnight or hold their conference in this particular hotel?
It is achieved with intelligent solutions that provide a central content management system in order to inform the guests. The question should always be: What do my guests want?
After all, digitization in the hotel industry is not about what hoteliers want. It’s about what guests want. In fact, they are the users of the application. It’s useless if the room door can be opened via smartphone, but the target group doesn’t use it. Or if the hotel follows the “digital detox” trend and still offers something like this. I´ve seen hotels that attract guests with the keyword “digital detox hotel” just because it’s IN, but there’s still Wi-Fi. For me “digital detox” means something else. Target group, marketing concept and hotel → Everything has to go hand in hand.
Digitization is the new guest relation and guests always have to be at the centre of all considerations about digitization.
How does the hotelier determine which solution(s) suit his business best?
Well, that depends on the goal. What do I want to achieve with the digital solution?
Time & Costs
Does it make sense to create an own solution or is it more efficient to use existing tools? Obviously, it is a question of costs. And it takes a lot of time to develop an own solution. Furthermore, it is an ongoing process. An application, app or website will never be finished and for this reason, hoteliers will always be faced with costs.
To easily inform their guests and answer the most common questions, hoteliers need one digital tool that works like a content management system. This tool should be easy to use for the staff to manage and modify contents at any time and without need of support. Can everyone handle it? Especially in owner-managed hotels, the whole team must be able to work with the tool, because the boundaries between departments are blurred ore there is not even a department for communication and content.
One system – several channels
As different as the guests are, as different devices they use. Is it possible to connect the solution to all kinds of media? In other words, is it possible for guests to access an app, download it to their own smartphone and find the same information in a web version? And will hoteliers also be able to display the contents on their TVs with this solution?
Since each tool works differently, it does not make sense to rely on isolated solutions. The perfect solution for guest communication and upselling combines all of this into one tool.
What are the benefits of digital helpers?
One of the big advantages is that the staff is relieved. This means, if guests independently receive all the information they are looking for via the hotel website or an app, calls or e-mails are automatically minimized – of course, this applies primarily to recurring questions. This, in turn, reduces the workload of the employees. As a result, they have more time to concentrate on complex enquiries.
Due to an independent content management system, hoteliers and their teams control their contents themselves at any time and everywhere. When changes are made, hoteliers do not have to commission agencies. And on the other hand, all these information are correct and complete because they originate from themselves. Digital helpers thus save time, costs and nerves.
The digital hotel – where does the journey go?
In times of digitization, in which people are always looking for information and using their digital tools, it is important to provide contents at all contact points of the customer journey. In the end, the one who stands out from the competition by addressing guests and customers digitally will win.
Digital support during the customer journey
Guests inform and inspire themselves on the Internet via search engines – that´s where the digital customer journey begins. A well-designed website with all the important information about the hotel and relevant contents will attract the attention of the visitors. Guests also expect a digital experience on site. Therefore, the contact between guests and hotel should not be interrupted after the booking but should be continued via e-mail or messenger. It is just as important to take care of enquiries, bookings and arrivals as it is to take care of people during and after their stay. The continuous communication creates a guest connection that would not be possible analogue. A digital hotel is less about robots than about making the stay easier for guests through digital communication.
Digitization: Win-win for guests and hosts
An example: I wanted to book a massage during a wellness holiday. I had to go to the SPA reception three times to be told that there were no free appointments left. Actually, we wanted to go hiking that day. Waiting and running back and forth to the reception delayed our trip by 1.5 hours. In the end, we could not walk our planned route any more due to lack of time. But if the hotel had offered its guests an app where you could see all the available appointments of the SPA, I wouldn’t tell you about it today.
Digital tools enable guests to enjoy their individual stay from the beginning to the end and at the same time relieve the burden on the staff. A win-win situation for both sides. This is digitization in the hotel industry.
Valerie Wagner in conversation with Sandra Schneider, Gastfreund GmbH
About Valerie Wagner
Valerie Wagner writes on www.valerie-wagner.de about digital hotel management. With various content formats, from blog posts to podcasts and videos, she helps hoteliers with digitization, e-commerce and supports strategies for revenue and MICE management. She has a degree in business organization, is a certified revenue and e-commerce manager and has more than 15 years of professional experience in the hotel industry. She says: “The hotel industry is a strong industry and it is fun! The hotel industry has the potential for an exciting future in the digital age, without losing humanity. Digitization is the new guest relation! I would like to support you in this.”