mk | hotels: Elevating guest experiences with digitised processes
There’s a lot to love about the hotel experience.
Where else do so many obligations of basic self-care disappear? You don’t even have to make your bed and you can order club sandwiches at 4am.
But there’s also a lot that can drive you crazy.
There’s the long queue at check-in. Then, your booking can’t be found because it was made via a third party, or by email instead of their web form, or during a solar eclipse… Then you have to quote your room number repeatedly (was it 351 or 315? - please give me breakfast). Wearing nothing but a swimsuit, you have to find a place to store your credit card because the pool bar is run separately from the hotel reception. And finally, there’s check-out, when you have a flight to catch and you spend 15 minutes messing about with room service tabs.
It’s moments like these that can make or break the experience. And, critically, it usually boils down to the moment of purchase. A few years ago, we didn’t mind having to get out of the pool to sign for our lunch. But technology has made our lives easier and our expectations higher. Additionally, the pandemic has accelerated our adoption of digital services and we expect businesses to keep up.
You don’t need us to tell you about the Common Quality Standards that dictate how many stars you qualify for. But what if we told you there’s a hidden star you can earn. One focused on your backend processes but translating into amazing star-quality customer experiences?
We all know customer expectations have changed. According to our recent research, 59% of hotels believe customer expectations increased during the pandemic. And 60% say the customers have become less tolerant of poor online experiences. But amazingly, only 27% of hotels are investing to improve CX in the next year. And just 27% are investing to sell to new markets online.
So what’s stopping you?
Well, there’s a lot stacked against you. If you have properties all over the world, you’re facing a heavily fragmented set-up with a labyrinth of local regulations, partners, technology systems, and cultural nuances to deal with. On top of that, you’ve got fraud and card security concerns and the headache of PCI compliance.
It’s daunting, to say the least. But the good news is that hotel payments needn't be so complicated. With the right technology partners, you can start making incremental changes pretty quickly, and the benefits will be ten-fold.
For many hotel operators, payments is just another step; another system to integrate and an added complexity to manage. But it needn’t be like that. In fact, when it’s set up right, your payments system can remove complexity by connecting the dots between your various touch-points.
More than that, it’s a crucial element that influences a guest’s experience and can become a key point of differentiation between you and the competition.
Here are 3 ideas to enhance your guests' experience with payments:
Self-service kiosks allow guests to skip the queue and check themselves in. Apps, which generate a room key on a smartphone, allow them to check-in from the cab and breeze through the lobby on arrival. This needn’t replace the personal welcome, but returning guests, or those in a hurry, might welcome the choice.
Make it easy for guests to buy drinks, purchase postcards, and book spa treatments without having to present their card, enter a code, or sign a bill. You can do this via card tokenization, which is a method of capturing a guest’s card details (during the online booking, or at check-in), encrypting the data, and replacing it with a secure token. This token can then be used for all subsequent purchases. You can even liberate your guests from their cards completely. Once you have the token, you can activate any device that has an NFC tag (this could be a wearable, an access card, or a room key) and the guest can use this to pay. Capturing and storing card details is quick and secure. And, since the unencrypted card data never touches your systems, you keep your PCI scope to a minimum.
Of course, if you prefer, you can pre-authorise the card and top-up the authorisation as purchases are made throughout the stay. So, if your guest is originally authorised for £200 but ends up ordering Cristal champagne for the whole bar, you can automatically adjust the total.
To win a customer’s loyalty and drive return visits, it’s the little details that matter. Room upgrades and fruit baskets can always be provided manually to a small group of elite customers. But it can be harder to show appreciation and stay connected to all your repeat guests.
So let’s talk about payment-linked loyalty.
Credit card tokenization can also be used as a unique identifier. This goes beyond simply recognising return customers. You can tailor the experience to each individual based on their transactions from previous visits. Does their transaction history tell you that they loved your spa’s ‘deep heat mud treatment’? Did they go nuts for your poolside club sandwich? Surprise and delight them by offering exclusive discounts on these items.
Of course, none of the above is possible if your systems aren’t connected in the back-end. This is something we’ve seen many of our customers struggling with. In the past, pressure to introduce new experiences or customer journeys has forced many to resort to a piecemeal approach for example:
With this reactive, non-holistic approach, each new piece of technology is managed sourced, integrated, and managed separately. This means multiple providers, multiple maintenance contracts, and a reconciliation nightmare.
Fortunately, things have moved on a bit. Now it’s possible to have a powerful ecosystem of compatible providers that can take care of all these experiences while you can see and manage everything in one place.
Take payments for example. Imagine if you had one partner taking care of your online bookings, and onsite services. Need mPOS terminals for your sites with pools? Want to install self-service kiosks in your sites in central business districts? Want to switch on Alipay and WeChat Pay in certain locations? Want to track your guest’s journey from initial booking, to your bars, spas, and eventually checkout? Easy..
Crucially this will keep you agile. You’ll be able to adapt to your guests' needs and quickly roll out new experiences without having to overhaul your systems every time. In a world that’s constantly keeping us guessing, it’s important to be ready for whatever’s next.
We understand that, for you, payments are simply one more data point. Which is why our Unified Commerce solution lets you manage all transactions in one system. We are truly omnichannel, so seamless cross-channel journeys are easy to support, and you can deliver a consistent experience to guests across every touch-point. And you’ll enjoy total peace of mind; we handle all the security and PCI requirements on our side.
Our reporting provides you with a wealth of information to optimise your payments every step of the way. If you’re part of a franchise we’ll provide granular insights at ground level, while head-office gets a detailed overview, and greater transparency into each property.
All major payment methods are available out-of-the-box with no need for additional partners or contracts, so adding new methods property-to-property is as easy as flicking a switch. And, to make things even easier, we have integration plugins for leading industry platforms.
So you’re free to focus on your guests, and they’re free to focus on enjoying themselves.