Despite pandemic uncertainties, now could be the best time for hotels to digitalize guest experience platforms to prepare for recovery.

If you are in the business of travel and you have figured out how to cope with the pandemic by reducing operating costs until travel returns, congratulations: you have solved half the problem. The next step is to figure out how to keep your operations flexible, without needing to increase operational costs.

The pandemic has changed the way we think about operations. By now, you would already have witnessed first-hand the pain of adapting to rapid changes in lockdown policies and restrictions. Businesses now need to plan for a future where uncertainty has become the norm.

Despite what we witnessed in 2020, most companies remain focused on only tackling their immediate problems, which typically involve cost cutting to survive a period of depressed revenue.

While some have started to think about what happens when travel returns, very few have considered how to deal effectively with a continuous series of sudden lockdowns as the pandemic transitions into an endemic state.

This is where digital and technological answers can empower businesses to become more resilient and adaptable.

Digitalization for hospitality

As the hospitality sector adapts and reinvents itself, technology can help to optimize efficiency and improvement management of business resources.

To improve productivity by streamlining hotel operations and providing round-the-clock services for hotel guests, customized digital solutions featuring AI and chatbot-based technologies can be used—as part of a wider guest experience platform.

Other guest-engagement digital platforms can manage contact tracing procedures and minimize physical interactions between guests and staff. With cloud-based capabilities on tap, hotels are now more efficient at scaling up/down their operations without significantly changing manpower requirements.

Chatbots have gone multi-lingual, so hotels are starting to adopt the technology to communicate with guests at different touch points along the guest journey. With pre-trained AI algorithms and knowledge bases of answers for commonly asked questions, the correct responses to common guest enquiries are instantly presented to guests on their messenger app of choice (WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, etc.).

From an operating perspective, chatbot solutions can effectively replace hotel guidebooks, which are often costly to produce and maintain.

After the pandemic, hotels fully expect to continue to focus on the different security and health procedures. They can manage capacity at their facilities by providing an accessible facility-booking platform with available timeslots for guests to choose from.

With a focus on effective resource management, guest experience platforms that offer such functionality can support hotels to streamline booking systems and replace the need for manual tracking.

Optimizing the ‘human touch’

Although guest experience platforms may seem to contradict the hospitality industry’s focus on the human touch, it is important to recognize that the value of the human touch is not equal across all interactions.

Making requests for bottled water, ordering room service or booking facilities does not require much human interaction. In fact, very often, guests may prefer not to have a human on the other end of their interactions. Consider that hotel call centers are often overloaded, resulting in dropped calls, or long queues that might form at the concierge desk. Guests want most information and services quickly and on their own terms, and many times removing the human from the equation makes things much more efficient, which can translate into a better level of service.

By freeing up staff from these interactions, digital solutions can allow staff to focus on more impactful activities that do require meaningful human-touch experiences for guests. For example, by leveraging digital solutions to connect with guests, Pan Pacific Singapore saved more than 1,000 man-hours each month, demonstrating how the application of technology can significantly reduce staff workload and increase operational efficiency.

The time saved has allowed the hotel to create personalized services and thoughtful experiences for their guests.

Leaner and more efficient hospitality

With these trends in mind, expect technology advancements to play a significant role in the modern hospitality landscape.

As guests demand greater convenience, personal safety and personalization, digital solutions can enable hotels to deliver on their promise of a more connected, safe and customized experience.

Hotels should be thinking not just about how to cope with the pandemic uncertainty, but also how to take this opportunity to deploy solutions that help scale operations more effectively. When things finally return to normal, operations can then be leaner and more efficient without compromising the guest experience.