Guestline’s chief technical officer Andrew Metcalfe offers his expertise into how the hospitality industry can stay competitive in the forthcoming year.
With over 14 years of experience in technology and hospitality, Metcalfe is knowledgeable in supporting hotels to drive their best performance. He has previously been chief technology officer at Ve Interactive and is an expert in consumer websites and people management solutions.
A recent study of 2,000 people conducted by Guestline, looked at how people book their hotels and the factors involved in room cancellations. It was found that over a quarter of people take into high consideration the quality and detail of a hotel’s website (such as photographs and information) before making a direct booking online.
Investing money into your website’s simplicity in all stages of the guest journey will help acquire traffic, increase conversion rates and drive more people to book direct. The simplicity of website use (including fewer re-directs) will result in the trustworthiness of the potential customer. Hotel management may also find reporting efficient with less redirect windows to consider.
“The booking ecosystem will be an interesting area of change in 2020″
Metcalfe advised: “The booking ecosystem will be an interesting area of change in 2020, like Airbnb, Google and others start to enter, many of these will create options to drive people to your website but also more competition. If you can show your offering more easily, make booking slick and then integrate it to an onsite experience it will encourage guests to use you for converting their search to a reservation.”
Upselling tech to boost profitability
Carefully choosing the right time to upsell a guest’s hotel booking is crucial to a hotels’ additional revenue stream. After a booking has been made there is a fresh window of opportunity to upsell, as guests will reflect on their budget spend and perhaps feel there is room to spare on extra luxuries and see what they may be missing out on.
“Upselling is also a conversion killer”
Metcalfe added: “Upselling is an important aspect of hotel revenue. Upselling is also a conversion killer if done at the reservation confirmation stage. Don’t mistake upselling with configuration, configuring a booking needs to happen but upselling can happen subsequently through nudge marketing via emails, push notifications or even on arrival at the hotel. Many systems are developing to help you keep conversion rates high but total revenue retained.”
Technology such as Upsell Guru offer options to schedule notifications and alerts through different communication platforms to guests after collecting their details from a booking. The added value can range between upgrading to meals to booking a premium room.
Secure payment systems
Where credibility issues are concerned, payment systems are the leading topic. It made headlines in 2019 for fake bookings, hacker attacks and unsafe jobs in hotel operations.
An investment in secure payment gateways protects the data of hotel guests and the hotel’s credibility. For example, if a guest was to see the wrong value on an invoice, they may become wary of how secure that hotel’s payment system is and look elsewhere.
A secure payment gateway also checks in advance whether the credit card exists and is covered which could reduce chargebacks. This way, the hotelier can make sure that the booking via the credit card is genuine and at the same time protect the guest’s data.
“Nothing erodes trust like a rekeyed payment amount being wrong”
“Hotel payments have adjusted to new legislation and as the move towards a more integrated guest experience aspects through check-in and checkout, invoice retrieval march on the payment aspects will have to dovetail seamlessly and accurately. Nothing erodes trust like a rekeyed payment amount being wrong and the guest having to challenge it,” said Metcalfe.
Self-service and automated check-in
In a recent survey of 2,654 consumers by the Travel Leaders Group, 78% of respondents said they would like to see self-service kiosks more widely available for check-in.
Consumers are becoming accustomed to self-service systems as they appear across retail, leisure and transport industries. Another study suggested that guests favour hotel self-service check-in’s as it provides faster service, results in more privacy and waiting time/lines are much shorter.
Hoteliers could consider how their core data system might be centralised as much as possible to make it a less complex & more efficient guest journey from booking to check-in. Technology such as guest portals can be efficient for customers to retrieve their invoices quickly and will centralise all the data for the hotelier.
“They never call in sick!”
Futuresens, a self- service solutions business who currently integrate with Guestline provided their insight.
Kenny McLean, operations director at FutureSens said that such automation relieves the hotel of many now ‘unnecessary’ costs and headaches: “In partnership with Guestline and specifically their Rezlynx PMS we have reduced customers front desk operations costs by up to 40%. Automation of many traditional reception tasks such as check-in, products and services upsell, key-cutting and payments are now available 24/7 and they never call in sick!”
An Omni-platform which centralises operations
Payment processes are often a slow funnel for hoteliers with multiple payment gateways and PMS providers, data stored in different areas and revenue segregated. Month to month reporting can be difficult and productivity of staff slowed.
Omnichannel platforms enable you to centralise operational systems, take back control of your revenue flow and transparency of guest data, so hotel management can focus on creating the best experience for customers.
“Having all the data in one system makes presenting and acting on the data much more effective. For example, Amazon doesn’t deliver packages 100% of the time but the rest of the experience they control, making it so easy for people to buy from them. Hotel systems will need to move this way to provide similarly strong guest experiences,” said Metcalfe.