It’s no secret that successful hotels depend on customer satisfaction, which is far more than a matter of your hotel’s location and physical condition. What may be less obvious are the important ways the landscape of customer service is changing and how these trends affect the hospitality industry.
In light of the seemingly constant arrival of new tools designed to improve service and cut costs, it is important for hotels to keep up with the most relevant trends. From onboarding and training to interactions with customers, to ongoing measurement and fine-tuning, virtually every aspect of your customer-service efforts can be enhanced by new technologies.
One increasingly popular high-tech solution for hotels is attended automation – a type of robotic process automation (RPA) in which a software robot on a user’s desktop helps them complete tasks more quickly and accurately, either by providing useful guidance and information in real time or by automating “swivel chair” activities.
To optimize the level of service your hotel offers guests, it is important to build a company culture focused on keeping your employees motivated and your customers happy – and to integrate the right technologies fully into that culture. With those goals in mind, here are three tips for offering your customers excellent service using attended automation:
1. Keep your technological toolbox up to date
The number of moving parts required to deliver an unforgettable hotel experience is simply astonishing, and yet this is exactly what a successful hotelier does on a daily basis. The challenge lies in recognizing the key drivers that will have the greatest impact on your bottom line.
For many hotel managers today, running a hotel without any high-tech tools is almost unthinkable, especially for a franchise. Today's technology touches almost every aspect of a hotel chain's operations – adding innovative functionality, streamlining processes, and automating mundane tasks.
According to Software Advice, hotels are increasingly using electronic (and typically cloud-based) hotel management systems (HMS) to handle tasks such as booking reservations online, checking guests in and out, managing housekeeping, and more. Not only can these technologies save employees time, but they can also relieve them of their more tedious responsibilities. Perhaps most importantly, they can improve the guest experience.
But while it is clear that adopting new technologies is necessary, implementing them can be challenging, especially if you are a franchisor expecting your franchisees to implement a system that is new to them. To solve this issue, many hotel operations managers have begun turning to attended automation as a tool for training and guiding their employees as they work on their computers. As with your HMS, it’s important to pick the right attended automation platform for your business – with capabilities, speed, and ease of use that meet your needs.
If you’re looking to empower your employees to smoothly navigate computer systems while simultaneously giving personal attention to your guests, Kryon Attended Automation offers you a flexible and user-friendly solution. Using advanced computer vision technology to “see” the HMS screen just as your employees do, a software robot constantly monitors your agents’ activities to provide real-time guidance and perform repetitive, rule-based tasks to lighten their workloads.
2. Don’t underestimate the impact of your front desk
Just like eyes are said to be the mirror to the soul, guests look to your front desk as a reflection of your hotel. According to The Wall Street Journal, in the past several years hotels have made concerted efforts to “dazzle guests during the first, crucial 15 minutes of their stay—or at least avoid annoying them.” But this is easier said than done.
We can't all be celebrities, CEOs, or royalty – but treating each customer like a VIP makes for a memorably positive experience that they’ll want to repeat. Coach your front-desk agents to treat guests with attentiveness, responsiveness, and a sense of urgency. In return, they will reward you with their patronage, loyalty and – even better – referrals. An added bonus: When guests feel like they’re being treated well, they are far less likely to be seriously bothered by secondary factors that may pop up (such as a small room or mediocre location).
But while it is essential to offer consistently excellent customer service, that doesn’t mean that each customer needs to get the same service. Rather, true service excellence requires personalization and making each customer feel as though there is no one else, at that moment, more important than they are. Front-desk attendants who address guests by name, who are eager to help, who remember each customer’s personal preferences, and who are able to provide valuable information are an important asset that can make a huge difference.
Where Attended Automation Fits in
Front-desk managers are often among the busiest members of the hotel’s staff. They’re responsible for checking guests into and out of rooms, managing reservations and staff, and dealing with just about any spur-of-the-moment guest request. Large hotel chains can have hundreds, if not thousands, of these managers serving customers at any given time. So how can hotels hope to achieve consistent and superb service quality?
Attended automation can help you to provide each customer with personalized service by working with your hotel management system to analyze the guest's profile. This way, RPA gives your employees easy access to valuable information and guidance in real time while also reducing their workload, so they can focus on charming guests and creating positive impressions.
At the same time, keep in mind that although room sales are commonly the main source of revenue for hotels, income generated by other departments can also make a substantial contribution to a hotel’s bottom line. Revenues from restaurants, gift shops, and other points of sale (POS) can amount to a sizable sum when efficiently managed. By implementing attended automation at POS terminals as well as your front desk, you can enable your cashiers to provide helpful and personalized customer service and even to make the most of up-sell and cross-sell opportunities.
The Role of Data
In order to improve the service you offer at your front desk, first it’s important to examine how effective it is – looking at its current level, at trends over time, and at correlations that you can identify. To help you see patterns and draw conclusions, you can gather valuable (but subjective) data through customer surveys. Additionally, for more objective information, it’s a good idea to track how quickly you are able to address your guests’ questions, requests, and complaints. One customer service survey found that 69% of respondents expressed satisfaction with customer service that they said quickly resolved their problems.
Once you have collected and analyzed data on your level of customer service, it’s important to share your lessons with your entire team. Professor and prominent management consultant W. Edwards Deming famously laid out 14 points for management – chief among them the concept of "constancy of purpose." This means instilling a sense of mission in your employees by showing them that what they do every day in the workplace makes a real difference, such as impacting the guest’s experience and the hotel's revenues. By relating individual behavior at the front desk to significant outcomes, you will give your front-desk agents a sense of how important it is for them to offer high-quality customer service every day.
3. Make training a continuous process
Because the hospitality industry has remarkably high employee turnover, it’s especially important to make sure each member of your team has the knowledge they need to thrive. Additionally, the ever-changing technological landscape makes it common for hotels to have a body of new (and sometimes critical) information to share internally – requiring additional training for even the most experienced employees. Taken together, the combination of turnover and new technology makes it important to invest in frequent and effective training for your team.
But the prospect of frequently spending precious work hours on training can seem like mission impossible in a field where most staff already works well beyond reasonable hours.
In the face of this challenge, you can use attended automation to offer your employees just-in-time training.
For instance, let’s say you have just implemented a new hotel management system. To get your employees up to speed, you could have them participate in classroom training seminars, complete lengthy e-learning modules, or get tossed in headfirst and then call the help desk as needed. Or you could instead provide them with just-in-time training using a robust solution such as Kryon Attended Automation. Kryon can monitor your employees’ computers and automatically display the most relevant balloon tips – showing them how to navigate your HMS, what to say to the guest, what questions to ask, and how to troubleshoot any problems.
This way, not only can your employees provide customers with faster service, but they are free to focus on engaging with your guests on a personal level and building a positive rapport.
Most importantly, your attended automation solution then empowers your employees to leave your guests with an impression of outstanding customer service – an impression those patrons are likely to share with their friends and relatives, and (hopefully) with your future guests.
How has a major hotel franchise used Kryon Attended Automation to improve employee training, cut costs by over $300,000, and boost customer service? Click here for a case study from a Kryon customer in the hospitality industry.