Technology Takes Hospitality Beyond the Turndown Service

New software platforms make the hospitality industry more hospitable.

When a couple staying at a luxury hotel posts their engagement news on Instagram, hotel staff members don’t need to wait for a tip from the front desk to do something special. By connecting software platforms to social media feeds and other key hospitality workflows, customer service teams can quickly speed some congratulatory champagne and flowers to the happy couple—cued by a single social media post.

The hospitality industry had a banner year in 2016, but looming challenges are keeping hotel chains on their toes. According to Deloitte’s Outlook report, Airbnb and similar startups are increasing their presence in the market. Consumers are also expecting hotels to provide the same types of personalized, customizable and on-demand experiences that are provided by brands they interact with more frequently, like Uber, Zappos and Starbucks.

Because of these pressures, the hospitality industry is ripe for a customer service revolution. Loyalty programs and in-room amenities have only gone so far in impressing hotel customers. Today, surprising and delighting hotel patrons requires more than a fancy chocolate on the pillow: It demands rapid responses to client concerns, plus services that reduce friction during a customer’s stay. Improvements gained from connecting technologies like location-based services, social media and software-as-a-service (SaaS) platforms can drive revenue, reduce costs and attract repeat business from satisfied customers.

Context Matters

Vendors that provide software to the hospitality industry are focused on breaking down barriers that have prevented hotels from tapping into social and location-based data. HYP3R, based in San Francisco, has created a location-based engagement platform that companies such as Marriott International and Hard Rock International use to track social media posts for specific properties so customer service staff can create happy experiences (or respond to less-than-happy ones).

“[The software] makes marketing more contextual and relevant to a specific person and place, compared to how social media is usually managed,” says Esteban Contreras, HYP3R’s vice president of product. The HYP3R platform sets up a “geofence,” an invisible perimeter around a physical location, for each property in a hospitality chain. The platform then collects publicly-available social media posts within that area, whether or not they contain identifiable hashtags or at-mentions. The software then analyzes posts for relevance to the property and surfaces opportunities for social media and customer service teams to interact with guests, like upgrading the room of a family celebrating a special occasion. Since it integrates with customer relationship management and booking systems, hotels can identify customers at their properties and discern what they need at the moment.

A Smoother Experience End to End

When hotels use emerging SaaS tools to build more efficiency into common processes, like check-in and concierge services, they can increase revenue while boosting customer satisfaction. Los Angeles-based KEYPR offers a SaaS-based customer experience platform that allows hotel guests to check in and open room doors through an app, eliminating the check-in wait and the need to keep track of room keys.

“You can use a smartphone to book a flight and call a car to pick you up—it’s a very mobile-enabled experience until you walk into the lobby of the hotel,” says KEYPR co-founder and CEO Nizar Allibhoy. By adding mobile convenience to check-in, Allibhoy says, hotels can save time and money spent on front-desk staffing while making guests happy.

The KEYPR app does more than unlock doors: It gives hotels new revenue channels by alerting guests to additional available services and special deals. For a hotel that doesn’t offer room service, for example, KEYPR can provide in-app recommendations about deals at partner restaurants and spas, improving guest satisfaction while generating revenue for the hotel through partnership deals.

To simplify software integrations, KEYPR created a bridge that interfaces with other software systems’ APIs to exchange core information and events, such as when reservations are created or guests have checked in or out. The bridge also offers an API to external systems so that they can extract data from KEYPR for functions such as remote check-in.

Connecting the customer-facing app to the back office also empowers hotels to improve customer satisfaction by speeding up response times for requests like room service or extra towels.

“If something isn’t done, it gets escalated up the management chain through the system so management has visibility,” Allibhoy says.

KEYPR’s and HYP3R’s integration capabilities are key to their customers’ returns on investment. Everyone from marketing to housekeeping to the front desk can continue using the systems already in place while providing better service and generating more revenue. Says Allibhoy, “This is a high-turnover industry, so you need to deliver technology that’s familiar—not something that requires a three-day course to learn.”

Christine Kent
By Christine Kent | July 26, 2017