Reshaping Hotel Customer Experience Strategy Post COVID-19
Arguably no industry has been hit harder this year than the hotel and hospitality one. In many cases it has put an immediate halt on any potential way to earn money which is why having a hotel experience guide post Coronavirus is so important.
The impact of COVID-19 on hotels is one that will permanently affect the hospitality industry. In just a few short weeks, the mindset of people in public spaces has shifted and many may no longer feel safe in places such as hotels, hostels, restaurants, or function rooms. This year will leave an indelible mark and it is impossible to predict when people will be comfortable to return to the hotel industry post COVID-19.
The hospitality industry needs to problem-solve quickly with a hotel experience guide post Coronavirus needing to be front and centre to help hotels survive. To do this hotels need to stay true to what they can offer, social interactions that create lasting memories while preserving a level of safety that reassures all visitors. These two fundamental needs also have to be achieved without ever compromising comfort, convenience or a drop in standards to provide guest experiences that make people want to return regularly.
At the same time, new consumer and brand behaviours are emerging that will inform what the travel and hospitality industry will look like in the future, with travellers still looking for that perfect hotel experience. Hotels who are adapting to these shifting behaviours are the ones that will see the biggest rewards in this new normal era, while it is clearly apparent that technology will reshape the hotel industry post-COVID-19 for many years to come.
Basic Guidelines Hotels Should Follow
Over recent years, hotels have put a greater emphasis on creating enjoyable communal spaces such as lobbies, outdoor decks, gardens, restaurants, bars and many other concepts in which people can gather, celebrate and enjoy themselves. The hotel industry post COVID-19 will be wildly different in regards to this.
Health and safety will be front and centre with customers now likely needing an added layer of assurance beyond just a marketing message, they will want clear guidelines in place. Any and all cleaning protocols need to be intensified as well as communicated clearly to guests with a focus on hot spots and high-touch areas. Elements such as temporary signage will provide visual cues that let guests know that sanitation is a priority and common spaces will need to be reorganised into more separated environments. This is to allow guests to follow social distancing guidelines clearly and feel safe, even when in a communal area.
Guests may want to limit their time spent in these spaces so increasing the functionality of rooms is key. They may choose to work in their room rather than a shared lobby space so these need to have the proper requirements to be able to cater to these needs, such as good internet connections, adequate power sockets and ergonomic seating. People may also choose in-room dining options over coming down to the restaurant so creating ways to offer safe meal choices, without a drop in quality is key.
Finally, guest and employee protocols will also need to emphasize safety. This could include a “White Glove” approach when handling luggage upon arrival, providing hand sanitizing stations throughout the hotel and providing equipment such as masks and travel-sized sanitizer will be of great use to all visitors.
Customer Feedback and Technology Post-Pandemic
In the past, customer experience was the only way to differentiate your brand from the competition. Now it isn’t just about stand-out, but instead pivoting, innovating and transforming your hotel to combat an incredibly difficult situation. Customers are likely to have been financially impacted due to COVID-19 and they need to be supported by your organisation in a number of different ways.
This starts with how you engage with customers through placing a greater emphasis on digital elements as technology will reshape the hotel industry post-COVID-19. Modern day users want a touchless experience for the most part as hotels need to enable enhanced levels of digital interactions. This can be through digital kiosks, mobile apps, and biometric data, all of which also help limit the spread of the virus.
Implementation of new technologies will likely include touchless and voice-activated systems, as well as the ability to wirelessly connect directly to any in-room and guest services. This could be voice-activated elevators, automatic doors and in-room functions that will allow guests to enter, check in and get to their room without having to physically touch anything in the process.
Hotel-specific apps can also provide guests with the ability to control smart devices such as room amenities and utilise functions like turning on the lights, opening windows and changing the heating settings. In-room media can allow guests to seamlessly connect to intranet technology to help with conferencing or hosting virtual meetings, something they may be more comfortable doing from their room than the lobby. In fact, Viceroy Hotels & Resorts is now using Amazon Alexa in some properties to control the technology in guest rooms, as well as providing contactless or low-touch solutions for the payment of goods and services, a concept many hotels are also likely to adopt in the new year.
Hotel Marketing Strategies Post COVID-19
When it comes to a hotel experience guide post Coronavirus, it’s important that they look to leverage different channels of communication, from social media to email campaigns to prioritise greater engagement levels. A hotel’s website and social media platforms now need to showcase the measures you are putting in place, providing all the information a customer needs, responding to questions immediately and providing useful videos that can help to connect with those who interact with your brand.
While customers might not be able to travel right now, it doesn’t mean you can’t produce compelling marketing strategies that makes sure you’re front of mind when restrictions are lifted. They need to be looking to create value-added packages, promote cancellation flexibility as well as offering “Book Now Stay Later” approaches that encourage impulse purchases. Now is also the time to be looking at website redesign, streamlining booking processes and creating great visual content and blogs to help promote your hotel moving forward as well as going beyond the obvious to make an impression
Take Hilton as an example, a known name in the hotel industry, they focused on ensuring customers could trust their whole brand, not just individual hotels. They announced working relationships with brands like Lysol, Dettol, and the Mayo Clinic to promote a sanitised environment. Under the new Hilton CleanStay program, room seals will add extra levels of assurance to incoming guests highlighting that their room has not been accessed since being thoroughly cleaned last, all to reassure them and encourage repeat bookings.
Similarly, Millennium Hotels and Resorts in Singapore is providing complimentary care packages to guests that are filled with games that come alongside food and beverage delivery services. This includes chess sets and the traditional Asian game Chapteh, encouraging families to take a break from their digital devices and spend quality time with each other while showcasing their brand identity and values at the same time.
The impact of COVID-19 on hotels has been widespread and damaging. Companies both big and small have felt the impact and it is likely to lead to a permanent shift in what hotels are. Long-term recovery will require a transition towards incorporating greater levels of digital transformation while hotels will also need to rebuild trust with an understandably worried audience.
While it’s easy to focus on the negatives, the current situation also presents an opportunity to rebuild hotels as a more customer-focused, digitally savvy industry that leads to a better overall service. Hotels, as a necessity, will need to prioritise safety and sanitation, but the hospitality sector in general needs to accommodate innovative, flexible ways in which visitors can still get those experiences they crave in a post-pandemic world.
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