Industry  |  27 April 2021  |  Juliana Hahn  |  4 minute read

How to go contact-free without sacrificing the guest experience

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What guests expect from economy hotels has changed drastically from the past. Travelers used to want a traditional no-frills stay. Today, they expect efficient, cost-effective service following the latest health and safety measures, driven by the latest technology. 

With the recent demand surge for automation and contact-free services, new touchless initiatives and guest delivery systems have gained wider acceptance. 

While digital natives and early adopters were already familiar with and expected these tech-driven experiences, Covid-19 accelerated this trend across all demographics.

But how can your hotel shift to offering more contact-free services?

 

Finding the balance: guest experience, installation cost and operational efficiency

During and post-Covid, demands for hygiene and safety will be higher than ever. Unsurprisingly, this increases your team’s workload. Maximize automation and contact-free services to free up your staff’s time and survive with minimal staffing during the ramp-up phase. 

Integrations between all your systems are the most important aspect when you’re digitalizing your guest journey and implementing contact-free experiences. This includes things like linking QR code menus to your POS and connecting your chatbot to your PMS, among others. 

Get your integrations right, and you’re on the best path to a fluent, digital guest journey. This means:

  • More efficient service
  • Fewer in-person interactions (with the option for in-person service if the guest desires)
  • Smooth guest experience

Staying realistic with your plans is also important. Each property is as unique as a fingerprint and needs a customized set-up. Just because a solution makes sense for luxury or boutique brands, doesn't mean it will work for economy hotels. For example, investing in expensive robot bellhops is not possible or even relevant for most economy hotels. Instead, choose what goes with your style and delights your target audience. 

 

Touchless service ideas for economy hotels

It can be easy to get carried away with all the fancy new tech options out there today. We’ve put together a list of basic touchless services you can offer at your property, to help you get started. 

 

Check-in and check-out

Having an online check-in and check-out option like the Mews Virtual Concierge can reduce physical contact between guests and staff. It’ll also cut down your front desk team’s workload. This can help you manage your labor costs all while allowing staff to offer more personalized service. The best thing though, is that a modern cloud-based PMS can offer this service at a reasonable cost. 

“We used to have busy Sunday mornings with hundreds of check-outs at the same time – virtual concierge cut the queues and let our team focus on the guests who need us,” says Adina Bordei, Front of House Manager at Clink. 

 

Digital keys

Thanks to Bluetooth or web app access systems, physical keys are no longer needed. That means guests don’t have to queue at the reception to pick up keys anymore. This speeds up their arrival, saves your front desk staff time and completes the last step in the digital check-in/check-out process. 

If you’re working with a connected, cloud-based system, implementing digital keys can be easier (and cheaper) than you think. The Mews Marketplace has lots of keyless options you can choose from and we keep adding new ones. Some of the most popular options include:

  • Goki works via an app that guests download, turning their phones into smart keys. It can also be used for online check-in, guest messaging and marketing.
  • OpenKey uses an app as well, and gives staff easy management through their HOST platform. It integrates with loads of door lock providers, such as Salto and Assa Abloy.
  • 4SUITES provide cloud-connected locks and mobile keys that work via a web app, meaning guests don't need to install anything directly on their phone.
  • Guestkey by Hotek also works via a web app, and also gives guests additional information about their stay.

 

Messaging services

Whether you’re using SMS, Messenger or your hotel app, direct messaging lets guests contact your staff straight from their favorite device. This is a great way to streamline your guest communication, check on guests during their stay, and offer personalized service. Save extra time with this approach by programming replies to FAQs like the request for the Wi-Fi password or breakfast times. Check out the Mews Virtual Concierge to see our direct guest messaging options

 

Touchless payments

NFC (Near Field Communication), aka phone-powered payment options such as Google Pay or Apple Pay (available through Mews Terminals), are gaining popularity as more mobile devices and shops support them. Today, they’re yet another good option for contactless transactions. If you already have an automated, connected payment system, implementing these new payment types is quite straightforward. 

 

New safety standards

This is something you can do even without adopting new tech. Think of managing movement flows in the lobby or restaurants, for example. Evaluate your processes to see where you can improve safety standards and reduce crowds or the need for personal interactions. The more complete your digital journey is, the easier this will be, as guests won’t linger in public spaces anymore.

There's plenty of great software out there that can help you to do this, and you shouldn't have to fork out any money either. Many of these tools work on a freemium basis, and you'll be able to get what you need from the free version of the product. Miro is a good example – it's an online visual collaboration tool that your team can use to collectively and creatively map out guest flows and think about improvements in an agile way.

 

Reduced contact in F&B

Running a restaurant or bar will always require some degree of interaction between your staff and guests. However, you can minimize it by allowing guests to use a QR code or app to place orders. Room service is your best shot at contact-free F&B service. Guests place orders by phone and your staff can alert them of the delivery with a knock on the door. 

 

Changes in housekeeping

Allow your guests to opt out of housekeeping to avoid staff entering their room. You can even use upselling tools like Oaky to easily reward those who skip the daily clean-up with a free pizza or a drink. That adds extra value for your guests and gives them the choice of which service they prefer. 

You could also implement a new policy that rooms don’t get cleaned during short stays unless guests request it. In Mews, you can set up specific cleaning intervals, making it easy to track and manage which rooms are to be cleaned and when. Whatever you decide to implement, communicate it clearly. This manages expectations among guests and staff, and you avoid unwanted surprises. 

 

Switching to contactless services and increased automation can have many benefits for your hotel and your guests. Apart from modernizing your operations, it also:

  • Improves the guest experience
  • Increases safety for staff and guests
  • Reduces operational costs and offsets increased expenses (e.g. providing disinfectant and masks or more elaborate cleaning procedures)

Today, thinking about this is no longer a luxury, but a must. The time for contact-free solutions is now – and you can learn more about how to enable them in your property with our guide to going contact-free.

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Juliana Hahn | 27 April 2021

Juliana is a freelance copywriter for the travel and hospitality industry, drawling on practical hotel experience and studies.

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