Successful hotel businesses are built on providing fantastic customer service from the guest’s first interaction with the hotel through to check out. With 80% of hotel reservations now made via the internet and 90% of people researching holidays online before booking, it is now vital that the top level of service offered by hotel staff is translated into an authentic digital experience if hotels are to drive more bookings.
‘Guest experience’ starts with online search.
It is at this early stage that hotels want to attract guests and so hoteliers need to think about optimising their websites, through online rankings, ensuring they are visible on search engines, travel directories, and OTAs. A hotel’s website is essentially its virtual shop window to the world, so it needs to be appealing and easy to find.
Until now, far too many hotels have viewed their websites as online brochures, simply laying out information and details about the hotel’s rooms and facilities. Websites of this nature are inert online catalogues. There is no true interaction with the potential guest, consequently leaving them to do all the hard work and sifting through the information to find what they might want. This inevitably leads to a huge drop-out rate: as much as 38%, according to a recent study. Individuals only remain on one webpage for about 15-seconds, research shows, so hotels have very little time to capture their attention.
There is no longer any excuse for hotels to present this one-size-fits-all approach to their website. With artificial intelligence, machine learning and highly advanced algorithms tracking and analysing online behaviour, the technology is now available to create interactive websites and booking engines which tailor information and services according to guest behaviour and preferences.
A good analogy that all hoteliers should consider is how they would wish their front desk staff to respond if someone walked into the hotel and asked what rooms were available. The hotel staff would make some immediate assertions about the individual – are they on their own or with a family, in a suit or casual clothes, with a huge suitcase or small overnight bag, etc. – and, after a warm welcome, ask key questions in order to recommend a room or package best suited to their needs.
A good hotel website should replicate this level of service with its website and booking engine. Every click and every page that is visited is another piece of information about a potential guest. The booking journey should, therefore, be tailored to each guest and present them with relevant deals, packages and additional services based on their browsing behaviours.
There should be seamless real-time guest communication online whether through a chatbot, Q&As or social media. All the information a potential guest may expect from a receptionist at the front desk must now be just as easy to source online.
Hotel websites should be responsive and interactive, offering relevant details for the individual rather than bombarding them with so much information that they are overwhelmed. Potential guests should be presented with what they want rather than having to search for it.
This is where an advanced artificial intelligence (AI) powered booking engine like Allora can play a key role. Launched in 2017, Allora has since profiled 56 million guest journeys and run more than 600,000 AI-based trials to understand how hotel customers engage online. This analysis has subsequently led to the adoption of thousands of active learned improvements to benefit hotels with direct guest bookings.
This deep data insight which can inform external sales and marketing strategies means the years of trial and error are over. We now have the tools to really understand our guests, their tastes and their booking preferences based on location.
Hoteliers must carefully consider the ways their potential audiences consume their brand and engage with their hotel. Positive interactions both online and offline are vital to building a successful hotel business in 2020.
Check out our recent blog on ‘What is GX’ for more information on guest experience and the importance of adopting a guest-centric approach to your online strategy!
or take a look at our CEO and Co-founder Frank Reeves’s recent interview with Velocitize by WP Engine.