You’ve heard it before: “Your brand isn’t what you say it is. It’s what they say it is”. In today’s digital age, we know that countless different touchpoints contribute to a guest’s overall opinion of your brand.
As a hotelier, you need to carefully consider the ways in which your potential audience consumes your brand and the ways they are engaging with your hotel, both online and offline. Facilitating positive interactions and engagements with your guests is no longer a nicety, it’s a necessity. Ultimately, a positive guest experience should be of paramount importance to your hotel.
How can you ensure this outcome for your hotel? It all starts with guest experience. Commonly known as ‘customer experience’, guest experience is a term that is typically associated with the hospitality industry. It’s important to take a moment to distinguish which form of guest experience we will be referring to throughout this article as there are two ways of interpreting this terminology. The first is the physical – the person to person guest experience, whereas the second is digital and refers to a guest’s experience (GX) online. In this article, we will refer to the latter.
So how does a physical guest experience differentiate from an online guest experience?
A potential guest can physically walk into your hotel, come up to reception and request a room. Essentially, this is no different to an unknown visitor browsing your hotel website and querying availability. If you take a moment to think about your hotel receptionist, they use a multitude of senses to make an initial impression of a guest: from sight (guests age, their gender, their clothes e.g. suits versus casual) to sound (are they in a good mode? are they being very direct? do they have an accent?) to other visual indicators (have they been caught in the rain? do they have large luggage with airline tags? do they have children with them?).
In the same way that your receptionist is making assumptions about a guest’s wants and needs, so too is Allora when a potential guest begins interacting with your hotel website. Allora, Avvio’s artificially intelligent (AI) booking engine, is constantly interpreting online guest behaviour by understanding who a potential guest is and what their requirements are. The guest journey contains multiple interactions and decision branches: which all fit into one constantly changing puzzle that can be difficult to make sense of. The online guest experience has to evolve to give all potential guests a tailored journey from the start, immediately incorporating personalisation ahead of their stay.
Allora explores that data to understand individual booker behaviour and patterns through powerful machine learning. In understanding and interpreting these interactions, Allora is able to deliver personalised online guest experiences.
In order to ensure a more engaging user experience, from the initial point of awareness through to ultimate conversion, Avvio have appointed a Head of GX Design and Research. This appointment puts the needs of the guests at the forefront of all technological development within Avvio and at the heart of the decisions we make.
So how can this be done?
When it comes to GX, there is one critical path that we need to consider; that of the potential guest, across their devices, over a period of time. This path won’t always immediately convert a guest, and is rather a result of a number of days worth of “research” before a purchase decision is made. It is therefore imperative that we maintain personalised engagement with the potential guest during that time. This means that each ‘path’ needs to be dynamically created for each guest, on the fly, to suit their needs and requirements and engage with them across each touchpoint through to conversion. Understandably the research required to get to this point is no small task.
To service guests properly in a way where we understand their needs, goals and frustrations, we need to filter information down into different personas that can help technology be as intuitive to the individual guest’s needs, on par with your receptionist. This would enable Allora to quickly interpret intentional browsing behaviour, making educated assumptions to deliver on guest needs before they even know what they are looking for.
What GX principles should my hotel be adopting?
Understand your guest’s priorities: A recent study showed that 70% of guests want to use their phone to speed up check-in. If guests want a pre-stay experience, it goes without saying that they will want a simple (ideally mobile-friendly) booking process as well.
Late last year, Avvio’s design and technical teams developed the new booking interface design to bring a range of benefits to our customers, resulting in improved guest engagement and conversion rates. Based on data gathered from Allora, as well as from analysis of industry trends and best practice, the front-end design and functionality of the booking engine has been enhanced to provide a better guest user experience (UX) to enable an increase in direct bookings.
Communicate with guests in real-time: There are many ways to ease guest communication. Chatbots, website FAQs and social media all facilitate real-time engagement. Everything a receptionist at your front desk can communicate should be easily accessible on your website or via one of your online platforms.
Personalise the guest experience: To properly do this, one needs to truly understand guest behaviours and requirements at different stages of the booking journey. What does your guest want pre-stay vs post-stay? Are you using the power of localisation to promote geo-specific rates? How engaged are potential guests on their first visit to your website? Have they searched for a date previously? Are they a corporate customer or a family looking for a leisure break. All of these factors should be considered when looking at personalising the guest journey. Booked pre-stay guests, for example, should be presented with options to book dinner, get directions to the hotel, see the local weather forecast or modify their booking.
More on Mick – our new Head of GX/UX Design and Research
Having headed up the Design department in Avvio since 2008, Mick has recently taken the role of Head of GX/UX Design and Research. By combining his years of experience in design with the latest analytics, research methods and user testing, Mick explores the minds of guests to understand what makes them tick.