By Larissa Hunt & Nicole Pineda
In its 35 year history, Envirosell’s team of intrepid trackers have travelled to six continents and traversed countless miles of retail stores, banks and hospitality spaces. We are in the unique position of having our “boots on the ground” to understand all customer contact points and perceptions, as well as behind-the scenes operations. COVID-19 has brought the travel industry to a halt, but as our founder and CEO, Paco Underhill, preaches: “amenability equals profitability”. We were curious to find out how hotels are pivoting in this time and what our teams will face the next time they go out on the road.
It’s all in the apps
Having seen what BOPIS has done for retail, there is no doubt that COVID-19 is accelerating the adoption of keyless entry and online check-in. Hilton has been plugging its Digital Key system since 2015. Using the Hilton app, guests can check in, choose their room, and use the app as a key (by holding the phone to the door lock). We’ve seen great success with the digitization of flight check-in and hotel check-in processes are on deck. The challenge now is, how do hotels teach technologically-challenged guests how to interact with their app and the process as a whole. Lessons from the launch of ATMs and digital check-in at the airport are very applicable. Hotels should consider teaching and advertising on-site.
Through the plexiglass
The adoption of plexiglass barriers and other health and safety practices, while critical, have put a damper on interaction between guests and employees. One hotel staff member that we recently interviewed stated that “we miss the guest interaction. It’s in our DNA to ‘wow’ our guests… We are still trying to deliver the best personalized service but it’s not easy with all the limitations right now.” Another employee – a sales manager from a leading hotel brand – remarked, “some of the new health regulations that are being carried out are difficult… Having that big plexiglass [at the front desk] is something that you are just not used to.”
The impact of COVID-19 means a (rightful) hyper-focus on new health and safety standards and their impact on customer experience. Often left out of the equation are hotel staff – the very people trusted to execute these new precautions. Employees are a great source of practical information for addressing the needs of behind-the-scenes operations – they are the ones ultimately making the day-to-day function. At Envirosell, our anonymous employee in-depth interviews are one of our most important tools for discovering detailed insights from the ground. More than ever, it is imperative for businesses to connect with their front-line employees and ensure they are happy and safe, and this in-turn will be translated to customers.
Despite it all, employees are confident that exceptional service can be seen through the mask. “You know you’re both wearing masks and it’s so hard to find that smile behind the mask. I think that being able to serve your guest and genuinely care for them is much more of a priority than what you look like – to make sure the guests feel like they are taken care of… There’s nothing like that service when you stay in a hotel – someone looks after you. Whether you need dry cleaning for a dress or a suit, the hotel will take care of that for you and assist you with that. Nothing beats being served on.”
Stay tuned for part 2, where we explore the changing role of the lobby, dos and don’ts of guest rooms and making the most of in-house dining.
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