Why is the tech and hospitality industry discussing the importance of the guest journey and user disengagement today? What it means and why are just a few of the things I will explore in this article. Then, I will take you on my journey in today’s hospitality world and look at some of the hows and whys from the perspective of a guest who knows a little about the hospitality industry and the tech world.
The journey begins
Back in the early nineties, the hospitality industry focused on user enablement and guest satisfaction; the hippy days were over, and the yap days of the eighties had ended with a financial cold shower. Maybe the young aspiring professionals weren’t that aspiring once they reached maturity. What do I know? I was five to fifteen years old at the time. But heading into hospitality during a financial downturn was a blessing in many ways. We could still reminisce about the glorious seventies and eighties, but at the same time, we needed to turn things around. Cash wasn’t flowing into bars, restaurants, and fancy hotel rooms anymore.
So, user or staff enablement became a thing. All hospitality employees became educated in a “Yes I can” mentality and were given the tools to follow up and push through for the guest. As a chef, that could mean if I encountered a guest in the elevator, I could ask about the experience. And if the guest was unhappy with something, it was up to me to ensure that the guest was happy despite not having the best experience. This could mean offering them dinner in the restaurant, entry to the nightclub, or a free night at the hotel.
What we see from this was the start of what we mean today when discussing the guest experience.
Guest journey or guest experience?
What is a guest experience, and what is a guest journey? I am glad you ask because most people see those as the same thing, but it is helpful to differentiate the two. Guest experience is all about what the guest experiences in the hotel or bar. So it is tied to that single entity responsible for the guest at that moment in time. And looking at that single point in time, we see all the things that we can cater to, like how the room is, what the food’s like, and how the experience of the stay is going.
But talking about the guest journey, we embrace that the guest doesn’t simply appear at our location, consume our offerings, and then magically disappear. Instead, the guest journey looks at the guest from the guest’s perspective. The guest is transitioning from one place in their journey to the next, constantly moving from one experience to another.
So when Mews is focusing on the guest journey, we are not only looking at the moment the hotel guest enters the hotel but also how, why, and where the guest comes from and where they are off to next. Embracing the journey, we also discover that even within the hotel, the guest is on a journey filled with experiences.
The importance of acknowledging the guest’s journey
I will take my recent trip to Sri Lanka as an example of good and bad experiences with the guest journey, starting with an excellent experience that surprised me. Having booked a flight connecting from Dubai to Colombo, Sri Lanka, I had a layover of more than eleven hours, arriving close to midnight. I was weighing my options: find a quiet seat and try to stay comfortable, pay my way into one of the lounges, or find a hotel. Just a few hours before boarding my plane, I found a combination. I discovered that Dubai had a Sleep’n Fly concept, which basically was a first-class sleeping pod that could be a work chair, bed, or recliner to watch some tv in. Deciding to try it out, I was prompted with my arrival and departure times and provided with the services catering to the seat. One of the services was getting picked up by the gate and guided through the airport to my seat. To make a long story short, I had the best layover in all my years of travel. So efficient, and because Sleep’n Fly embraced my journey, they also knew that providing a pickup service was precisely what I needed without knowing it upfront. Sleep’n Fly could have just stopped at providing a comfortable bed. But by understanding the guest journey, they could give me the extra I needed to come and use their facilities again.
In contrast to the small non-luxurious experience in Dubai, I went to Colombo, Sri Lanka, for a stay at one of their famous five-star hotels, let’s call it “The Fancy”. I had high expectations. The experience of a five-star hotel should be above and beyond. Equally before, during, and after the stay. My booking was made just before my visit through the property’s own app. Nothing exciting about it but no negatives either. Fairly straightforward.
My struggles started a little while later when arriving at the hotel. Entering the lobby, there were many employees to welcome me, but also many hanging around talking to each other. When I went to the front desk, I was faced with someone who tried to come across as professional but seemed rather uptight and strict. No one else was checking in at the time; still, three employees were stuck behind the desk staring down at their computers, not even glancing up when I arrived at the counter.
After a few polite greetings, it was time to get checked in. While standing there for what seemed like an eternity and handing over my personal information, passport, and credit card – repeating the process I had already completed online, I was already getting annoyed when I was told that, finally, my reservation was ready.
Trying to find my way to the elevator, a friendly employee suddenly beat me there, and yet again, asked a list of personal questions. Not taking notes or caring but obviously trying to be social.
This twenty-minute ordeal had me feeling frustrated and insecure about the whole experience. Far short of what I expected from a 5-star hotel.
Traditional hospitality drawbacks
What was it that made my stay with “The Fancy” such an annoying experience? First and foremost, they should have focused on the guest journey. Why did I have to give my credit card information three times during the stay, from booking through their app to check-in and checkout? Why did it take ten to fifteen minutes to find my reservation and give me my keycard? And why weren’t the employees ready when addressing me?
I think it falls back on how traditional hospitality has focused on the guest experience without looking at the whole journey. These drawbacks are not just tied to the check-in and checkout processes but also to the stay. There needs to be more information given or shared about what to expect in the facilities, as well as about the surrounding area and its possibilities. For instance, I arrived on a Saturday, and there was a festival or gathering just outside the facility. No information and no one to ask, even though there were more staff than guests in the lobby.
Another thing is what the property has to offer. I knew about the property spa and wanted a massage after my travels, but I had to locate and figure it out myself. No upsell or cross-sell came up during my booking or check-in. And what about the room? The room was fine; larger than standard European rooms and with some nice amenities, but nothing extraordinary or extravagant.
Overcoming traditional hospitality drawbacks
What could the staff have done differently, and why is Mews talking about the guest journey, user disengagement, and “reimagining the art of hospitality”?
- Streamline operations: The staff could have streamlined their technology and processes. Aligning strategy with technology could have removed the annoying repetitive things like providing my name and other personal information more than once. The data is there, so there is no need to repeat it. This means having the correct information at the right time, driving user disengagement. My booking is in, and I am arriving in an hour.
- Personalized services: What if the staff had my information right there when I arrived? The team following me to the elevator could have had a pad with my information the second I was ready to leave the front desk. “Hello, Mr. John; very nice to have you here with us today.” And having partaken in my guest journey, they could have collected where I am coming from, my preferences, what I want out of my stay, and if I need information about what is available to me or this area.
- Eco-friendly practices: I am a guest arriving, and clearly, I want a place to sleep, but how can I contribute to the fact that I am sleeping in a bed that costs three months’ average Sri Lankan salary? What is the hotel doing around it? How are they contributing to the environment? I might want a fancy bed and a nice room to sleep in, but how does it contribute to global and local sustainability?
- Local connections: Further, what I was given was luxury, but I needed warmth and familiarity, a local welcome of tradition and customs, and a stay adapted to my preferences and needs. Using local produce, foods, and beverages would have enhanced the visit and emphasized sustainability.
Focusing on the guest journey, it is all about the right information at the right time. It is also about user disengagement, having your staff look away from the screens and focus on providing a personalized experience. And most of all, Mews talks about reimagining the art of hospitality by reimagining these experiences – having technology melt away the hurdles between staff and guests and taking staff empowerment to a whole new level.
The new travelers
As guests, we seek memorable, tailor-made experiences beyond standard hotel offerings, with unique activities and personalized services.
Today’s guests also increasingly seek authentic cultural experiences, sustainability, and environmental consciousness. Key expectations of the modern traveler would be to engage with the local community and explore authentic experiences, learning about the destination’s history, art, and traditions. They are also growingly concerned about sustainability and environmental impact, expecting hotels to adopt eco-friendly practices and minimize waste.
A key differentiator can be hotels that embrace sustainability, from energy-efficient design to locally sourced food and socially responsible initiatives.
How can tech help?
Technology can help in many ways with hospitality, but the most important is to provide the correct information at the right time. This starts with gathering accurate information at the right time and generating insightful information that can be used throughout the guest journey.
Tech can ensure that essential information flows through mobile devices, allowing guests to access relevant details, make requests, and stay informed about offerings at their fingertips.
Everyone talks about AI and what it can bring to hospitality. In my opinion, it can be leveraged to streamline processes, providing personalized, efficient, and delightful experiences to a generation more and more attached to a digital world and presence.
Technology can also play a significant role in having seamless connectivity and implementing user-friendly technology, such as screen sharing, all to cater to a modern and comfortable experience for a new generation of travelers.
One of my former bosses said cash is king, but distribution is King Kong. He meant that if you control distribution, you have control of everything, including the cash flow. Tech can enable properties to become distributors of experiences through the guest journey, enriching travelers’ lives, the hospitality industry, and local providers alike.
How can Mews help?
To cater to the modern traveler’s expectations, hotels must overcome the drawbacks of traditional hospitality and embrace innovative solutions. Mews is shaping the future of hospitality by bridging the gap between conventional drawbacks and modern guest expectations. By streamlining operations, offering personalized services, embracing eco-friendly practices, and catering to the needs of the mobile generation, Mews sets new standards for unforgettable guest experiences.
So why are guest journey and user disengagement so important? Because of what hospitality is about; being hospitable and friendly, and predicting and catering to the guest’s needs based on knowledge and human interaction. By utilizing technology, you as an employee in the hospitality industry can leverage all that data, but only if you use it properly and wisely. Do not fall into the category of employees engaging in their screens and incapable of providing good quality service to your guests. And this does not only apply to the front desk or guest-facing staff but the whole organization. Focus on user disengagement and know the guest journey and you will provide the best guest experience!
How innovation can help exceed guest expectations and solve the staffing shortage by Jirka Helmich