With a demanding clientele and the tech-savviness of the millennial generation, hotels across APAC are discovering that phone reservations and a friendly concierge go only so far in surprising and delighting their guests. They’re also losing their lustre as effective ways to stand out from the competition.
What’s a hotel to do? Read on for how a handful of hotels around the region are using high tech to transform the guest experience.
At Your Service
We’re all used to calling hotel reception when we need a couple of towels or to order room service. Typically it’s a human who knocks on the door a few minutes later. But not at two hotels in Singapore, where the Hotel Jen Orchard Gateway and the Hotel Jen Tanglin have employed robots, Jeno and Jena, to cater to their guests’ needs.
The robots are just under a metre tall and are dressed in the Hotel Jen’s brand colours of turquoise and pink, with a cute tuxedo effect on their casings. Each can carry up to 4.5 kg, and they move 2.5 km/h, around half the speed of a person walking. Advanced sensors enable them to manoeuvre around objects, connect to Wi-Fi to call a guest’s room when they’re about to make a delivery, and then return to a docking station to recharge ahead of their next job.
Cetin Sekercioglu, executive vice president of Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts, described Jemo and Jena as “new colleagues” and “great team players in getting important things done well.”
In Your Face
Biometrics are another way hotels are opening the proverbial door to ease their customers’ stay. In 2019, Far East Hospitality, which operates the Village Hotel Bugis, the Orchard Parade Hotel, and others in Singapore, is set to offer the ability to check in using a selfie combined with a new smartphone app.
The process will be completely automated. Once a guest has self-checked via a combination of fingerprint and facial-recognition technology, he’ll receive a room number, and the app will automatically unlock the door. In addition, the app will also allow the guest to control the room’s lights, air conditioning, and even the television.
Far East Hospitality isn’t alone in these endeavors. Several years ago, the Universal Studios Hotel in Japan also began enrolling guests in its biometrics program, for which guests upload their photos into the hotel’s CRM system. When they arrive at the hotel, cameras mounted at the entrance scan their faces and run them against the hotel’s database. Upon a match, the front desk, concierge, and other staff are notified that a “high-value guest” has arrived and can greet them by name. The system automatically assigns their rooms, sets their preferences, and can make bookings in the on-site restaurant, complete with their favourite dishes (if they choose).
“Ultimately ... we’re selling enhanced customer experience that’s enabled by face recognition,” said Allen Ganz, director of customer experience for NEC’s biometrics solutions division, which provided the solution.
The Virtual Concierge
The sign of a good butler is one who becomes aware of a problem and fixes it before the employer ever knows something was amiss. In Singapore, 30 Bencoolen, a 131-room business and leisure hotel, has taken this ethos to heart with what amounts to a virtual concierge.
All rooms in the hotel are fitted with a smart-control system that monitors their status in real time. If there’s is an issue, such as problem with the room’s climate control or an out-of-stock minibar, the smart controller will alert staff before the guest knows that anything is amiss.
The new system provides opportunities to “… create exceptional experiences for both staff and guests,” according to Kevin Peeris, regional head, business development for Bayview International Hotels and Resorts, which owns 30 Bencoolen.
Hyatt Gets The Message
While many hotels still use traditional channels, such as email and phone, to take reservations, Hyatt Hotels in Asia Pacific is another early tech adopter for having climbed on the social media messaging-app bandwagon. Its app of choice for communicating with guests? Facebook Messenger, which enables the hotel, via a staff member or, in some cases, a bot, to handle reservations, suggest transportation to and from the hotel, and set up personal preferences for a guest’s stay.
The rise of social media messaging apps—more than 1 billion people use Facebook Messenger each month—and their popularity among millennials has been a boon for hotels that are increasingly looking to them as a way to increase engagement and reduce friction in the booking process.
In China, hotels are also using the popular WeChat app, with its close to half-a-billion users, in much the same way that Hyatt is using Facebook Messenger.
“It’s just one more channel in which we get to have meaningful conversations with guests and help them to be their best, on the road and right away,” said Dan Moriarty, former director of digital strategy and activation for Hyatt, in an interview with Digiday.