Guest experience and technology are now inextricably linked continuing to offer hoteliers ways to differentiate their customer proposition.
ibis, the economy brand of AccorHotels, has completed the roll-out of its new guest welcome programme across all ibis, ibis styles and ibis budget hotels in the UK, aided my mobile technology.
The new approach sees ibis employees using mobile devices to access the information they need for everything from check-in to housekeeping and breakfast within one app. By using the company’s new FOLS mobile software, employees can manage their schedules and access information while being freed up to interact with guests, approaching to help them rather than waiting to be approached.
This mobility has allowed ibis to take the unique step of completely removing the traditional check-in desk, with employees now trained to greet guests on arrival with room keys in hand. Combined with the online fast check-in and check-out capability already developed, this delivers a seamless experience for guests.
ibis says the approach creates a “win-win” situation where the hospitality experience is improved for both guests and employees, as well as greater opportunity to create revenues for hotel owners and franchisees if the space freed up is used to incorporate retail services such as food and beverage offerings.
The concept makes check-in and check-out a faster, easier and more personal experience for guests which ultimately benefits hotel owners as well. The removal of the traditional reception desk also allows for the creation of more social spaces around hotels, which are more appealing for guests and passers-by while revenue-generating for owners.
ibis says concepts like these provide an opportunity for hotels to be planned with retail services included in the space where traditional reception areas would have otherwise been. This can potentially transform the ground floor of hotels from cost centres for hotel owners that are dead between breakfast and dinner, to vibrant profit-making centres that appeal to people on the street as well as hotel guests.
This approach was trialled in ibis Cambridge Central Station, which opened last year, with the hotel’s Chill #2 coffee shop acting as the main check-in area of the hotel. Chill #2, which stocks artisan coffee and sources local produce (all freshly prepared on site), is an appealing proposition to retail customers going to and from the train station next door as well as hotel guests.
Karelle Lamouche, Senior Vice President for Sales & Marketing, Distribution & Revenue Management at AccorHotels UK & Ireland commented: “We have embraced the latest digital advances whilst remaining 100 per cent guest-centric in our service, removing the traditional check-in desk environment to give hotel employees more opportunity to offer great customer service to the guest. At the same time as creating happy customers, it also creates opportunities for hotel owners and franchisees to increase revenues by introducing more social spaces and food and beverage offerings.
“Guests’ expectations are changing as they seek more social, interactive hospitality experiences with higher levels of customer service. This programme is a good example of how our brands are innovating and using technology in the right way to adapt these changing expectations.”
ibis says the system is proving popular amongst young employees, who use mobile devices in most parts of their lives and who have different expectations of a job than previous generations.
Lamouche continued: “Three quarters of ibis team members are millennials, so we want them to be using the latest technologies to make their work fun and engaging. This system empowers them to use their initiative to create great customer service, which they enjoy. Ultimately this means they will be happier at work and more likely to stay and develop a career in this new breed of hospitality.”
The software supporting the new ibis initiative is part of AccorHotels’ 225 million euro digital transformation plan launched in 2014 which includes investment in the www.accorhotels.com distribution platform; the group’s mobile app for guests; and the development of data analytics capabilities. AccorHotels has been investing heavily in its mobile platforms, with two-thirds of the group’s bookings now made via mobile devices.
Carla Milovanov, Vice President Digital Services and IT, AccorHotels UK & Ireland commented: “This is a great example of using our digital expertise to create services which result in a better experience for employees and guests. Initiatives like this are only made possible by the work we have previously completed ensuring full WiFi coverage in our hotels.”
The service-focused model supported by technology chimes with a recently published whitepaper which advised hospitality brands to “put a strong emphasis on the human touch” when applying disruptive technology, with research finding that 60 per cent of guests still prefer having a conversation with someone when they arrive.
Thomas Dubaere, Managing Director, AccorHotels UK & Ireland, concluded: “Guests are looking for new hospitality experiences and a human touch that is absent in many of their interactions with brands nowadays. We have put the heart back into hospitality by putting our people in front of guests, not behind a desk, and empowering them to offer great service and a memorable experience.”