The new gold standard for hospitality lies in the hidden star

Hotels today need operational agility to keep up with shifting guest expectations and evolving technology, and that requires being intentional with their technology decisions, opines Priyanka Gargav, head of commercial, SEA & HK with payments platform Adyen

The skies are reopening again. Slowly but surely, many of us around the world are adjusting to living in a pandemic-prone world. This means hotels need to adopt a new level of operational agility to keep up with shifting guest expectations and evolving technology. For many hospitality brands, this means being intentional with your technology decisions, integrating technology without sacrificing the high-touch experience that is often equated with high levels of service excellence.

Forget the coveted five-star rating – possessing the hidden star is now the new gold standard in delivering service excellence. Here are five factors that will give hotels the edge to deliver the ultimate memorable guest experience and secure that extra star of excellence:

Seamless and personalised guest journeys
According to a global travel trends report by American Express Travels, 82 per cent of respondents state that the pandemic has changed traveller perception of luxury travel and personalised experience.

As safety and hygiene have now become top of mind for travellers in a Covid-recovering world, seamless and personalised guest journeys are required to adapt to guests’ mobile habits in an increasingly contactless world.

Hotels will benefit from a single payments platform that can help to unify experiences around the customer journeys, across online, mobile or in-person interactions.

For example, AccorInvest has redesigned the check-in experience to be contactless and seamless using tokenisation. Guests will be able to check in via their mobile devices prior to their arrival and securely authorise card payments using virtual check-in. Twenty-four hours prior to their stay, guests will receive a link to check in and have the option to scan a QR code to confirm or directly to the room when they are at the hotel.

Facilitating secure transactions using tokenisation
New security and fraud risks are constantly emerging as millions around the world now transact online, especially since the pandemic hit.

Card tokenisation inherently reduces the exposure of sensitive card information. At the point of booking, a guest’s payment data is captured, encrypted and replaced with a secure token for all subsequent purchases.

From that point, guests can be liberated from their cards completely. They can activate any device that has an NFC tag (be it a wearable, an access card, or a room key) to make payments and book services without having to present a card, enter a code, or sign a bill.

For hotel operators, this also means that you can keep your PCI scope to a minimum since the unencrypted card data never touches your systems. You can also send secure payment links to guests replacing the need to collect card data on the phone or in an email.

Delighting beyond expectations
Being able to fulfil guests’ needs without having to ask for their payment details with tokenisation will also take the experience up a notch.

From the point of booking, tokenised guest payment data securely stored in the hotel’s property management system can be easily retrieved for future transactions. Past transaction data can also allow hotel operators to anticipate and provide recommendations tailored to your guests’ specific needs and preferences. Tokenisation also allows guests to have a brisk checkout process and allow returning guests to have a smoother experience.

Reducing other potential points of friction such as recognising where guests are from, and letting them pay with their preferred method and currency, is also a standard service hotels should aim to provide.

Focus on guests, not processes
Enabling high-tech experiences and digitising the guest journey does not have to detract from delivering high-touch engagement. Instead, frictionless payments will reduce the amount of time spent on manual tasks, freeing up resources and staff to focus on the guests.

For example, tedious processes like night audit, closing terminals, or tallying bank settlements with your sales revenue can now be eliminated by moving from standalone payment terminals to a fully integrated payment solution. Some of our hotel partners have indicated saving eight to 10 hours of manual reconciliation – across all channels and geographies.

Managing pre-authorisation or using card-on-file to charge tokenised payment cards for common requests such as late check-outs, day use of the room and extended services will become more flexible on an integrated payment platform.

Furthermore, an integrated solution not only connects the front desk, kiosks, rooms,
 and other departments within the hotel, but is also compatible with property management systems such as Agilysis, Infor, Oracle Hospitality and Shiji. Another plus point is building in the same great experience and streamlining processes across international properties without the hassle of multiple contracts.

Delivering personalised experiences using real-time data
Understanding guests’ needs and delivering more personalised experiences is top of any hotel’s agenda.

An integrated solution can provide a unified real-time overview of the performance of all transactions, allowing hotels to optimise conversion as they improve customer experience. Real-time data can tell how well your new dinner menu is performing, or the take-up rate of new services, as well as help you see the opportunity to convert dine-in guests to room guests. These invaluable insights can also help determine future business decisions, such as building highly targeted, customised loyalty programmes and promotions.

The payment system, when set up right, helps to remove complexity by connecting the dots across your various touchpoints. It becomes a crucial element to influence a guest’s experience and a key point of differentiation between your hotel and the competition, as well as your conduit to new revenue streams.

Without doubt, hotels need to be where the consumers are in order to profit from the trend towards digital and alternative payment options. A combined high-tech and high-touch experience will be the new norm in the trade – and that is where you will earn your hidden star to be a cut above the rest.

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