“Ride the wave or get crushed by it…”

Dinosaur keys

There was once a day when we opened hotel rooms using a key – a real, metal and expensive key. It was inconvenient. Your customers accepted this standard because it’s how they opened their doors at home and the office. It was common place. Functional. No options. Replacements were expensive, but accepted because there were no other options. No choice.

Incrementalism 1.0

Then came the intermediate step or ‘incremental gain’, but predominately only the hotel really gained. Hotels smartly replaced expensive-to-buy, expensive-to-maintain-and-recapture metal for a plastic card, of slightly different sizes and capability. Essentially, a metal key was replaced by plastic. Sounds like a reasonable incremental improvement, but only for the hotel. Your guests didn’t gain much, they still ‘just opened a door’, essentially the same way. Just the medium changed. Your guests are forced to hold a key and take it with them to their meals, meetings, workout sessions in the gym or pool, and all excursions outside your hotel. Yes, they could have cut the cord by dropping off the key at the front desk counter (if they could find the key drop-off box), but then they were forced to stand in line AGAIN to pick up the key on their return, and once again, being asked for identification. That is a lot of ‘customer effort’ that your hotel must support.

Incrementalism 2.0

Then, more incrementalism was layered on previous incrementalism – and some say frustration – by deploying ‘hotel check-in kiosks’. Yes, the promise of this slightly incremental technology was designed to solve for long lines at the check-in desk (predominately used to collect information the hotel often already had). Hotels were solving long lines at their front desks for peak hours because they could not staff effectively for many reasons. But the kiosks were functionally restrained and the user experience awkward at best. Hotels simply replaced one line with another; they moved the line from a live agent to a counter top box with a computer. They solved one issue. However, they didn’t provide what the travelers want. What they demand. Hotels didn’t solve for the ‘customer experience’ improvement – reducing customer effort and increasing customer convenience. That’s what comes next.

New world. Leapfrog. The ‘best of access’ meets unlimited marketing opportunities. Take your clients back from the OTAs. Take the first step.

Mobile access. It’s all about mobile – today and tomorrow. It’s the future, and the future is here.

It’s what your guests are clamoring for. Your guests are demanding it. Can you hear your guests banging on door, night after night, stay after stay, wanting access ‘on their own terms’, ‘when they want it and how they want it’? It’s what they want. It’s what they are demanding. And mobile access delivers it.

Mobile access is the new technology wave in our industry. It’s the new ‘runway’… and it’s long. It’s here today. Thousands of doors are being deployed. It’s the beginning of one of the most spectacular platform opportunities in our generation. Mobile access allows your guests, while transcending all backgrounds, leisure vs. corporate travel, technology savvy and phone, to open their door when they want to, how they want to, all ‘on their own terms’. You, the hotelier, control access. You also get all the credit for the freedom you are enabling your guests.

Why Now?

Your hotel guests may be arriving by plane, where they effortlessly move through the airport due to advanced check-in and gate equipment reading phone screens allowing simple, frictionless boarding. They no longer stop at the airport ticket counter. They no longer stop at the gate. They no longer use a paper trail to allow access to the boarding area or plane. It’s all done by their phones and soon, their watches.

The next big phase of the frictionless travel experience is in your space. It’s in your hotel. Check-in kiosks are the metal-key dinosaurs. While helpful, kiosks never ‘solved’ the problem – eliminating process friction while reducing customer effort. Mobile access allows your guests to receive their mobile keys and room assignments BEFORE they arrive at your hotel, and they proceed directly to their rooms. Importantly, they still access your front desk and concierge, but they do it on their own time, at their convenience, on ‘their own terms’. The travelers have more time in return, and they will thank you for it in increased loyalty. It’s what travelers want. It’s what they demand. That’s what mobile key offers you today: a frictionless path forward. Low customer effort. High customer loyalty.

Mobile key platform. Next steps.

It’s here today with thousands and thousands of doors converting to mobile key. Importantly, your guests still have choice. The best of mobile key end-to-end solutions offer a choice of the plastic key and/or mobile key for the guest room, common interior and exterior doors. Mobile key offers a simple ‘shared key’ capability. Mobile key offers access to restrictive rooms and elevators. Mobile key platforms integrate into your PMS systems, minimizing front desk effort, yet expanding your awareness and ability to market to your guests while in your property – a whole new world of marketing opportunities. Check-in and check-out times are set by default and exceptions easily made. You are provided real-time Front Desk dashboards with engineering, management, and operations targeted views. With the best mobile key programs, you know when your guests arrived at your hotel. You know when they’ve accessed their rooms for the first time. You move from ‘going dark’ on your customers in your hotel to awareness and opportunities. Certainly a service opportunity – and soon housekeeping and maintenance – but perhaps more importantly, an incredible marketing opportunity. Some hotels may consider the greatest opportunity mobile key platforms offer is the ability to market to your guests while they are in your hotel. It’s all about proximity marketing. A new world of marketing just for you.

Proximity-based marketing: a whole new world, designed just for you.

The next big wave of the mobile key platforms is proximity-based marketing. This new platform allows you, the hotelier, to smartly, respectfully and effectively market at a very low cost your hotel services and products at the right time, for the right guest, the right way. Never before in the history of the hotel industry have you been presented with the opportunity to effectively and at a low cost, market to your customers while they stay with you. It’s the one location where no one else can know more about your guests than you do. You know where a guest is in relation to his/her arrival and departure, his/her physical proximity to your restaurant, shop, sports and other products and services.

Imagine… it’s 4pm on a Thursday night. Your restaurant, with a largely fixed overhead expense, is just 20% occupied. Your GM now has the opportunity to market immediately to every guest physically in your hotel with a value-add special or maybe a discount. Perhaps your GM decides to market a restaurant special with new show in town – supporting other merchants who, in turn, may send guests to your hotel. A virtuous cycle. Proximity-based marketing is a virtuous tool limited only by your imagination.

Written by Thomas Siebert.