Avoiding long lines at your hotel’s front desk

Summer vacation time is here, but for a lot of people, that means endless hours standing in line in airports, hotels, museums and tourist attractions. Not many years ago we took all this for granted as an inevitable part of vacations, like getting sand in your potato salad on the beach. But today’s consumers are not so accepting.

Today’s consumer is in no mood to wait. And it’s not just because they come to the end of a flight or a car trip tired, overheated, and dragging too much luggage. Because of the Internet, today’s consumers are used to getting what they want without having to wait. And we’re not just talking about millennials or digital natives; most people now expect to get information or make arrangements on a mobile device, no matter the time and place.

It’s no surprise, then, that the tourism industry has taken the lead in reservations made from mobile devices. In fact, in 2016, mobile reservations increased by 67% over the previous year, and the increase was even greater for overnight or last-minute reservations. These figures are from the United States, but they line up perfectly with our region, since Spain is one of the three European countries that experienced the greatest increase in mobile device use for hotel reservations, rising 10% in every quarter.

Clearly, travelers are more mobile than ever, and their mobile devices will play an ever-more-crucial role in the hotel industry.

These figures improve when the hotel has a reservation app, given that, for the year 2017, 44% of travelers intend to plan their vacations from their mobile device and 52% plan to increase their use of travel-related apps.

And so, when they arrive at our hotel and we subject them to a very “offline” process such as queueing up at the front desk to validate their data, we essentially kill the experience. In fact, a lot of hotel reviews on TripAdvisor make points such as “we didn’t have to wait in line at the front desk” or “service at the front desk was very slow”.

So, how can we reduce wait times and improve our customers’ experience?

Mobile devices are the key to reducing waiting times in hotels

Today, mobile devices are an essential tool for making travel reservations: users look for flights and hotels, check reviews by other travelers, make their reservation, and pay immediately. According to a study by SmartTravel, in 2016 three of every four hotel searches were made from a mobile device.

But it’s still not enough. Since time is becoming an increasingly valuable asset for everyone, users want to be able to do everything from their mobile devices. So, what can mobile devices offer to today’s hotel guest?

  • Checking in and checking out from the mobile device, at any time and in any place, to avoid lines and long waits at the front desk.

  • Querying information, such as descriptions of services, room features, photographs, nearby transportation or weather forecasts, for example.

  • Reserving a room, paying for it, and receiving immediate confirmation. One big plus is no longer having to print out reservation paperwork, since all the necessary data can be kept on the mobile device (in an app, as a code, a digital document, etc.).

  • Being able to reserve additional services before or during a hotel stay, with a single click.

  • Having a communication channel with the hotel to make queries and get fast, or even immediate, answers.

The delicate balance between technology and the personal touch

None of this means that users want to avoid dealing with humans at all costs; far from it! They want ease, comfort, and immediacy, all at their fingertips. But they still want up-close and personalized attention. The challenge for hotels is to strike a balance between the personal touch and ever-more-comprehensive mobile solutions.

In other words, hotels need to go beyond the online search and reservation process and eliminate, for example, tasks that add no value, such as gathering data from identification documents to meet Know Your Customer requirements, when the user can provide such information from a mobile device in less than thirty seconds.

What do users value most highly when it comes to using their mobile device to reserve a hotel?

  • Scanning, not writing. Digital consumers consider simplicity, speed, and comfort to be essential.

  • All-in-one. They want their mobile device to serve as a payment card, boarding pass, proof of reservation, and communication and information channel rolled into one. In fact, it is expected that by 2020, 15% of mobile payments will be associated with the tourism industry.

Fortunately, new solutions make it possible not only to carry out basic search and reservation functions, but also to flexibly provide whatever the digital consumer needs (and without which he would not make the reservation) and wants (so that he will choose our hotel over all the others, all else being equal).