Contactless Check-in: The Future of the Hotel Industry
What’s the last thing you want after having traveled for hours? A half-hour wait at the hotel front desk, isn’t it?
Everyone hates queues. But it’s not even a question of a simple dislike for the inconvenience in 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic has crippled few other industries like it has crippled the tourism and hotel industry. The paranoia regarding travel is justified. Yes, the beaches or your hiking trail might be completely free of other human companies. But what about the hotels?
You are bound to interact with people at the hotels, right?
Not anymore. Contactless check-ins can save you from every kind of unnecessary exposure to strangers.
Let’s understand what this process actually entails.
What is a Contactless Check-in?
Contactless Check-in refers to a completely digital method of checking into hotels that just requires you, your phone, and an internet connection. That’s it.
It’s a completely automated process that requires zero interaction with any of the hotel staff.
Before I get to exactly how the contactless check-in process works, let’s make one thing clear.
Contactless check-ins not only increase customer satisfaction but also reduce the running cost of the hotel.
How Do Contactless Check-Ins Help Hotels?
As I have mentioned before, the hotel industry has received a sharp blow during the COVID-19 lockdowns and subsequent travel bans. Therefore, quite justifiably, many hotels have had to cut down on their staff. And now that the hotel industry is trying to gain back its foothold, these laid-off workers are not willing to return. After all, they have ample reason not to trust the stability of this industry.
This has caused a major problem of understaffing in hotels.
Where does contactless check-in come into this entire discussion?
Well, as a hotelier, you will know that one of the most complicated parts of the hotel-running business is assigning rooms and making sure the check-in and check-out processes go smoothly. And you need highly efficient and responsible workers whom you have to amply compensate for their efforts. Any slip-up on their part can be a disaster.
However, employing such duty-bound people 24×7 is no laughing matter. This is exactly why contactless check-ins make your life so much easier as a hotelier.
You won’t need anyone manning your front desk in the middle of the night in case a guest decides to check in at that hour. All you need is software that assigns a room number to your guest automatically when they make the booking.
Opting for a contactless check-in and check-out option reduces your hotel running cost by loads by reducing your labor requirement.
Moreover, it increases customer satisfaction by a huge lot as well. I’ll get to that soon enough. First, let us understand…
What Does A Contactless Check-In Process Look Like?
First, try imagining what a regular check-in process looks like, and then I’ll point out how the contactless check-in process differs from it.
Usually, you get to the hotel, and even if you already have a booking, you have to wait behind a queue at the front desk. This is a communal space where you cannot avoid contact with strangers even if you try.
Plus it’s a time-consuming process as well. This includes the receptionist checking the ID of each guest (sometimes going as far as to obtain a copy.). Then the details of your bookings are checked again before you are handed the room keys which have passed through numerous sets of hands.
As you can understand, this is nightmare fodder for ones who are justifiably worried about contracting COVID-19.
Now let us take a look at what a contactless check-in process looks like.
The moment you try getting an online hotel reservation, you are assigned a room automatically. And you are also usually handed virtual room keys which might mean a password or a QR code.
If hotels do not have provisions for virtual room keys, they can always arrange for a self-help sort of system. This way, the guest can collect their room keys themselves upon arriving.
What this also means is that there is absolutely no need to line up behind the front desk or interact with anyone in the communal spaces. Everything about your hotel stay depends on you.
How To Have a Contactless Check-In Facility At Your Hotel?
You need hotel software that allows you to assign rooms and hand out room keys digitally. But that’s not as simple as it sounds. You also need to make sure you have other contactless processes like contactless payment, contactless check-out, etc in place as well.
This is why you should opt for a Property Management System (PMS). PMSs don’t just take care of one contactless process, they make sure you can manage the entire institution (or multiple institutions) from just a single cloud-based platform.
Stayflexi is one such cloud-based Property Management System that employs automation to make sure you don’t have to manually do everything.
Its Unified Reservation Calendar and Auto Inventory Management System are possibly the best features. You will never run into any problems of overbooking or room wastages due to urgent cancellations with these. The automation itself will take care of room assignments and also deliver a virtual key to the guest.
The guest can also pay without using any card machines that might be contaminated as well. All they need to do is log in through the mobile website and get a payment link. This makes the check-out process super easy as well. No need to wait at the reception desk to settle all your dues. You can just do this on your phone and immediately be on your way.
Benefits of Having a Contactless Check-In Process:
Attuning To Changing Customer Behaviour
Believe it or not, contactless check-in has been a rapidly increasing trend since the mid-2010s. Long before the pandemic paranoia came into play. This is because customer behavior has been changing all along.
Do you know about Japan’s Ichiran Ramen line of restaurants? The reason they became so hyped in the mid-2010s is because of the title that was assigned to them: “The Introvert’s Paradise.” You could eat in single-seater-covered booths where only a pair of hands would deliver you your meal through a slot. These restaurants became so popular that Ichiran Ramen opened an outlet in the US as well.
Why did this restaurant succeed? Don’t people care about being welcomed in and taken care of any more?
Not quite. It’s just that the idea of hospitality has changed.
This study by SoftwareAdvice dates back to 2015. Even then, 60% of the survey subjects claimed that they were much more likely to opt for a hotel that had a mobile check-in facility. This proves that the hype of contactless check-ins is not a pandemic-manufactured trend. And it won’t vanish with the pandemic either. It’s here to stay.
This is because people value their privacy and time more than ever now. Human interaction is no longer sought for. What hotel guests want is efficiency.
Provide More Personalised Care to Guests
Efficiency is exactly what a PMS guarantees. Contactless check-ins have two other advantages that you might not have thought of. First, since it relieves the staff of the duty to painstakingly check guest details all day long, they can actually focus on catering to the guests. Second, if the guest checks in as soon as their flight lands, the staff can immediately start taking care of their needs. So by the time the guest actually arrives, all the comforts they require have already been put into place.
Also, the hotel can send the guest questionnaires about their preferences. These questionnaires allow the staff to have a more personalized knowledge about the likes and dislikes of the guest from beforehand.
Flexible Check-In and Check-Out Timings
Flexibility is something that most hotels struggle with. Many lose business because they won’t bend their rigid check-out hours as they are scared they won’t have enough rooms for new guests. However, this problem can easily be solved by shuffling a few rooms around.
Now, it’s understandable why human beings don’t want to engage in that degree of permutation-combination calculations. There’s a huge room for error. But this is also why many rooms go under-utilized. A PMS like Stayflexi not only makes sure that guests can check in whenever they want to, it also makes sure they can extend their stay with the click of a button.
If the whole process is automated, it no longer remains your headache to remember when each room is supposed to be vacated or occupied. The automation itself assigns the newer set of guests another room if the present occupants extend their stay. And if there are no rooms available, the current guests are notified of that as well.
“Contactless” is the new buzzword, yes. But the craze for contactless check-ins had started way before the pandemic entered the picture. Customer behavior is changing and so is the notion of hospitality. Therefore, if you want to keep up with the times, save labor costs and increase customer satisfaction, opt for a PMS that allows you Contactless Check-Ins- like Stayflexi.
Often with PMSs, you have the problem of being stuck with whatever the software is offering you. This might make you wonder how you can change room allotments manually if required. Well, Stayflexi is known for its customizations. Automations don’t mean canceling out your power to make changes, after all.
Have any follow-up questions regarding how your hotel can opt for a contactless check-in? Do let me know in the comments below.