Thursday, 16 July 2015

14 Reasons why hotels should get smart check-in/digital keys

During this weeks MobileBeat2015 conference in San Francisco the senior vice president of digital at Starwood Hotels and Resort worldwide, Julie Atkinson announced it's smartphone unlocking and check-in will finally be available in the next couple of weeks.

So in honor of the first ever major rollout of smartphone self check-in in hotels, we've put together a list of the top 14 reasons why other hotels should follow in the footsteps of Starwood Hotels and begin rolling out smartphone unlocking and check-in (aka digital keys/keyless check-in) in their hotels.

1. Guests want it.

According to Atkinson from Starwood, 190,000 people have already registered for Starwoods keyless check-in. According to Geraldine Calpin, Hilton Worldwide Global Head of Digital, (Hilton have also announced plans to roll-out keyless check-in to all 650,000 of their rooms worldwide) their extensive market research showed that guests want to be able to have the choice about keyless check-in - see video here.

Hilton wants to offer a choice for its guests to self check-in

2. You can push relevant content to your guests anytime through the keyless check-in app.

During the guests stay, the hotel can push relevant tourist sites, tours, activities, hotel dining discounts and other promotions through the app. Right now, for hotels to get 'up-sells' on day-tours or theme parks or the like, the hotels have to hope that a guest chooses a brochure from a brochure board in the hotel lobby for a day-tour where the hotel has partnerships with the relevant tour company so they can get their 'up-sell' commissions.

Please guest, book a day tour with us that we have an affiliate commission with.

3. You'll never have to pay for a locksmith to come out and change a lock ever again if a guest loses a metal key.

For hotels that still have metal keys, if a guest loses a key, then the hotel has to ring up a locksmith to come out and change the locks, as anyone who finds that key can let themselves into the room at anytime. Not only is this embarrassing for the hotel, it also costs money. To call a locksmith out to a hotel it costs around $100-$150 + the cost of the lock ($20-50). With a digital keys smartlock you will never have to change your locks again. If a guest loses their digital key, you simply use an app or software to override the digital key and generate another one - easy! You can buy a new digital keys lock for the same price as it costs to send a locksmith out and put in a metal key lock, and you will never ever have to buy another lock ever again. Did we mention 'ever' again?

Say goodbye to locksmiths and their fees.

4. Save money by not having to pay a 'after hours/night check-in service'

Many small to medium sized hotels/resorts cannot afford to staff a reception desk 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Many small establishments only have reception desks open 9am-5pm. So to enable someone to check-in after 5pm, the hotel owner has to first establish if the guest is planning to check-in after hours, and then they often have these lock boxes/safes on their site, where they place a key in an envelope inside the lock box. Then these establishments pay a so-called "night service" to answer a phone on site to speak to a person on the line(employed by a company) to tell the guest the code to open the lock box, so they can open the box  and get a metal key out and go to their room. Not only is this expensive and unnecessary (hotels can pay up to a few hundred dollars a month to subscribe to this night service), but it's unsafe too. That's because alot of these lock boxes are so old, you can't change the code to open their little doors, so that same person could come back tomorrow night and use the same code, and get another guests key, and let themselves into that room at any future date and time. If this happens, then see point 3 above.

Welcome to the insecure and inconvenient nineteen seventies.

5. Accept last minute bookings and walk-in's after hours

If a hotel only has a reception desk open 9am-5pm, then a guest can't check in after 5pm. The guest has to go to another hotel that has a reception desk open 24/7 to check-in. Can you imagine all the lost bookings here? Nowadays its common for people to book rooms on their mobile, and to make spontaneous decisions on their phones about purchases. If a guest walks past your hotel/resort, and if they like what they see, then they can pull out their phone, book, pay, and immediately have their digital key downloaded in your app, or immediately emailed/texted to them, and they can go straight to their room. The hotelier doesn't even need to have to play any part in this process if they don't want to. Great for hotels in city centres or railway stations.

6.Capture and retain data on your guest

Who doesn't like data? Are you a hotel that makes your guest fill out a paper form when they check-in with their contact details? It is hard enough trying to get a guest to fill in their bare minimum data such as name and address these days on these forms right?..... let alone asking them to fill out details about the things they like/dislike. And if you're getting guests to fill out this form everytime they check-in, even on return visits, you're wasting opportunities to learn more about your guest. You can't exactly ask a guest to answer the following questions on the check-in paper form; what is your favorite food, what is your favorite beer or wine, do you like visiting museums or doing adrenaline activities, what type of cars like they like to rent, whether they like soft or hard pillows? But as a hotel you can capture all this data through the behavior of your guests through your systems and the app throughout your hotel. Has the guest ordered 2 glasses of an Australian Merlot wine in your restaurant during their stay? Have they opened the door to the gym 5 times in their three night stay? Why not offer them a complimentary bottle of Australian Merlot wine in a follow up email if they choose to stay at your hotel again and book on your website (this way you won't have to pay the commission to the Online Travel Agency either). Why not offer them a 25% voucher off local fitness classes at a local gym to use next time they stay? 
Say good bye to these inefficient forms

7. Say goodbye to demagnetising keycards

Its no secret that keycard demagnetize when held against smartphones. Why not turn the problem into the solution with smartphone self check-in?

Damn it! Red  light, locked out. NOT AGAIN!

8. Differentiation

Check-in and opening your door on your smartphone is pretty cool right? Stand out from other hotels with this great feature.
Stand out from the crowd

9. Interfaces to other concierge like services and room controls for energy efficiencies

With a digital keys app, you can also add other services to the app such as remote control of smartTV's, remote control of smartlights, room service on the app etc. Save money on energy efficiencies.

10. Pre-sell in bulk to hotel wholesalers

Imagine how many rooms you could pre-sell in bulk to hotel wholesalers if large groups knew they didn't have to bother to sit around and wait to check-in? Airline groups, convention/conference groups, sporting event groups, Chinese tourist groups, and their agents, would all want to book in bulk and stay in your hotel if they knew that the check-in was sorted months in advance, and the guest is already safely checked-in with their digital keys and they could go straight to their rooms when they arrive at the hotel. Why do pilots and air hostesses have to sit around in the foyer waiting for someone to check them all in for up to 30 minutes at a time after a long flight, when they could go straight to their room everytime with their pre-arranged digital key sent to their app in advance? If the groups don't want to use phones, you can give them a time-sensitive key code, or they can add their digital keys to their "BYO" NFC token such as a NFC ring or NFC keycard in advance.

Why are they waiting? - Pilots and airline hosts after long flights have to sit around and wait to check-in to hotels.

11. Pay less commissions to Online Travel Agencies and create loyalties

Keyless check-in and all the advantages discussed above that come with it, may earn your hotel a reputation for actually improving service, which is what hospitality is all about right? So guests will associate your hotel brand as having an app that you can easily use every time to book and check-in, and so they won't need to bother with Online Travel Agencies anymore? Imagine the savings in commissions to Online Travel Agencies, and the loyalty program sign-ups?

Less of this?

12. Increase bookings at the Online Travel Agencies

Following on from number 11, whilst getting the guest to come to your website or app all sounds good in theory, the reality is it may cause the occasional guest to book through your app or website. In the end you cannot survive without the OTA's right? Well that's why we've built smartphone self check-in to be compatible with Channel Managers and OTA's. The guests can still book exactly like they do now at the OTA's, and the guests can automatically receive their digital key emailed/texted to them so they can go straight to their room. Imagine a guest scrolling through Expedia and they're not sure what hotel to book, and they see a little banner on your hotel room photo that says "SMART CHECK-IN - no check-in queues!", that might just tip them over the edge in booking your hotel over others.
Smartlocks and smart app can come together with other online services for hotels including OTA's to enable a smart check-in.

13. Avoid negative Trip Advisor reviews

Do you know how many negative reviews there are on Tripadvisor about hotels where guests have been locked out of their rooms from demagnetizing keycards? Five thousand? Ten thousand? Try entering "locked out" in the trip advisor search engine, and you'll get 158,860 results. Try it tomorrow and it will probably be a few hundred more!

14. Key Management becomes a breeze

Hotel staff don't have to waste time managing keys anymore. 

Cloudy with a chance of metal keys going missing.

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