Digital Guest Journey Part 1: What does a fully automated guest journey actually look like?

In our 3-part series, we ask our expert Alexander Haußmann, one of the founders and managing directors of straiv by CODE2ORDER, what a fully automated guest journey in a hotel actually looks like, which systems play an important role in this, which solutions need to fit together and how best to start such a project.

For more than 6 years, Alexander Haußmann has been advising hotels of all types and sizes on the subject of digitization with a focus on process optimization, automation and the digital guest journey.

What does a fully automated guest journey in a hotel actually look like, Alexander Haußmann?

For several months now, no industry network or trade magazine has been able to avoid the term “Digital Guest Journey”. Large hotel groups, but also many innovative hoteliers, have been thinking about a partially or fully automated digital guest journey for several years now. But what does it look like in reality?

The formulated goal is: to provide hotel services (from booking to check-out) through the Guest Journey to a hotel guest – fully automated.

The guest journey can be divided into three phases: Pre-Stay, Stay, Post-Stay. Each phase includes hotel services and administrative tasks that can be automated thanks to digital solutions.

1. Pre-stay phase

1.1 Online booking

Guests book a hotel room online, preferably via their own homepage. This posting runs if necessary via the channel manager directly into the PMS (=Property Management System). In the PMS, the corresponding room is then reserved and confirmed.

1.2 Booking confirmation

The entire digital communication with hotel guests can be fully automated along the entire guest journey. The booking confirmation, as probably the most important message, can be fed with all important data from the PMS and is delivered to the recipients automatically. The classic way of e-mail communication can recently also be extended with the channels SMS or WhatsApp.

1.3 Digital registration certificate

Hotel guests can fill out the registration form with all the relevant data from the comfort of their own home before their hotel stay. This data is automatically transferred to the PMS so that this guest information can be sent to the reporting system. This saves hotel guests time at the front desk and check-ins are much faster. If hotel guests have successfully filled in and sent the registration form before their stay, then this is referred to a so-called pre-check-in.

1.4 Payment

Hotel guests can pay the bill at check-in (but of course also at check-out) before their stay. By integrating the online payment engine of the respective payment provider, payment processing can be handled securely and easily by the hotel guest from home. It all feels like a familiar online purchase and the hotel directly receives the money, increasing cash flow.

Pre-authorization of the credit card is of course also a common scenario, which can be done by the hotel guest before the stay.

1.5 Online check-in

On the day of arrival at check-in times, hotel guests can perform an online check-in via their mobile device. In this case, the guest confirms their check-in, saving them a trip to the front desk. The status of the reservation is set to checked in in the PMS and the PMS transmits the room number with the guest journey solution, which is then displayed to the guest.

If guests do not check in with their own terminal device, hotels can also offer a check-in counter at which hotel guests can check themselves in (without hotel staff) via a simple tablet and encode their keycard using the corresponding encoder of the locking system partner.

2. Stay phase

2.1 Smartphone door opening

Probably the most innovative way to open a hotel door is via smartphone. What is new here is that there are now solutions with which guests do not have to download a native app. The door opening then simply works in the browser of the smartphone. The respective doors that a guest is allowed to open are available to guests from “check-in” to “check-out” status.

Alternatively, of course, the door can be opened without a keycard by means of PIN codes, which are automatically sent to the guests upon successful check-in.

2.2 Digital guest directory

A digital guest directory can be used to automatically provide guests (even before their stay) with all the information they need about the hotel, the surrounding area and the hotel or external services on offer.

Since almost every guest travels with a mobile device nowadays, there are solutions with which you can completely avoid having a tablet in the hotel room. Guests can access the customizable content of the digital guest directory via a WiFi landing page, a QR code in the room, or a welcome text message as well as an email, for example.

2.3 Online check-out

On the day of departure, hotel guests can save themselves a trip to the reception desk by checking out online via their own devices. Hotel guests will receive an automated message the night before or morning of their departure, which will take them to the check-out area of the guest web app. There, guests can still adjust the billing address, for example, and pay the bill if this has not already been done in the check-in process.

Subsequently, hotel guests can conveniently receive their invoice(s) in digital form via automated email.

3. Post-stay phase

3.1 Automated post-stay communication

In order to keep the guest up to date with offers and information about the hotel even after the hotel stay, all kinds of information can be sent via a corresponding automated communication tool (by mail, by SMS or WhatsApp). The aim is to increase the direct booking rate as a result.

3.2 Feedback

In addition to providing information, hotel guests can also be asked for honest feedback via an online feedback tool.

In the next part of our series “Fully automated guest journey in the hotel: Questions addressed to Alexander Haußmann” we answer the question “Which solutions have to fit together for a digital guest journey?”.