In today’s high-tech, fast-paced world, expediency is an expectation. Busy consumers place a premium on making the most of their valuable time, and businesses everywhere are taking notice. From self-check-out at grocery stores, to self-check-in at airports, to online medical forms that can be filled out pre-visit, companies are finding ways to improve the experience of those who are pressed for time.
The hotel industry can do its part to stay competitive in an on-demand world by speeding along the process of checking in and checking out. While many who visit hotels do so for leisure purposes, many others are stopping in between important meetings or trying to catch flights to their next destination. These travelers can benefit from, and are sure to appreciate, getting where they are going more quickly and efficiently.
Several new options have emerged in recent years that can help expedite the check-in and checkout process.
In one form of automated check-ins, guests who have registered and paid online receive key codes that they can use to operate both the outer hotel door and their room door, allowing them to bypass the front desk entirely if they so choose.
In another form, guests can check in virtually ahead of time using their computers, tablets or smartphones. Once checked in, they are given a bar code, which they can print out or store on their mobile device. Upon arrival, they scan the code into a kiosk, which assigns them a room and provides them a room key.
Automated check-ins also help the hotel improve their staff efficiency; rather than handle extensive lines at the counter, clerks can handle paperwork, process bills and answer phone calls with fewer interruptions. They can also focus more on customer service, and spend more time engaging with guests who do want a more personalized check-in experience.
Mobile Lobby Staff
Some high-end hotels are combining the concierge and front desk functions, creating instead a personal greeter or “host” position. Rather than standing at a desk, hosts anticipate the arrival of guests ahead of time, and check them in by name using an iPad or similar tablet.
As the host guides the guests to their rooms, he or she can make recommendations, help them with their luggage and answer any questions they may have. This option eliminates the need to wait in line, but still maintains the personal customer service touch that many patrons appreciate.
An expedited checkout method allows guests to skip the checkout line and avoid waiting for the hotel to compile their bill at the end of their stay. It also helps the clerks; they can process the bill at their convenience, rather having to do so while other clients wait in line.
In an expedited checkout, the anticipated amount of the bill is pre-authorized by the client. The bill may be given to the client early in the morning on the day they leave, or sent to their email address after their hotel stay. Either way, the client can leave the hotel without waiting for their bill, and without having to pay at the front desk.
In spite of these advances, hotels are not doing away with clerks and concierges. The focus is not on creating a completely automated system, but on giving guests options. Some guests may want to chat with the clerk about amenities, reservations and local attractions. Some might simply enjoy the “human factor” a person-to-person transaction provides. And still others may prefer to look at their bill before paying rather than simply authorizing their credit or debit card.
That said, streamlining check-in/out services for those who prefer a faster experience is a great way to cater to individual needs and preferences, and a good way to build brand loyalty among busy travelers.