Expert’s Voice: Front Desk 2.0 – Reimagining the guest experience

by | 23 Apr 2021 | Opinions, People

Integrating cutting-edge technology into the front-desk experience can deliver tangible benefits for hotels, according to Steve Davis, CEO at Operto Guest Technologies.

Throughout time, technology has revolutionised human life. By solving real, tangible problems associated with every day, tech has had an almost unimaginable impact on our existence.

We’ve managed to take routine, often mundane, tasks and made them easier, positively impacting virtually every facet of the human experience. In the past 30 years alone, from TCP-IP to iPhone, from wifi to IoT and AI, technology has made our lives easier, faster, more convenient, and arguably more fun.

In the hospitality industry, in particular in hotels, on-premise adoption of technology has arguably been slower than we have seen in many other sectors. From the guest pre-arrival experience to the time they check in, to their in-stay experience and finally to check-out, owners/operators of hotels have been slower to grasp a technology-led approach to providing guest delight.

While the current Covid19 pandemic has highlighted this fact, it has also provided operators with the opportunity to re-evaluate the role that tech plays in driving a better overall experience.

Rethinking the front desk

The front desk, often the flagship of a hotel and certainly the first impression that a guest has of a hotel brand on arrival, has been the slowest to evolve, having changed very little over the last two centuries. Typically, during a stay, a guest arrives, waits to be greeted, hopes there isn’t a line-up, hands over payment details and identification, and is provided with a room key.

In essence, the current front-desk model is an ‘analogue’ version of a transactional interaction. At Operto, we believe that through technology, Front Desk 2.0 is an opportunity to reimagine the relationships between front-of-house staff and guest experience and provide true interactions of service.

Over the last year, consumer sentiment has shifted dramatically. There’s increased demand for a ‘safety first’ and ‘bespoke experience’, provided by a contactless, frictionless, and digitally native environment.

Pre-pandemic, the hospitality industry was already moving in this direction, but Covid19 has been the accelerant needed to bring technology adoption timelines forward – drastically. While we can’t be totally certain of the extent to which Covid19 will ultimately reshape the hotel industry as a whole, what we do know is that people are eager to travel, and they want safe, reliable and personalised experiences.

The growing importance of technology

Once considered a ‘nice to have’, a technology-enabled stay is now an essential for any serious hotel or short-term rental property operator. From keyless entry to noise monitoring and in-room temperature control, a wave of new buyers have now entered the post-Covid19 market, looking to update their property with technology to meet these seismic shifts in consumer demand. But the real question is: can you leverage this technology to unlock new in-stay revenue streams, as easily as you can unlock the door itself?

At Operto, we have approached this challenge by looking at how technology (both hardware and software) can work together to deliver a contactless experience for the guest, as well as generate revenue and operation efficiency for the hotelier or property manager. We believe that there is a largely untapped ecosystem of value between the guest, the manager and the property staff.

Well-built, architected technology can take the guest experience to the next level – reimagining the front desk and how a guest interacts with the property from the minute he/she enters the building is the key.

Removing common friction points

At its most basic level, we can look at the interactions between guests, managers and ‘on-the-ground’ staff (and the IoT devices), as its own unique operating system. While commonality exists between different hotels, these ecosystems are nonetheless bespoke. How value is delivered across this ecosystem, and where the technology can be leveraged to remove common friction points, is the ultimate goal.

Technology clearly has done a lot to make human life easier, more enjoyable and more convenient over the past few decades. Regardless of where you currently sit on the technology adoption curve, and how ‘critical’ you view technology in providing a safe, memorable and ultimately more bespoke guest experience, the bottom line is that things will only continue to accelerate from here.

The challenge for hotel and short-term rental operators is to find the balance between forward-looking technology systems and old-school, human-touch techniques in order to deliver high-quality, in-person hospitality. The front desk is where this all begins.

Steve Davis
Steve Davis

CEO at Operto Guest Technologies

Steve Davis is the CEO at Operto Guest Technologies, a property automation system that provides intelligent control of smart/IoT devices at scale. Based in Vancouver, Canada, Operto improves guest experience and operational efficiency for hotels, vacation rentals and serviced apartments around the globe. Steve has worked as a technology executive across an array of global businesses, including Apple, TomTom, and Kantar Worldpanel.

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