For anyone booking a room in a hotel, the technologies in the room and the hotel itself are becoming as important as the softness of the bed and the complimentary breakfast. Wall-mounted smart TVs that not only show television programs but also serve as a personalized interface with the hotel staff, mobile check-in and check-out, simple texting or hotel-branded mobile apps through which guests can contact the front desk or call for room service, free WiFi and other technology-based amenities have quickly moved from being special perks to basic, standard expectations.
According to a J.D. Power report last year, 71 percent of hotel guests said that free WiFi is the number-one most important amenity, outpacing free parking and free breakfasts. The same survey also showed that while only 3 percent of guests take advantage of online or mobile check-in, checking in or checking out through the technology rated higher in customer satisfaction than any other method.
The question we wish they’d ask: Do any of these upgrades matter if guests can’t do something as simple as make a cell phone call from their room?
Mobile technologies are driving guest expectations in the hospitality industry
A study by publisher Hospitality Technology last year found that in 2016, 56 percent of hoteliers said that guest room technology upgrades were a priority, and the focus fell on a number of areas. Key among those was the understanding that mobility has become ubiquitous. Guests come to the hotel armed with smartphones and tablets that are the gateway to their highly connected and online lives. They have the expectation that they will be able to use their devices during their stay, and that means they won’t return to places where making calls is difficult or impossible.
In some of the more forward-thinking hotels, guests are already able to use their smartphones or other personal devices to control the temperature in their rooms via smart thermostats and, similarly, the light in their rooms through smart lighting, even if they aren’t on the hotel premises.
That mobile personal device mindset is also extending to smart TVs. Televisions are actually replacing the room phone in many hotels as a key way for customers to interact with the hotel, eliminating one of the only reasons guests had for using the room phone. And the televisions role in the guest’s experience is increasing. For example, a growing trend is people plugging their own devices into the TVs for streaming content from Netflix or other services and integrating with the other smart systems in the room. Vendors like Samsung also have developed bathroom mirrors that can double as high-definition TVs. A recent survey by Smith Micro Software indicated that 81 percent of respondents wanted to have access to mobile video content in their hotel rooms, and 55 percent said such availability could determine where they choose to stay.
Reliable networks are going to be critical to meeting those expectations
At the foundation of the emerging technologies that hotels are embracing is the network—fast, reliable and secure—that connects these devices to each other and the internet. Hotels not only are increasingly making free WiFi standard for guests, but are boosting the bandwidth and speed to meet what guests commonly have at home. Those boosted Wifi capabilities are built on a fiber backbone, and smart hotel companies would do well to use that same infrastructure to improve indoor cellular coverage throughout their complex through a distributed antenna system.
Without reliable indoor cellular coverage, many of the efforts and investments hotels are putting into these mobile capabilities – both for guests and hotel operations – would amount to little more than frustration and help drive customers to find other places to stay. A hotel with a reputation for poor cellular connectivity could be hindered in its ability to keep guests or to attract new customers in a world that is increasingly becoming more mobile and more connected. Guests come to a hotel with particular technology expectations around what they’ll be able to do with their smartphones. For hospitality organizations, the bottom line is meeting those expectations. And, for many guests, those start with being able to complete a cell phone call.
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