I’d really love to stay at a hotel where the digital world is a part of the experience.
Now, I’ve stayed at my fair share of hotels, but none has ever gotten close to what I, as a frequent business traveler, would expect digitally from a hotel experience. If I were doing public relations for a hotel with a budget to match our mutually shared ambitions, here’s how I’d do it:
1. Complimentary wifi (without coupons)
Complimentary wifi should go without saying these days. How else can I tell my friends about the hotel? And don’t give me those lame pieces of papers with 24-hour passwords printed on them. Give me my login credentials via the personalised hotel television welcoming screen.
2. Easy online booking (with customisations)
Yes, please. But it should be simple. No fuss. And let me decide if I want my towels hanging or placed on the bed or if I want to have certain stuff in my minibar. Simply put, let me customise my hotel experience in advance. I’d also like for the website to remember my preferences for my next booking.
3. Online room service (with loyalty points)
Let me order room service online. And never complain about having to offer this; as a customer, I’m doing your work for you, just like in an internet bank. And let me earn points for doing this stuff myself!
4. 24/7 digital concierge services (with online chat)
Maybe I’ve got some questions about the hotel or the local area. Is it ok if I ask these questions on Facebook, Twitter, or maybe on my personal site? Of course, it is. They’re happy that I’m interested in the hotel, and it doesn’t matter where I post my questions; they’re aggregated and answered by the hotel promptly. Maybe I’d like to head out for a couple of hours. But what to see? A streaming video call with a hotel tour guide would be excellent. If the tour guide talks to several different guests in various locations at the same time — that’s ok. This is a perfect service to centralise.
5. User-generated Q&A forum (with authority levels)
Dammit, I can’t seem to get the ice machine in the hallway working. And is the gym any good, I wonder? If I have only two hours in the city after my conference, where do you suggest I go? Maybe someone wants to share a cab to the airport and save some money as well as the environment? If the hotel had a crowdsourced and ever-evolving Q&A database, a small community of loyal guests could emerge. Former guests could even assist the hotel with answering questions or give local tips in exchange for reward points and member status.
6. An iMac in every room (with useful software)
Switch any religious texts for a desktop computer with a sleek design instead. If a hotel should place one versatile, helpful, and useful item in a hotel room, what would it be? A computer, of course. The Gideon’s are taking care of the Bible, but that’s not helpful at all for a die-hard atheist like me. An iMac would do the trick.
7. Mobile application (for iOS and Android)
Every decent hotel should have their own mobile application. The possibilities are endless, especially when it comes to catering to people staying at the hotel regularly. You can pack it with useful services, two-way communications systems, community functions, social gaming, and bonus programs.
8. Complimentary headsets (for free wifi calls)
Every hotel should consider offering free wifi calls. The room could have complimentary Skype headsets and Skype Out credits. It would make international guests happy because this means that the hotel is making it easier for them to connect with their friends and families at home. And this warm feeling will power up their feeling towards the hotel brand, of course.
9. LBS (location based services) discounts
Let me book cinema tickets, cab rides, tours, tables at restaurants via the hotel. This is a great way for the hotel to create a portal and the service center could easily merge with the online community functions, the screens in the hotel, on the pads, and so forth. If I use services like Foursquare, Gowalla, and Facebook Places (even Twitter has this functionality), I think I should be rewarded for telling my friends about the hotel. Or at least acknowledged by being highlighted on the hotel website, so that I at least can earn more followers. The least the hotel could do is just to say thanks, right?
10. Massive digital picture frames (with touch screens)
Instead of traditional art on the walls, set up video picture frames instead and lets me choose art for myself. Or if I’m a business savvy individual, I might want to see the news on one screen and pull up stock quotes on another. Or, maybe the company having a kick-off can arrange for the party images to be streamed to the walls? Or why not allow for my beloved ones to send me a picture of themselves on the bedside table?
11. User reviews on the website (with voting functions)
Your guests will find user-generated reviews anyway, so why not make them easily accessible on the website? User reviews are all over the net, and however truthful – they sure give a more honest opinion than a glossy and extremely biased hotel website. Why not let the user reviews onto the website? I promise your guests will find these anyway, so please make it easy for them. That’s how you earn trust and reputation.
12. Online crowd discounts (for simultaneous booking)
If I can team up with others via social media to book our stays simultaneously, we should be offered discounts for doing so. If you allow strangers to come together and share their experience by getting better deals, it will strengthen your community. And who knows, maybe your hotel will create friends. Of course, they’ll remember where – and thanks to whom – they met.
13. Streaming services (with complimentary access)
This whole thing with pay-per-view feels antiquated, to say the least. At many hotels, you can typically choose from maybe a selection of 25 pay-per-view movies. We as hotel guests aren’t satisfied with this anymore. We want to be able to choose from thousands and thousands of movies, tv-shows, and why not — audio books and podcasts? There is more than one streaming video service allowing for this today.
14. Bluetooth speakers (with hifi quality)
I might want to listen to some music, right? Make sure the room has volume- and time-restricted hifi speakers that allow me to stream my music from my mobile phone. This gives me access to the music I love, and of course — I will love the hotel for it.