Companies from all corners of business are trimming back budgets, and in some cases, technology initiatives are finding themselves on the chopping block. In the hotel industry in particular, technology is often a brand differentiator and can greatly impact guest satisfaction. If hotels must trim back IT expenditures, the question becomes, which technologies should stay and which ones can be sacrificed? To answer this question, the University of Delaware conducted the "2009 Hotel Guest Technology Study" to determine which in-room technologies have the biggest impact on the guest experience.
The study polled 1,875 hotel guests (65% female/45% male) about the importance of guest-facing hotel technology, and found seven technologies that are on most guests' "wish lists." The study also revealed the top four technologies in particular that can have a significant impact on a guest's decision to return to a hotel brand.
The wish list
Guests indicate that certain technologies are important to them when looking for a hotel room. This group of technologies can be considered the "guest wish list" for the technologies they'd most like to have. In order of importance, here are the technologies that fall on guests' wish lists:
1) easily accessible electrical outlets; 2) express check-in/check-out; 3) high-speed Internet access in the room; 4) alarm clock; 5) in-room telephone; 6) guest control panel (i.e. lights, temperature, blinds, etc.); and 7) wireless HSIA in hotel public areas.
Hotels should ensure that these technology applications and amenities are easily available, reliable and working properly. Many of the items on this list are standard amenities and do not require a huge investment (in the event that a hotel does not already have them). Reliable Internet, everywhere and anytime, is no doubt a determinant in the likelihood of guest return.
Even more important than what lands on the "wish list" are those technologies that will impact the likelihood of a guest returning to a property. By conducting an in-depth regression analysis of the data, we've determined that the following technologies (in order of importance) go beyond nice-to-have; these technologies, when present, can have a significant impact on a guest's decision to return to a property:
1) express check-in/check-out; 2) flat-panel HDTV; 3) guest control panel (i.e. lights, temperature, blinds, etc.); and 4) in-room high-speed Internet access. If these technologies work well and to the guest's satisfaction, the guest is likely to return to that hotel brand. This also impacts their likelihood of recommending that brand to others. We have seen many hotels replace their CRT televisions with flat panel HDTVs. This research suggests that this investment is right on target.
Three technologies appeared on both lists, indicating that they can impact a guest's decision the first time they choose a hotel, and their decision to return. Express check-in/out is a must-have, especially for business travelers. Guests that are forced to head to the front desk and wait in line will most assuredly do it only once; next time they'll book a reservation at a property with television, telephone or kiosk-based express checkout.
Internet access also appears on both lists. This finding tells us that every corner of a hotel should have reliable Internet access. Hotels should conduct wireless coverage tests to ensure that there are no blind spots. With regard to in-room guest control panels, observations tell us that only luxury brands are implementing this technology. The results of this research indicate that, when present, guest control panels have has a significant impact on a guest's intention to return to that brand. This should serve as important information to hotel IT managers.
While there are many other guest-facing technologies that are important, this data offers powerful insight into guest preferences, and can serve as predictors of their intention to return.
The 2009 Hotel Guest Technology Study was conducted by Dr. Cihan Cobanoglu, University of Delaware; graduate student Ekaterina Berezina contributed to the research efforts. For detailed results email firstname.lastname@example.org.