In-Room Tech that's Falling Short

By Cihan Cobanoglu | October 09, 2009

When it comes to guest room amenities, some technologies are considered "must haves" by your guests, while others are considered a nice added benefit. In all cases, in-room technologies not only have an importance level to your guests, but guests are also continually making evaluations (consciously or otherwise) of how satisfied they are with the in-room amenities you do offer.

Some technologies are considered most important, and can actually impact guest booking decisions, while other in-room technologies may rate lower overall on guests' "must-have" lists. In the 2009 Hotel Technology Study, the University of Delaware evaluated the survey feedback of approximately 1,000 American consumers to find out how important in-room technologies are to them when selecting a hotel. We also asked them to rate their satisfaction with the performance of these items in their most recent hotel visit in the past 12 months.

An IT service gap
Cross-tabbing this data in what's called a gap analysis allows the researchers to compare importance scores to satisfaction scores. If both the importance of and performance of a technology are both rated highly, then the hotel is doing well to satisfy guests. Technologies that fell in this category include express check-in/out, wireless Internet access and the alarm clock.

In cross-tabbing the research, however, one particular quadrant should be especially important to hotels: the area where the importance of a technology to guests is rated higher than their satisfaction with the performance of that technology. In other words, these are the technology amenities where hotels are not providing solutions that measure up to the level of importance to guests. This quadrant is important for hoteliers because it offers an opportunity to improve its products and its guestrooms. The technologies that fall into this category are the guest control panel and easily accessible electrical outlets.

These two technologies are particularly important because they are also two of the technology amenities that guests report affect their decisions to come back to that hotel or brand. Hoteliers should make every attempt to offer both of these amenities and offer them in good quality. I am sure that you've found yourself crawling under a desk to find an outlet for your laptop, camera or cell phone (or all three!). Many hotels are now offering electrical outlets or charging stations on the desktop and/or by the bed. However, the research results show to us that hoteliers still have a significant area for improvement in this area. The good news is that it may not require a significant capital outlay to make a room "easily outlet accessible."

Similarly, hotel guests would like the convenience of controlling temperature and lights from the bed with the help of a guestroom control system. A guestroom control system also allows a guest to open and close curtains, turn on an electronic "do not disturb/make my room" sign, or even order room service. There are several technology companies that offer such solutions. Inncom (www.inncom.com), for one, offers a device that can be mounted on the bedside table. Control4 (www.control4.com) adds a remote control device that operates via the Zigbee wireless standard and works with the current TV system. Though there is an expense component to be considered, for some properties these solutions are great options.

Drilling into the data further, we started looking for patterns in certain demographic groups. When we look at the traveler type (leisure versus business) and gender, we see that business travelers and female travelers put more importance on the "easily accessible electrical outlets" than do leisure travelers and male travelers. This finding is particularly more important for business hotels. Female travelers also put more importance on guestroom control panels than do male travelers; on the other hand, leisure travelers put more importance on guestroom control panels than do business travelers.

In the end, hotels must prioritize their investments based on an individual property or brand standard. This data, however, does help hotels benchmark their initiatives against industry trends and guest desires. I encourage you to share with me what you think of these amenities, and if you offer them to your guests. If they're not already telling you they want these amenities, they soon may well be.

The 2009 Hotel Guest Technology Study was conducted by Dr. Cihan Cobanoglu and Ekaterina Berezina, graduate student, University of Delaware.

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