Summer travel season is almost upon us. People are eager to break out of their routines, especially after two years of restricted travel thanks to the pandemic. But when they book a trip, today’s post-COVID travelers expect more from their travel and hospitality experiences. Guest satisfaction today hinges on the ability to offer the right deal at the right time on the right channel. It depends on having lightning-fast services that let a traveler adjust their itinerary at the last minute.
Your ability to respond to these challenges in ways that make guests feel they’re getting a luxury experience for an affordable rate will determine if you have a one-time guest or a customer for life. And savvy hospitality professionals are turning to cloud-based phone systems to respond to these challenges.
What is Cloud Computing? And Why it Matters for Global Travel Companies
First, let’s ensure we’re all on the same page about the technology at the center of this discussion: cloud computing.
What is it exactly? Cloud computing at a high level is using the internet to run programs, access information, and store files. While there’s still a purpose for local storage, COVID-19 truly was a catalyst for businesses thinking about switching to the cloud.
International communications are better served in a cloud environment. While a physical server hosts apps and software internally which are large and expensive to maintain, cloud computing makes communications possible without needing on-site hardware – everything is managed digitally by a third party. This helps global travel and hospitality companies reduce maintenance costs and modernize their telecommunications infrastructure to improve guest satisfaction.
5 Benefits of the Cloud For the Travel and Hospitality Industry
Dell reports that companies that invest in big data, cloud, mobility, and security enjoy up to 53% faster revenue growth than their competitors. But in addition to giving you a leg up against other travel and hospitality brands, cloud technology helps your organization run more efficiently, better serve customers, and at the end of the day, increase your profit margins.
Here are five key benefits of switching to the cloud:
The ability to access all of your technologies, including property management software (PMS), customer relationship management (CRM), and global voice and contact center platforms, from any browser on any device – no matter the location.
The ability to quickly have different elements of your tech stack talking to each other and uncovering insights into your customer base. Software built for the cloud almost always comes with a library of integrations. This means it can easily connect with other programs to share data but without lengthy or expensive installations.
The ability to efficiently report system bugs or incidents. Because cloud computing means you’re always connected to the internet, and thus to program developers, reporting glitches becomes an easy (and sometimes automatic) process. No need to pick up the phone and call IT when you could be following up with future guests. The cloud has your organization’s back.
The ability to use updated software without actually updating it. Improvements to cloud-based software (often spurred by those automatic and user-generated reports that are so easy to send in) are automatically pushed out to user accounts. As a result, cloud-based software actually improves over time, much in the same way wine in your hotel cellar ages nicely. As a corollary benefit, your team doesn’t have to spend time updating their programs the way they do with locally-installed software, allowing them to focus more on providing an excellent guest experience.
5. Cost Savings
The ability to afford the tech investments you need to stay at the forefront of traveler expectations. Though not always cheap, cloud-based software costs significantly less than the individual software copies IT departments used to have to buy and install on each employee’s computer. Businesses save an average of 50-70% after making the switch to a cloud-based phone system. There’s very little to the process of installing cloud-based software, so your IT team can invest their time in training and troubleshooting. Additionally, updates are the responsibility of the provider so teams can focus on other areas of the business.
5 Use Cases for Using the Cloud for Your Travel & Hospitality Business
The cloud isn’t some esoteric technology beyond the reach of the average hospitality business. Hotels, airlines, attractions, and others involved in providing excellent customer service are already using cloud-based resources to serve travelers and increase revenue. There are opportunities to leverage the cloud in every aspect of hospitality services, including:
1. Improve the Reservation Experience
Gone are the days when customers are required to call your hotel to book and cancel reservations. Cloud integrations make it easy for travelers to add or remove services based on accurate, real-time rate and availability information from any device and location. Additionally, enabling a flexible cancellation process is an important policy for travelers. Companies who make this difficult are sure to lose consumer advocacy and even revenue.
Instead, they will choose travel agencies, hotels, airlines, and other travel organizations based on convenience and frictionless experiences. The organizations leveraging cloud-based unified communications (UC) tools will have the upper hand in winning the travel masses.
2. Power Customer Loyalty
Artificial intelligence and machine learning analyze the data travelers input as they save hotels, create bookings, and craft itineraries, powering customer loyalty programs and improvements in their future reservations.
3. Enhance Guest Personalization
Hosted business apps can help you create more personalized, accessible experiences for guests while centralizing their information and lifting the burden of forgetting important documents or paying items off.
This is perhaps best represented in Disney’s MagicBands—lets guests gain access to attractions and hotel rooms, pay for on-premise expenses, redeem reservations and prove their identity, all without having to carry around a clutter of personal belongings.
4. Provide Global 24/7 Customer Support
Virtual agents and chatbots powered by cloud-based software offer extra customer support when scaling agent volume up isn’t feasible, letting your organization continue to serve customers at a competitive service level. Additionally, organizations that provide 24/7 support call centers around the globe can leverage the cloud to route customers quickly to available agents.
5. Streamline Operations
Almost three-quarters (73%) of CMOs and CSOs (chief sales officers) want to centralize, automate, and host key processes using tech that will let them dynamically market and automate their services. But 77% also say their systems are not yet capable of handling the data and analysis needed to make this happen. Many of their current software systems operate in silos and can’t capture and process the customer data needed to offer travelers relevant and timely services.
Cloud-based technology, however, offers travel and hospitality organizations the ability to interconnect data systems instead of changing out their entire tech stack. You can utilize automatic processes and workflows to improve productivity and satisfaction performance.
5 Tips for Increasing Satisfaction in the Guest Journey
We’ve talked through a few cloud-based concepts that benefit the hospitality industry. But what can your organization do to improve your guests’ journey from the moment they plan their trip to the time they depart?
Let’s look at five ways your hospitality business can use the cloud to seamlessly and securely wow your customers throughout their journey.
1. Deliver Guest Convenience with Speed & Agility
Travelers’ plans can change quickly, and your business must keep up or lose out on revenue. When the cloud hosts your operations and communications tools, you can keep your tech infrastructure up to date and ready to scale to meet demand. Here are a few examples of how switching to the cloud can offer better speed and agility to your customers:
- Help your customers easily navigate to answers: When your customers call with questions they expect answers fast. Utilize an IVR to provide FAQs such as flight status changes or updated room info before being routed to an agent. And provide clear and concise menu options so if your customers want to speak with a live agent, they can be directed to the right person the first time.
- Supply your guests with crystal clear connections: Cloud communication systems rarely ever drop calls because they’re backed up by multiple servers across regions. So if you’re a resort in a more remote location, you don’t have to be at the mercy of your local infrastructure. With the cloud, your guests won’t get disconnected from your customer service teams via phone or the internet.
- Give your customers some time back in their day: No one likes sitting on hold. With cloud-based call center tools like queue callback, your travel and hospitality business can allow your customers to have an agent call them back. This lets customers keep their spot in the call queue and keeps their experience with your brand on the positive side.
- Always have enough staff to support your guests’ needs: With cloud-based analytics, you have deep insight into your call centers. Leverage reporting and analytical tools to continuously improve communications and guest experiences while also knowing whether you need more staff to support growing volume.
2. Cultivate Customer Loyalty Through Personalization
According to Mastercard, about 90% of people agree that as business models shift to digital, the opportunities for personalization will only continue to grow, impacting even those industries that in the past tended to offer a more ubiquitous experience.
Delivering a personalized guest experience isn’t a nice-to-have, it’s a need-to-have to stay competitive today. And the cloud can help you do it through numerous tools including:
- Cloud-based predictive analytics: Predictive analytics can help your business personalize a guest’s experience by taking into account their past transactions and travel preferences, and offering actionable advice for likely guest preferences during future stays.
- CRMs: A CRM that integrates with your call center software can also help your teams capture data points about customers so your team can provide a more personalized experience.
- VIP call routing: Label your most loyal customers as VIP customers inside of your CRM so whenever they reach out with a customer service request, they are automatically routed and placed ahead in the queue to speak with the most qualified agent available.
- Automated text alerts: Let customers know when it’s time to check in for their flight, or when their room is ready at your resort. You can even ask them how their stay is going in hopes of collecting some valuable customer feedback.
3. Create a “Frictionless” Stay
Guests expect an elevated travel experience. In many cases, they’ve jumped through health and safety hoops to plan and begin their experience. A minor inconvenience, such as a keycard that doesn’t work or an airport shuttle that doesn’t show up in time, can turn into a major perceived problem if not corrected immediately. A couple of examples of creating a frictionless experience include:
- Contactless experiences: Contactless processes such as turning a mobile device into a room key and offering mobile check-ins before a guest arrives are becoming not only a feature of luxury outfits but an expected part of post-pandemic travel. About 50% of chief experience officers (CXOs) plan to achieve contactless operations within two years. Even before the pandemic, hotels on the leading edge of mobile technology had discovered how to make check-ins/check-outs more seamless for guests by giving them the ability to complete those processes from their smartphones.
- Seamless reservations: Another 50% of CXOs plan to make significant investments in their reservations systems over the next two years because they understand that the traveler’s journey begins as soon as they’re seriously considering booking a room or experience.
Presenting the right traveler with the right accommodations at the right price, on their preferred channel of communications, is a priority in a digital world where the customer has many, many options for booking their experience. A flexible, device-agnostic reservation system that’s easy for customers to use and easy for your staff to update can help your business reach more customers while increasing revenue.
4. Keep Communication Channels Open
The speed of the cloud means that there is more opportunity to process communications between a business and its customers. A few examples include:
- Chatbots: Allowing your customers to speak with you via social media or your website without ever having to pick up the phone.
- SMS conversation: Provide your customers real-time updates on all aspects of their travel experience including their flights, room availability, check-in/check-out, or even room service updates.
- Automated workflows: Additionally, you can take the manual customer service touch-points and automate them.
For example, when hotel checkout time approaches, a cloud-enabled workflow could automatically send the guest their invoice to their preferred email address or SMS number. Meanwhile, the same workflow could notify housekeeping that the room is almost ready for cleaning and alert the bellhop that they’ll need to pick up the guest’s luggage while the valet brings their car around from the parking deck. If the guest requires a late checkout, the workflow can automatically reschedule these same processes to take place at a later time.
Staff can use push notifications to activate such workflows or to check in on customers at opportune times. A simple “How’s your room?” or “Are we meeting your expectations so far?” in a text lets the customer know you’re looking after them and trying to provide the best customer service possible.
Keeping the lines of communication open to improve the customer experience in real-time is becoming standard, and the cloud is the best way to handle all the logistics required for such a level of service.
5. Protect Guests’ Personal Information
With great data comes great responsibility to protect that information, especially when it involves personal traveler data. Choosing to store customer data in the cloud means you must contract with a reputable cloud communications partner committed to data security.
Cloud communication providers take data protection seriously and offer protected offsite server storage guarded by encryptions and other data loss prevention strategies. Data stored with cloud service providers is likely safer than information stored on local drives. A good host will have their servers backed up in more than one way to prevent data loss, and will work with other hosts to run white-hat security tests and patches for known security deficiencies. Other measures you should talk about with a potential cloud services provider are:
- How often do they update their security practices?
- The types of firewalls they use and how often they stress-test them
- How do their data redundancy practices guard against customer data loss?
- Their level of activity with third-party security testers to ensure their data security defenses are working
Cloud communications hosts should take the physical safety of their servers and staff seriously as well, and work with local security systems and authorities to ensure their equipment stays protected. Data security is one of the most important aspects of improving customer satisfaction and deserves just as much attention as the flashier aspects of hospitality services.
How CPaaS Transforms the Travel & Hospitality Industry
As you can tell, increasing customer satisfaction in the hospitality industry means a lot of behind-the-scenes work. This should make sense. After all, the smoothest hospitality experiences intentionally lift as much work off guests’ shoulders so they can relax and fully enjoy the moment.
But how do you make that workload easier on your teams—and your budget? One way is to update your tech stack through application modernization.
A major area for application modernization is updating communications. Moving communications to the cloud through the use of a communications platform as a service (CPaaS) increases an organization’s agility and cost-efficiency. Hotels and travel companies benefit from using CPaaS by taking advantage of integrations and features that let them serve guests one-to-one while scaling their overall integrated communications across departments and locations.
Let’s take a look at three hospitality-specific examples of cloud usage that travel-related businesses are exploring as they modernize their communications.
1. Phone Number Consolidation
If your hospitality business operates in multiple locations, you have dozens, if not hundreds, of phone numbers to manage. Reservations, concierge, food, and beverage all operate with different numbers so your customers can reach the right person fast. You may be juggling several network carriers and contracts to keep those numbers operational. With those multiple contracts come several points of contact for billing and support, and with the speed of life these days, you don’t have time to hunt down that information every time you need it.
Cloud-based communications let you manage all of your numbers on one platform. A CPaaS provider can manage your carriers for you if you decide to stick with them, or it can serve as a single carrier that offers a deep roster of numbers while connecting your business to the PSTN everywhere you need. Your teams can log into one account, liaise with one account manager, and use one consolidated dashboard to add and rearrange phone numbers as you need to.
2. Reporting & Analytics
You try to stay on top of trends within your operations, your financials, and your guests’ feedback. But it can be difficult to get a 10,000-foot view of everything and the impact of each piece if your communications are operating in silos. A CPaaS offers a unified dashboard of reporting capabilities that can provide insights into sales and customer service trends your business is experiencing.
3. Use Integrations
Even the best-laid travel plans sometimes require some flexibility, and in that spirit, CPaaS shines as a modern upgrade for hospitality communication systems. CPaaS users themselves augment communication platforms as a service with standard coding, APIs, and integration libraries. This means that while they’re the same foundational product across organizations and industries, CPaaS is highly customizable for your specific use cases. You can customize the portfolio of specific applications your teams need to reach their goals and serve customers better.
Prepare for Summer Travelers Now
As the summer travel season approaches, people are laying plans to get out and explore. Meanwhile, smart travel & hospitality managers are laying plans to update their backend processes to be able to handle the increased demand for their services. If you work behind the scenes to improve guest experiences, you know the importance of a solid communication foundation.
Travel companies are leveraging the cloud to stay connected with their customers. There are several benefits of moving your phone system to the cloud. Don’t wait – cloud technology is playing a vital role in their guests’ experiences.