Contactless channels have been around for the last decade or so. They were innovations hospitality companies could use to deliver parts of the experience in streamlined ways. They saw moderate adoption at first, gradually got more popular, and then seemed to level off.
…then COVID-19 happened.
The pandemic turned people’s perceptions of contactless engagement on its proverbial ear. In a 2020 study done by Skift and Oracle Hospitality, early in the pandemic, 70% of respondents indicated they’d be more likely to stay at a hotel in the future if it offered some form of technology that minimized in-person interactions. We also found that over 80% of consumers that Kobie surveyed earlier this year indicated that convenience-type attributes are important and influential to their loyalty. So, what did that mean for hospitality companies, and brands outside of the industry for that matter, whose strengths were their people interacting with customers to deliver the experience? How did hotels address the inherent tensions of delivering personalized service that connects on a human level when doing so was prohibited? Here are a few learnings we picked up along the way…
Put a face on a potentially faceless experience.
Using data, companies can make the experience hyper-relevant and personalized for the customer. Understanding a customer’s full profile is critical to interaction via a contactless experience. And with contactless technologies, that understanding can come in real-time… but systems need to act in real-time to accommodate and use the data to its fullest. Let’s not forget that you have to have the data (and good data at that) to reap the full benefits of personalization and do it right. And if you’re not sure if you have good data…. it might be time for a data collection and loyalty assessment.
Make Contactless a “Yes, And” not an “Either/Or.”
When done well, contactless can enable a more efficient omni-channel experience. While it seems counter-intuitive, contactless technologies can go a long way in enabling human-focused engagement in hospitality in the future. For example, mobile check-in and/or keyless room entry options free up lobby staff from entering repetitive data into their system so that they can focus on welcoming the guest and identifying what experience they want to have based on their profile data. It also has the advantage of making the lobby line less visible. This seems especially relevant with the influx of people that have recently prioritized traveling after an extended period of immobility – a solution for speed and convenience sprinkled with human interaction.
Let Your Customer Take the Lead.
Customers will signal to you how they want to interact. Some will look for the person-to-person interaction, others will not. By giving customers the ability to personalize their own experience, you’re not only gathering the necessary information to deliver that experience but are providing an opportunity for the customer to co-create that experience. Co-creation creates even more engagement, regardless of the channel used for the interaction. One could even argue that it deepens loyalty to a brand by providing a sense of ownership of the customer journey – a design your own destiny, if you will.
Train “Guests First, Tasks Last.”
It is possible even at brands renowned for their attentive customer experience to run into a rule-bound service associate who will insist that the guest interacts with the technology—be it app, kiosk, or web—instead of helping the guest. Associates are critical to encouraging the adoption of contactless technologies or potentially faceless interactions and offering to walk a customer through the process the first time is critical. Canadian economy airline WestJet created ads and sent emails to members with links to videos showing how to navigate new airport procedures—videos that end with “And one thing hasn’t changed, WestJetters are always happy to offer you assistance” and showing agents clearly smiling behind their masks.
As consumers grapple with making the most out of their experiences and navigating safety in their day-to-day activities, it’s important to keep their preferences in mind in how they want and expect to interact with you, your associates, and your brand. Integration of contactless technologies operationally can be the path forward, especially as consumers continue to march towards preferences for less interaction and more convenience. Recognizing that new technology has a learning curve for many is vital to adoption, and assembling processes to meet and educate consumers on new experiences will more often than not strengthen your relationship across your member base. We specialize in competitive analysis of the loyalty journey and can show you how your brand stacks up compared to your competitors. Hit the contact us button today to learn more about how contactless touch points can optimize your customer journeys and create reciprocity to your brand through data enablement and experience mapping.
 Kobie 2022 Consumer Research Study