Customer-focused technology: Smart experiences

By Carina Perkins contact

- Last updated on GMT

From mobile ordering to mobile POS systems and the provision of Wi-Fi, technology is has a big impact on customer experience
From mobile ordering to mobile POS systems and the provision of Wi-Fi, technology is has a big impact on customer experience
In the second of our three-part focus on technology in hospitality, we look at how mobile technology can be used to improve customer experience from the moment they walk in the door.

As we have seen previously, the meteoric rise of mobile is having a profound effect on consumer expectations and posing some exciting new opportunities for the hospitality sector.

Mobile technology has developed beyond bookings and reservations, and now offers hospitality operators the chance to completely revolutionise the customer experience, while improving business efficiencies and revenue.

Ordering apps

One of the biggest developments in the bar and restaurant sector over recent months has been the adoption of mobile ordering technology, which enables customers to order and pay for food and drinks without having to queue at the bar.

Ordering apps are a good way to beat queues
Ordering apps are a good way to beat queues

David Backshall, EMEA sales director at Omnico Group, says that ‘collect and click’ has filtered down from the retail sector, so customers are very comfortable with the concept of ordering and paying online.

“Downloading an app, placing their order via their smartphone and paying for it is a dream for a lot of consumers,” he says.

According to Serge Taborin, chief executive of mobile ordering app Q App, pre-ordering can also take away a ‘huge chunk of inefficiency’ for operators, increasing the number of orders they can process per member of staff.

Additional benefits include a higher average spend and the ability to create special offers in real time, which can help stock management, he adds.

Ideally, mobile ordering should be integrated with a venue’s EPoS system to reduce the chance of busy staff missing orders coming through to a separate device. Taborin says this is now possible, with a number of EPoS manufacturers now working with mobile order app developers.

Latest developments:

  • Mobile ordering platform Q App has continued to extend its reach across the bar and restaurant sector, with sign-ups over the past 12 months including Drake & Morgan’s and ETM group. The iPhone/Android app allows customers to browse the menu, order and pay from their smartphone, avoiding the need to queue at the bar, carry cash or ask for the bill.
  • Orderella, launched at the end of last year, also offers customers the ability to order drinks from their tables, as well as ordering drinks before they arrive and viewing offers and promotions.
  • Touchpoint has teamed up with OrderApp, meaning mobile orders made through the app can be delivered directly to a restaurant’s EPoS system.

Case Study

The Keyworth Tavern, in Nottinghamshire, was one of the launch partners for Orderella.

“The pub trade has been an archaic industry for far too long and Orderella is dragging it to the 21st Century. I am excited for the customers, especially those that don’t want to queue and can now order their drinks as they walk to the pub and have their drinks there waiting for them,” says Keyworth’s general manager Adrian Clarke.

“For the office workers, it’s even more exciting as they can now order their food and pay for it before they arrive to maximise their lunch break."

Mobile POS devices

The development of mobile POS devices for front-of-house staff is also gathering pace, with huge benefits for customer service.

Mobile POS systems keep the server close to the customer
Mobile POS systems keep the server close to the customer

“Support for tablet-based EPOS and other mobile devices allows restaurants to provide better service by keeping wait staff on the floor, and close to their patrons at all times,” explains Shannon Arnold, director of marketing for Maitre’D.

Clive Consterdine, director of sales and marketing for Zonal, says there is also now technology which allows restaurants to use consumer devices such as ipads as an additional EPOS terminal.

“Using consumer devices has opened up mobile technology for taking orders to many more operators because it is much more cost effective,” he says.

“You can also use these mobile devices to scan loyalty cards or vouchers at the table, which is becoming more important now customers are carrying those codes on their phones.”

Latest developments:

  • Zonal has launched Aztec iServe, an application that enables operators to convert any Apple mobile device into a portable EPoS system. The system is integrated with the venue’s existing EPoS in real-time, giving the front-of-house team access to live stock, pricing and promotions data.
  • Omnico launched its ClarityLive™ Mobile POS, which has full POS functionality and an intuitive user interface with clear up-selling, discounting and tendering procedures.
  • Maitre’D released its DataBoard app, which provides POS data and alerts in real-time, allowing restaurateurs to better manage their business. It is also pushing forward with its mobile POS software, which allows staff to take orders on a tablet, with a ‘hold and fire’ function to give servers more control over the timing of each course service.
  • The ONE Group has partnered with Samsung to offer diners at STK restaurant in the ME London Hotel the ability to order food and drinks via the new Galaxy Note 3. Diners can use the mobile device to send messages to waiters wearing Galaxy Gear smart watches.

Case study

Yo! Sushi adopted Ominico’s ClarityLive Mobile software at the end of last year, with staff at the group’s restaurants now taking orders and payment orders on ipods.

 “It’s a much more effective way of engaging with our customers, capturing information and serving efficiently,” explains Yo! Sushi’s UK IT manager, Billy Waters.

“The new system reduces the kitchen staff’s workload, improves our billing accuracy and greatly adds to our knowledge of customers’ food preferences.”

The Wi-Fi revolution

In hotels, the move to mobile has driven the development of smartphone-based room service, with technology such as Cardola’s VirtualHotel offering concierge services via an in-room iPad or guest’s own mobile device.

According to research from glh, access to Wi-Fi is now as important to hotel guests as a good night's sleep
According to research from glh, access to Wi-Fi is now as important to hotel guests as a good night's sleep

However, the hottest technology topic in the hotel industry at the moment is the provision of fast, free Wi-Fi.

According to BDRC Continental’s Hotel Guest Survey 2013, 82 per cent of business travellers now own a mobile device and expect to get on the internet wherever they go, while  independent research commissioned by hotel group glh has revealed that access to fast free Wi-Fi is now as important to guests as a good night’s sleep.

“To provide the best possible service to guests, a hotel should be a ‘home-from-home’,” says Vince Russell, managing director at the Cloud.

“Whether this is business people needing to send and receive emails or tourists wanted to check-in on social media or research the local area, the ability to access fast, free internet is now a key part of that experience.”

James Gardiner, marketing director of Power Ethernet says the question of whether hotels should charge for internet access or maintain it as a revenue stream was hotly debated at the recent Hospitality Technology Europe 2014 conference.

“The conclusion was that a lack of free basic Internet access can put clients off booking but a premium tier service should be offered to those who want fast internet to access their office systems,” he says.

Gardiner adds that hotel operators should be aware that if they enter into long term revenue sharing models with providers of Wi-Fi networks, they may be forced to charge for Internet access for the length on the contract or have to pay a hefty penalty clause.

An alternative, he says, is for hotels is to own the networking infrastructure, with the latest business-grade powerline technology allowing for a data network to be installed using the existing mains wiring.

Of providing a home-from-home environment does not stop at Wi-Fi, and hotels should also be thinking about how they can integrate mobile into their in-room entertainment, such as installing TVs which can stream movies from mobile phones or tablet devices.

Latest developments

  • Macdonald Hotels & Resorts is now offering unlimited, free Wi-Fi​ throughout its owned hotels across the UK through a deal with Wi-Fi provider The Cloud.
  • Hotel group glh has launched free one-click BT Wi-Fi​ across its UK hotels. Unlimited Wi-Fi is available in all bedrooms, lobby areas and meeting rooms and can be accessed by anyone in the hotel, whether guest or visitor.
  • Purple Wi-Fi launched its ‘social Wi-Fi’ service​, which allows venues to set up a Wi-Fi hotspot for free. Customers can sign in using their social media profile, and upon doing so a message is posted telling their friends they are using the free Wi-Fi at the venue.
  • De Vere Hotels upgraded its ‘Chambre Unique’ rooms with new multimedia technology including Sky TV, Wireless Bose sound and a Smart Theatre TV, which allows guests to surf the web and stream downloaded movies. The group partnered with MLR Networks and Power Ethernet to provide high speed internet in the rooms via Powerline Sockets.

Case study:

Since installing BT Wi-Fi across its hotels, glh has seen a 120 per cent increase in Wi-Fi usage and a 13 per cent growth in customer loyalty amongst business customers.

“Investing in cutting edge BT technology to ensure that anyone visiting our hotels has access to free, fast and one-click to connect Wi-Fi is a long-term investment in customer loyalty,” says glh chief executive Mike DeNoma.

“Strong, unlimited Wi-Fi across our hotels is what keeps our customer connected.”

For all of our articles in this customer-focused technology special feature, click here.

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