This week, hospitality technology firms have extolled the benefits that mobile booking systems, fast Wi-Fi and advanced EPoS systems can bring to businesses. But many operators are still dubious about the return on investment that all of this would bring.
So, BigHospitality paid a visit to the CitizenM hotel in London's Bankside, which offers a technological edge above most others in the capital's budget hotel scene.
In this video tour, we were met by the hotel's chief marketing officer Robin Chadha, who checked us in using CitizenM's 'virtual check-in' service. It took less than a minute, with just a few touches of the screen to activate our keycard.
Into the lobby, and the hotel’s customer-focused technology offerings are already clear to see, with walls adorned with flat-screen TVs, tablet devices available in the reading area and free, fast Wi-Fi offered to guests and members of the public in the ground-floor lounge and canteen. Chadha explained that technology 'adds everything to the CitizenM experience'.
"It makes the stay much more fluid and more efficient, and it gives the guest complete control over his or her stay," he said.
We then headed up the lift (which is fitted with a plasma TV) and into one of the five-storey hotel's 192 bedrooms, which all feature super king-sized beds, rain showers and LCD TVs.
It's here that Chadha introduced us to the ‘Mood Pad’ – a tablet remote control which controls everything in the room from the lights to the TV; the temperature, the blinds and the morning alarm. the customer experience here is being driven by technology.
Q&A: Robin Chadha, chief marketing officer, CitizenM
So what’s the point of it all? After being shown all of the hotel's technological features, we sat with Chadha to ask him a few key questions about why technology is such a big part of the customer experience at CitizenM,
Why is technology so important at CitizenM?
It helps ease the hotel process – from not waiting to check-in, to having full control of the room settings, to checking out quickly.
Time is very valuable to today’s mobile citizens and we looked at that when we were designing CitizenM. It makes lives easier, faster and more efficient.
Does the hotel attract more customers based on this technology offering?
It attracts a lot of repeat clientèle. People who have stayed with us once do come back and stay with us again. We also have a lot of people who have stayed in our hotels in Glasgow or Amsterdam also staying in London, and vice versa.
Do you think there's a risk of hotels becoming less ‘personable’ with technology like this?
I do – it depends how far you take it. At CitizenM, we always focussed on having our ambassadors – our front-of-house staff – always available for anything. They help with the check-in, they make your coffee, they shake you a cocktail.
You can’t automate everything, that would be risky to do.
Is customer-focused technology the future for the hotel industry?
Well we believe in it. I’m not sure if it’s relevant for everybody because there’s still of course traditional hotels and very luxurious, five-star properties that really pamper the guests with individual butlers. But for the future, the majority of mainstream hotels should focus on technology.
Technology is changing so fast and the customers have it in their pockets anyway, so you might as well embrace it rather than be scared of it.
For all of our articles in this customer-focused technology special feature, click here.