Author: Tom Stinton
If you don’t deliver the seamless digital experience customers expect, those customers will go elsewhere. A recent experience – involving fax machines! – showed me just how far some brands are from where they need to be.
For some time now you’ve been able to book almost all your holiday digitally: from taxis, flights and car hire to hotel rooms and days out. It’s easy and convenient and you’re totally in control.
But what about when you want something that’s a little different from the norm? You may find that the digital experience isn’t what it seems to be.
The company that professes to be modern and digital isn’t all it makes out to be … as my wife found out recently.
Hotel booking made simple… not
Try booking a hotel room online. Choose the hotel. Select the dates. Opt for the best room at the best price. Click. Click. Click.
Now enter the name of the occupant. What if it isn’t you? Ever tried that?
My wife wanted to book a night away as a surprise for her friend. When it came to entering the occupant’s name the whole digital process fell apart. It required a third party authorisation … a process that hadn’t yet been digitised.
The hotel emailed my wife a pdf form which she duly filled in and emailed back. The form required a copy of her friend’s passport along with credit card details.
Did this international hotel group have a digital process for customers sending passport details? No. They only had email and that’s hardly secure. In the end my wife had to send a photo via fax!
More manual processes…
Then came the question of payment. That was yet another saga.
Being a surprise, my wife wanted to pay for the room in advance with her own credit card. But the hotel group didn’t have facilities for doing that … either over the web or the phone.
Emails went back and forth. Different people responded with each email going to a different mail box.
Over the course of the week that this drama ensued, the people she was corresponding with had their various days off and so she was resending emails until she found someone on shift.
Eventually everything was sorted out and our friend did get her surprise. But booking it created unnecessary stress simply because the hotel group hadn’t thought about their processes. There were a number of stages that were crying out for digital to solve these problems and enhance the digital customer journey.
Making digital work
Going digital isn’t just about digitising your current processes; it’s about making digital work for you and your customers. It’s about thinking through all the customer journeys and having a flexible communication system in place to deal with the unexpected. That way you are ensuring your staff and your customers have a simple and engaging experience, whatever their needs.
So, what could this hotel group have done differently?
Firstly there was the third-party authorisation form. Companies need to consider all the scenarios where the customer might need to provide information or authorisation. How could each of these be incorporated into the whole digital experience? Could this form be completed online?
And how about allowing passport and credit card details be uploaded using a smartphone? There are digital solutions out there that can recognise a specific document, grab the information from it and share it with the appropriate people. All the customer has to do is hold their card up to the phone’s camera.
Then there’s communications. At the very lease, a single customer service email box would have ensured my wife was dealt with consistently, no matter who was on duty. Anyone reading the email would be able to see the full history of the conversation so my wife didn’t have to repeat herself over and over again. Building on that, a secure messaging system that could handle attachments could have made the whole experience positive instead of stressful.
Digital gives more
But digital has a lot more to give beyond simply replace existing manual processes. Digital allows you to give your customers a truly personalised experience.Digital allows you to give your customers a truly personalised experience Click To Tweet
These days you can use the NFC built into a smartphone for all sorts of things: to transform the phone into a room key or to allow the customer to set and share preferences for their stay, order a taxi, pay for a meal, beer or even their room and much more.
Then there are the beacons that recognise the guest as they enter the hotel car park. A disabled guest could be guided to an appropriate parking spot automatically. Reception could greet them by name as soon as they walk through the door. And the restaurant would understand the language they speak and their dietary needs so the waiter could share the appropriate menu without having to ask.
All this makes for excellent customer service – the type of service that would make me want to stay with that hotel chain again and again. But, unless they get the basics right, neither my wife nor I will consider using that particular hotel chain again.
Is your brand making the most of digital? Or are your archaic manual processes leaving your customers perplexed and confused?