A forgotten way to increase revenue is by improving the hotel check in process. We’ve all been there before: you’ve just arrived at your destination after a red-eye or long-haul flight, you’re exhausted, and you either have to attend a business function soon, or you’re with your cranky kids needing a place to rest and reset. You get to your hotel a little earlier than their typical hotel check in time of 3pm and you think “Ah, it’ll be fine, they should be able to let us into our room a little earlier… those hotel check in times are flexible…”. Wrong. After lining up for thirty minutes to even talk to a front desk agent, they apologize and say there’s no way you can check-in early. Great. You’re basically stranded in crumpled clothes and airplane stench, in a different time-zone with no motivation or willingness to make light of the situation so you sit and wait in the lobby with your luggage (or cranky kids) until the clock strikes three.
More often than not, the standard hotel check in process puts a damper on your travel plans before you even begin your trip. By simplifying this outdated process at your hotel, this will impact your brand, give you a competitive advantage by differing yourself, increase customer satisfaction and ultimately raise your bottom line.
The Typical Hotel Check In Process
If you’ve travelled before, the hotel check in process will be familiar. It usually looks like this:
1. You arrive at the hotel and head straight to the front desk
2. You give them the reservation name and they start looking up your booking
3. Front desk staff will welcome you and give your a quick introduction of the hotel
4. You may have certain questions (about amenities, specific hotel policies etc)
5. Your front desk agent will have completed checking you in and hand you the key cards and show you where the elevators are, which floor you’re on, and key information like where to find the wifi password
6. You either take your luggage with you or staff at the hotel assists you with this
7. You settle into the room
It is a process of familiarity and guests have just come to expect and accept it. But remember the days of lining-up at the airport to check-in for a flight and now you can’t even imagine not conducting a self check-in or mobile hotel check-in? As a hotel, you can take advantage of this expected standard operating procedure and differentiate against your competition.
5 Ways to Improve Your Hotel’s Check In Process and How It Affects Revenue
Mobile/online hotel check in
Offering online check-in is becoming increasingly common for a reason – people simply like it and the benefits for both guests and hotel are a no brainer. It gives the guest empowerment, freedom and convenience while traveling (yes!), it reduces line-ups at the front desk while improving operational efficiency, cuts down on labor costs, and enhances your guest experience. By differentiating your hotel this way, you will begin to build out a loyalty program by being able to collect emails by simply requiring your guest to login to be able to check-in online. You could promote a free drink at the bar or other voucher to encourage your guest to sign-up and be able to check-in online. You can also feature other promotions and add-ons during the check-in process for extra revenue. These all impact your bottom line.
Self service does not mean lack of service here. The last thing you want to do after a long flight is probably wait in a line-up or talk to anyone. By giving the option to your guests to avoid typical procedures, this improves their experience and increases overall satisfaction with your brand. The kiosk should be able to allow guests to conduct other minor tasks that front desk staff would typically do for them like program room cards, review their reservation and print itinerary. This significantly impacts your bottom line as it cuts down on labor costs and allows your staff to focus on what’s important: providing value to guests in different ways.
Flexible Check-in Options
Ah, the good ol’ 3pm check-in and 10am check-out policy. We all know it, and it’s hindered all of our travel plans in one way or another. By offering a flexible check-in policy at the time of booking, more travelers are more inclined to choose your property over hotel’s that don’t. It is important to consider offering even 24-hour check-in, instead of the standard 10am/3pm time frame.
This comes as a significant benefit for your business travelers who are on tight schedules, international travelers in different timezones, and your interrupted travelers going through delays and cancellations. If you already have self check-in kiosks, that’s one way you could operationally incorporate flexible check-in. Otherwise you can use lockboxes, or safe codes to allow your guests to check-in online and then receive their room keys.
Because this feature isn’t common, you can also monetize this by offering early/late check-ins and check outs for an additional cost. Another option would be to promote direct bookings by offering free 24-hour check-in if you book directly from your site. These are just a few ideas that you could implement that would increase revenue, either by charging for it because it is a commodity while traveling, or it allows you to reduce the costs of guests booking through an OTA.
An example of this today is Standard hotels. They have just introduced “Standard Time” which offers a list of benefits and flexible check-in and check-out options for a fee booked through their website.
Hotel Check-in Software
By offering many of these self-service options, you need a top notch system that ties it all in and creates a seamless guest experience. HotelTechReport recommends using a robust property management system (PMS) over a check-in software to manage your business by coordinating reservations, online booking availability, payments, and reporting in one central place. The PMS streamlines operations for front office staff and guest services in a hotel business to check-in and check-out guests, see room availability, make adjustments to existing reservations, and even can have back office functionality (schedule housekeeping or maintenance).
Specifically, your hotel will want to choose a PMS that will enable you to see when you’re guest check-in and out in real time, allow your guests to check in ahead of time, process payments, send receipts and send automated pre check-in and post check-out emails.
In the event that you may have a separate check-in software, you will want to make sure that the PMS is able to integrate. For example, your system should be able to communicate when a guest when the room has been cleaned and marked ready in the PMS and a guest should be able to check-in to this room at the kiosk. These are all things to consider when shopping for a PMS system that will help you increase your revenue through improving your hotel’s check-in operations.
Hotel Check-in App
For the cherry on top, offering an App will not only centralize everything your guest needs to do to check-in but it will make it that much easier to do business with your hotel and remain a loyal customer. The hotel mobile app is kind of like the cherry on top. Travelers heavily rely on their mobile device for everything travel-related. All of their confirmations and e-tickets are on there, they book their Ubers and Lyfts through there, they access all the itinerary details and navigation apps through there, so they should be able to check-in and manage their reservations through your hotel’s app as well. This also promotes brand loyalty and can be a pivotal component to your hotel’s loyalty program by offering the guest incentives through downloading and signing into the app.
A mobile hotel app can also be used as a hotel sales tool by offering packages and promotions only available through the app as a member. Being able to purchase through the app in a self-serve fashion encourages the guest’s empowerment as they won’t feel like they’re trying to be sold to.
An example of this today is the Marriott. The renowned Bonvoy Marriott program offers a free app to guests that allow them to check-in, make original reservations on their mobile device, access their rewards account and browse city guides.
Hotel check-in procedures have long since been an expected routine when traveling. Guest preferences are rapidly shifting as the world has gone mobile. Travelers are wanting quicker, faster service and more flexibility. By offering things like remote and online check-in, flexible or 24-hour check-in policies, self-serve kiosks and a mobile app, you will put your hotel in a position where improvement in efficiency enhances your guest’s experience and builds your brand’s reputation putting you a step above the rest. What is essential here is having a software that effectively communicates with all your systems and makes the experience seamless, for the guest, and for your hard-working team.