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Integrating Mobile Technology into Customer Service

Today, 52% of the population have smartphones, of whom over 94% are expected to use smartphones in searching for local business, according to a recent newsletter I received from the California Lodging Industry Association.  Many OTAs (online travel agents such as Expedia.com and Priceline.com) and entrepreneurs are getting into the “app business,” and they are doing very well (as suggested in the Bloomberg video).  Hotels and restaurants for sure would also like to have a piece of the pie. 

Indeed, many hotels follow the SoLoMo (Social, Local, and Mobile) movement and have introduced many mobile apps.  The big hotel groups, for example, all have mobile apps, allowing customers to search and make reservations using mobile devices; but at the same time, there are also other apps for different hotel brands within the same hotel group and even apps for individual properties.  Moreover, there are concierge (service) apps for luxury and upper upscale brands.  Really?  Does a hotel group need that many apps?  Will customers get confused in front of “the sea of mobile apps?”  If people are not using those apps, how much can mobile technology help hotels improve customer satisfaction and business?

To provide customers exceptional “total guest experience,” hotels must ensure high service quality when customers search information prior to purchase (i.e., “search quality”), when they actually make a purchase and stay in the hotel (i.e., “experience quality”), and even after they leave the hotel (i.e., “credence quality”).  Most mobile apps that are available in the app store right now, however, only have one focus on either search quality or experience quality.  Personally, I have not seen a mobile app that truly integrates technology into all three stages of service quality.  As a traveler, I would prefer one powerful app that provides me the total guest experience.  With this powerful app, I can search and make reservations on my phone, check into a hotel with the same app, use the same app to request anything I need during my stay, such as wake-up calls, extra towels, and room service, and lastly use the same app to retrieve and track the information of my previous stays and/or complaints.  Am I asking for too much?

I am not sure if hotels have the mindset of competing with OTAs when they invest in mobile apps.  I hope they don’t.  Because without the big picture of providing exceptional total guest experience, they will never be able to develop a powerful mobile app that truly integrates mobile technology into customer service, and they will not be able to compete with those OTAs that are specialized in “search experience.”

Do you use any hotel (or restaurant) mobile apps?  How do you like or dislike those apps?  What can hotels (or restaurants) do to improve customers’ mobile app experience? 
 
Some relevant discussions within this blog: 
SoLoMo for Social Media Strategists 
 “SoLoMo”and Legislation
Is It a Good Business Strategy to Offer Phone-Free Discount?
Renaissance Hotels Replaced Concierge with “Navigator”

References:
The picture was downloaded from BlogOnline.co.uk

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