November 11, 2020

3 Principles Every Product Manager Should Implement Now

Navigating the new normal will require a shift in thinking to discover unmet needs and embrace new opportunities.

Customer needs and business opportunities are in constant flux as COVID-19 continues to create an environment of uncertainty for leaders across all disciplines, but specifically for product managers, as they are tasked with owning and managing teams to create intuitive digital touchpoints for demanding customers. As a result of heightened virtual living, new pain points are being revealed in the customer experience — to which product managers will need to identify, react, and adapt to in order to make customers’ lives easier post-pandemic.

Product managers, who turn complex problems into viable digital solutions, are at the very epicenter of impact within their organizations. To plan for the post-pandemic future, and enhance the success of any digital product, product managers will need to maintain tunnel vision for only creating innovative products that drive strong user retention and revenue growth.

To thrive in this new normal, here are three key principles every product manager should consider implementing into their software development teams.

1. VELOCITY IS BETTER THAN SPEED

As more traditional companies transition to become more digitally mature, product management professionals will be faced with a list of new product growth opportunities. Product managers will be in higher demand to solve new problems for users and will need to move with velocity to maintain momentum.

Increasing velocity, however, doesn’t solely mean speeding up production; it means finding methods to do things in the right order, while supporting teams in a way that produces more value. Product managers can do this by establishing processes that are standard and reproducible. This allows leaders to spend less time figuring out how to best work and quickly define what to work on and understand deliverables.

Another method to increase velocity as a product manager is to be the guardrail for your software development team. By leading the conversation about what “good” and “done” look like for any particular product, managers can organically spread a product-centric mindset throughout their teams and work together to achieve success. Product managers should encourage the team to think about “doneness” instead of perfection, especially in today’s day and age when speed to market is so critical for businesses.

Additionally, it’s up to the manager to give clear direction to the team. Speed without direction is useless. Team members will regularly look to their product manager to validate if they’re focusing on the most valuable problems first. This can be done by creating an environment where team members feel comfortable building a clear communication loop and receive quick responses and feedback on things they are working on from the product manager.

Product leaders can shorten internal learning curves through productive iteration and get products to market faster. Asking better questions between teams can lead to great velocity — allowing them to optimize resources efficiently and change course in light of new feedback.

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2. ACCEPT THAT OBJECTIVES AND OUTCOMES WILL BE DIFFERENT

As new solutions come to fruition, business objectives and outcomes will inevitably change. Product managers will only succeed by rapidly adjusting to customers’ ever-changing needs accordingly, and by creating realistic new outcomes.

For example, if you operate a large retail outlet, building and implementing a social distancing solution and enforcing capacity rules may not be realistic for you in the short-term, especially if you are trying to safeguard your revenues. But offering curbside pick-up for those customers who are in a hurry, or who are continuing to maintain social distancing may be a more realistic approach.

Keeping well-communicated key performance indicators (KPIs) at the center of all changing operations will be paramount to defining success. Customers increasingly demand easy-to-use, simple, and enjoyable digital services that allow them to solve a problem faster and better than the non-digital equivalent or competing solution. Measurable KPIs, such as customer retention or market positioning, should coincide with new friction points to ensure companies are directly targeting areas for improvement and responding rapidly to users’ expectations.

3. FOCUS ON CLARITY

No matter the outcome or the velocity at which you’re moving, product managers should still aim to create clarity for their teams. If it’s unclear why, how, or for whom a product is being developed, teams will be unable to measure success (or failure) against outlined KPIs.

One way to provide clarity to meet KPIs is to spend time planning user stories. This includes well-defined requirements, wireframes, and, where possible, writing functional test cases when preparing a new user story. These product requirement artifacts will allow the engineering team to ask clear and specific questions early on, and will thus lead to clarity before any code is written, resulting in higher quality.

Quality delivery, in such uncertain times, is extremely important because product managers cannot simply carry on business as usual. The time to deliver new solutions in the current environment is now. While there will continue to be opportunities to iterate and improve, it’s also important to get good quality solutions out quickly. It’s the responsibility of product managers to focus heavily on clarity for the team. This will only be achieved by creating a collaborative working environment within teams, in turn allowing product managers (and their quality assurance counterparts) to move with more easily tested, unprecedented scenarios, and launch only the most viable products.

In this new normal, product managers should be seeking and embracing new opportunities to enhance products and be ready to disrupt their current product roadmap. They should be prepared to launch products fast and frequently, and then collect and react to feedback. This will determine post-pandemic growth and success for themselves and their products. Implementing the three principles listed above will assist product managers to thrive throughout this disruption, and enable them to navigate with a decent level of certainty in these highly uncertain times.

This article was published in BuiltIn.com.

November 11, 2020

COVID-Proofing Restaurants with App Clips

Calvin Carter, CEO of Experience Consultancy Bottle Rocket, discusses how COVID-19 has rewritten the rules of dining and how Apple App Clips will provide an avenue of support to cautious customers returning to restaurants.

A surge in food delivery due to the pandemic has helped save much of the QSR/restaurant industry as lockdown restraints took hold.

As consumers have been turning more frequently to take-out, the number of smartphone food delivery apps is forecasted to rise 25.2 percent to 45.6 million by the end of the year [1]. Permitted to operate at a mere 25 percent mandated capacity, restaurants in New York have only recently reopened indoor dining for the first time in six months, which saw the majority of diners reluctant to sit indoors, or return at all [2]. This trend holds true in cities around the world.

While customers try to determine their new comfort level with eating-out again, many will remain hesitant to dine inside at restaurants as they remain concerned about their safety. In a worst-case scenario, New York is bracing for the possibility that it could lose as many as half of their restaurants and 159,000 jobs within a year. This trend is signalling a need for these businesses to create a streamlined dining experience that considers the customer’s needs for safety first and foremost.

In a race to rebuild trust with their customers, restauranteurs are asking themselves a critical question: “How can we convince the public to dine in with us again?” The path forward for restaurants trying to pre-empt the collapse of their business models is pointing towards a digital intervention, with an emphasis on contactless, convenient access to each point of the dining experience. One avenue that these businesses could explore to best serve customers is the latest invention from Apple called App Clips.

What are App Clips?

App Clips are well positioned to supercharge the trend towards reformed dining. App Clips are a small part of an overall app experience designed to be discovered the moment an app is needed without requiring the user to commit to a full download. The previews load on mobile devices within seconds for users to complete specific tasks, like ordering and paying in one step, and are accessible by scanning QR codes, kiosks, and other URL-powered touchpoints. By demonstrating a brand’s value through a native app experience, customers are more likely to be encouraged to download the full app to receive personalized offers and collect loyalty points – increasing acquisition for the brand.

App Clips don’t require a whole new project to be spun up – they’re designed to be a part of a brand’s existing app solutions. Companies can present relevant information and services to a highly targeted audience, maximizing the opportunities for greater sales, brand engagement, and loyalty.

App Clips in dining

To reinstate bricks-and-mortar destinations for customers, restaurants – both fine and casual – will need to rethink their existence with digital. Customers are craving more touchless support than ever before, through channels which were underused – or didn’t exist – pre-pandemic. App Clips are expanding the opportunities for brands to communicate, reassure, and ultimately best serve customers in a contextual, timely manner.

For example, if a person is walking through town, Bluetooth and location services allow them to order ahead of arrival at a restaurant. Or equally, if they stop outside a restaurant to look at the menu, they can scan a QR code in the window and launch the App Clip to book a table for that evening or make and pay for a to-go order. Pre-ordering capabilities stretch so that users can recall and amend orders, or signal their arrival to the store, allowing restaurants to be updated in real-time. Users can also preview menus or place drink orders once they’ve checked-in at a host stand to reduce waiting time, and can order their meals from their table to enjoy on-site.

If a restaurant uses kiosks for ordering, which the pandemic made essentially unusable, they can easily replicate that kiosk experience in an App Clip, allowing the customer to make and pay for their order without touching anything other than their phone.

Or, businesses could set up a few parking spaces out front with a bar code sign for each. Customers can pull up, park, scan to order and pay, enjoy the safety of their own car while their meal is fixed, and receive their order at their car. Off they go, without ever exiting their car or handing anyone their credit card.

For restaurants not wanting to invest in tabletop tablets or deal with the risk of infection, QR codes can instead be printed onto a bill to enable fast payments via Apple Pay integration in App Clips. No cash is required, it’s completely touchless, it’s safer against credit card fraud and it streamlines the user journey to drive up purchases, interactions, and overall sentiment for the brand.

The QR Codes can also be used in ads, email promotions, coupons and other marketing material for “in the moment” ordering. The magic is leveraging the consumer’s interest in a brand at that moment of discovery before they move on to the next thing in their day.

The future of dining

The survival of the hospitality sector now depends on business’ efforts to target COVID-induced pain points, and instill customers with the confidence that it’s time to get back to restaurants. App Clips and other “Connected Lifestyle” techniques are set to transform restaurants, and the way they engage with diners in the post-pandemic era, by offering customers one-scan access to information and features personal to their dining experience at the exact moment they need them. The integration of App Clips will become table stakes very quickly as the quest for enhanced mobile experiences persists.

[1] https://www.emarketer.com/content/more-consumers-turning-food-delivery-apps-amid-indoor-dining-restrictions

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/sep/30/new-york-city-restaurants-open-indoor-dining-25-percent-capacity


This article was published on TotalFood.com and InTravelReport.com.

November 9, 2020

Groceries & Digital Discoverability

How do customers discover new brands, explore products, and explore impulse buy when shopping digitally?

The last few months have proven that COVID has been a catalyst for rapid grocery e-commerce adoption. In the U.S. alone, consumers are buying more groceries online than ever before with a surge to likely exceed 40% growth this year according to the Coresight Research U.S. Online Grocery Survey 2020.

  • 40 million consumers bought groceries online in April, twice as many as in February
  • Instacart sold $700M in groceries in the first two weeks of April, a 450% increase over December 2019
  • 40 percent of shoppers said they were shopping fewer stores for groceries during the pandemic

As shoppers make fewer trips to the store, browsing is giving way to planning. Because of this, consumers are buying more, but less frequently. They are narrowing selections to the most familiar brands, rather than trying new ones. Increased reliance on home-cooking means consumers are proactively planning meals and shopping lists also. In addition, because consumers are spending minimal time in-store or buying online, the result has been fewer impulse buys. Based on the last few months, we’ve know convenient experiences while ordering and scheduling delivery or pick-up are most likely to retain customers.

So what is the opportunity for grocery retailers?

Create data-driven moments for consumers to discover the right products at the right time.

Grocers should use purchase history and preference data to make personalized product suggestions. They should consider creating convenient bundles based on complete meals, seasonal offerings and related items. In order to boost frequency, subscriptions and push messaging should be utilized. And retailers can encourage variety through samples and last-minute item opportunities.

Recently, Bottle Rocket did some experience design exercises to explore customer journey opportunities from awareness to purchase to receiving.

Based on our research, we selected six discoverability experiences that evolve the consumer’s journey in the digital space. Here are high-level overviews of the six discoverability experiences that can help grocers stay relevant in these trying times and the level of effort we believe is associated with each opportunity.

  1. Build intelligent shopping list tools (level of effort: small)
  2. Bring back the enjoyable aspects of browsing (level of effort: medium)
  3. Give personalized, intelligent product samples (level of effort: medium)
  4. Keep shoppers engaged with push messaging (level of effort: medium)
  5. Reimagine subscription solutions for grocery (level of effort large)
  6. Bridge the gap between online and offline tasks (level of effort: blue-sky)

Let’s take a deeper look. We’ve described each experience through the lens of the customer.

  1. Build intelligent shopping list tools to help families who need to avoid forgetting items or running out of essentials

    One idea: Create a Household shopping Dashboard

    How a customer would experience this: I can use the website or app to build a household profile. Each person has a login to the household account. We can set individual preferences such as dietary restrictions, favorite brands and reminders. My spouse and children can maintain their own lists within the household account. I can access a dashboard that tracks everything from list updates to product availability. Everyone in the household is notified when I am preparing an order so they can make sure their lists are up to date.

    The retailer benefits of this experience:
    - Gather preference data for better suggestions
    - Larger order size

    The grocer could use this existing leverage to make it happen:
    - Existing customer purchase history data
  1. Bring back the enjoyable aspects of browsing by offering fun ways to explore variety in the digital store

    One idea: Online Farmers Market

    How a customer would experience this: I get a notification that one of my favorites — hatch chiles — are now in season! I can add this item to my list with one tap, or I can browse the app to find recipe videos, meal bundles and even related bakery items like hatch-chile cornbread. The app offers me a variety of chile-centric shopping lists of complementary products that I can add to my own list.

    The retailer benefits of this experience:
    - Themed lists introduce variety
    - Shopper is prompted to order

    The grocer could use this existing leverage to make it happen:
    - Existing product relationship data
  1. Give personalized, intelligent product samples to let shoppers try something new with little commitment

    One idea: Sample and Save

    How a customer would experience this: As I shop each grocery category, I am offered personalized samples. After I have a few types of granola bars in my cart, the app tells me that I qualify for a free sample of a new protein bar. After adding all the laundry items I need to my cart, a free sample of stain remover is automatically included in my cart. When placing Kraft cheese in my cart, the app tells me that if I order two more Kraft products, I will get free delivery.

    The retailer benefits of this experience:
    - Customer is encouraged to try variety
    - Larger order size

    The grocer could use this existing leverage to make it happen:
    - Existing product relationship data
  1. Help shoppers build new shopping routines with messages that keep them engaged without even opening the app

    One idea: Rich Push Messaging for Web and App

    How a customer would experience this: Six days after my last order, the app reminds me that it’s time to schedule another order. I can convert my current list to an order with one tap, and while my order is being pulled, the app suggests that I add last-minute items, like flowers, to my order. Recipes that I shopped from are pushed to me at dinner time. The next day, the app asks if I liked the samples I received, and lets me add them to my list.

    The retailer benefits of this experience:
    - Larger order size
    - Customer retention
    - Frequent app use

    The grocer could use this existing leverage to make it happen:
    - Customer preference data
  1. Take the pressure off of list-planning and scheduling orders with re-imagined subscription solutions for groceries

    One idea: Flex Subscriptions

    How a customer would experience this: The app suggests intelligent subscriptions for items I have bought frequently. Machine learning-provided insights inform the frequency so that I don't have to worry about the frequency; it's always just right. I can set flex options for substitutions, and I can also subscribe to personalized and retailer-curated subscription box bundles. When a subscription is coming up, I can add more items to the delivery.

    The retailer benefits of this experience:
    - Customer retention
    - More frequent orders

    The grocer could use this existing leverage to make it happen:
    - Customer purchase history
    - Rich product data
  1. Bridge the gap between offline behaviors and online shopping with a physical list that keeps groceries top of mind

    One idea: Physical-to-Virtual Shopping List

    How a customer would experience this: When I receive my order, I also receive a branded physical list of everything I ordered that I can stick to the refrigerator. Everyone in the family can check things off as they are used, and add new items at the bottom. When it's time to place a new order, I use the app to scan the list. Using OCR and machine learning, the app builds the list automatically. I can also use the scanner to scan additional product bar codes and to add loyalty cards and credit cards to my account.

    The retailer benefits of this experience:
    - Repeat purchases
    - Physical reminder in the home
    - Marketing buzz

    The grocer could use this existing leverage to make it happen:
    - Builds on existing order flows

As a result of deploying any of these ideas, grocery store companies will grow, engage and retain more customers. Consumers are seeking solutions for radically new grocery buying needs and will choose retailers that meet them with right products at the right time. But retailers must go beyond reliability and safety by providing novelty and delight in order to deepen the engagement with their customers. Data-driven and personalized experiences will be an important component of encouraging shoppers to build new digitally-centered shopping habits with the retailers that provide these tools.

October 26, 2020

When to Leverage Blockchain & Cryptocurrencies to Drive Experience Growth

What are cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Litecoin and what is the difference between cryptocurrencies and blockchain networks that businesses are developing you read about in the news? As a product manager, how do you know when there is an opportunity to leverage these technologies to drive growth within your customer or employee experience and how do you make that come to life? These are two important questions we often get asked at Bottle Rocket and so we decided to provide our current best answer for anyone who is interested in reading.

Before you can start thinking about ways to incorporate blockchain and cryptocurrencies into your experience, you need to understand the puzzle that is Blockchain and cryptocurrencies and how they are supposed to fit together.

This hurdle is often underestimated and its difficulty doesn't have anything to do with you or your IQ and has everything to do with the fact you can’t see what is going on inside of a blockchain network and that it was created without the touch of a design team to create the visibility, clarity and ease of use that is required for high adoption rates.

So, what does this puzzle look like? We sat down with the Bottle Rocket Design team to paint this picture in the clearest way possible.

The main difference between Bitcoin and business blockchains is the degree of which the network is decentralized (how much human interaction exists within the network), and the types of transactions being recorded. Bitcoin is a fully decentralized network which means that there is no human interaction when sending Bitcoin from one person to another. Most business blockchains are not fully decentralized and require some human interaction to complete the transaction such as a manual review of a voting ballet before being confirmed to the ledger for example.

“Blockchain can mean different things to different types of companies. For big companies it is about making existing markets more efficient & transparent. For small & medium sized companies collaboration enables them to punch above their weight and launch exciting new last mile like products and services. But it is at the start up level that digital innovation burns the brightest creating the new digital economy to transform whole industries on top of this new quality and ownership / access of data.” - Andy Martin, Blockchain Business Value Design World Wide Leader - IBM

The Relationship Between Blockchain, Cryptocurrencies & Your Customer or Employee Experience

The more obvious place to start here is with Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies. Their utility as an alternative payment option is better understood and its home in your experience is most likely already in place. It's more a question of whether it makes good business sense to offer Bitcoin or some other cryptocurrency as a payment option. Customers typically prefer choice and any customer who uses this channel could result in the avoidance of credit card transaction fees by the business, driving higher profit margins.

Turning to the other side of the same coin and the relationship isn’t as intuitively obvious. Most of this stems from the fact that these are business focused networks that don’t get much visibility by the public. The experience in this instance is typically a web or mobile app used by your employees. This employee experience is a window into the blockchain and its available functions. The quality and ease-of-use of this employee experience will be the main driver of adoption.

The relationship between your customers/employees and blockchain/cryptocurrencies will be largely derived by the design and the user experience of the web and/or mobile application used to interact with it. If you want to drive adoption using blockchain and cryptocurrencies, make the experience so easy to use, it is intuitively understood by even the most casual observer. A bad design and user experience are the barriers that has prevented adoption growth of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies the most. It simply isn’t easy to use for most people and thus does not get used as much as it could be.

Here are a few examples of business blockchains that might help readers understand these business blockchain networks better and what its relationship is to an existing business.

  1. Sweatcoin - https://sweatco.in (STARTUP)
  2. South Korea City of Seoul - https://cointelegraph.com/news/seoul-to-implement-blockchain-in-citizen-cards-the-mayor-reveals (ENTERPRISE)
  3. US Post Office - https://www.forbes.com/sites/vipinbharathan/2020/09/20/us-postal-service-files-a-patent-for--voting-system-combining-mail-and-a-blockchain/#1f2bafe13336 (ENTERPRISE)

When to Leverage Blockchain and Cryptocurrencies to Drive Experience Growth

Whether or not it makes sense to invest in blockchain and / or cryptocurrencies to drive growth depends largely on the benefits that would be gained from automated decision and governance processes and the level of interest from your current and future customer/employee base. Below are three common areas to consider when evaluating your customer or employee experience for opportunities to drive growth through blockchain and cryptocurrencies.

  1. Cross B2B silo collaboration (reconciliation, provenance or a visibility issue) (Source – Andy Martin, IBM)
  2. Data that needs to be shared is too valuable to let a 3rd party govern on your behalf (Source – Andy Martin, IBM)
  3. Customer interest supports additional payment option(s)

As a product manager, it is important to consistently take the pulse of the businesses decision and governance model taking place inside your business right now. An easy way to do this is to simply write down every decision made internally and externally with 3rd parties. Once this list has been made, evaluate each decision using a multidimensional lens that includes the amount of time to complete each decision and the amount of pain it causes (none, low, medium, high).

Once this is complete, filter the list so that the decisions with the highest level of pain and that take the most time to complete on average are on top and proceed in descending order down the list. These are the areas that represent your best opportunities to drive growth through blockchain and cryptocurrencies.  

How to Incorporate Blockchain and/or Cryptocurrencies into Your Customer and/or Employee Experience

If you are a product owner overseeing a customer or employee experience, how do you find areas to incorporate blockchain and cryptocurrencies in your product experience? What does a tactical list of steps look like to cross the Bitcoin and cryptocurrency chasm?

How to incorporate blockchain into your business:

  1. Document and analyze current governance model (all decisions made internally and externally with other businesses)
  2. Prioritize decisions based upon the amount of time it currently takes to complete and current level of pain experienced while completing it
  3. Decide if any decisions warrant a blockchain solution through a simple cost benefit analysis
  4. Create a business and product strategy
  5. Create technology delivery blueprint
  6. Develop and launch
  7. Codify more and scale the network out to see efficiencies from economies of scale

How to incorporate Bitcoin and / or other cryptocurrencies into your customer experience:

  1. Perform market and user research to determine economic viability and level of interest
  2. Select cryptocurrencies to incorporate based upon level of interest (https://coinmarketcap.com)
  3. Create a business and product strategy
  4. Create technology delivery blueprint
  5. Develop and launch
  6. Learn, iterate, improve

In summary, blockchain and cryptocurrencies are computer networks that govern and record transactions from human or machine interactions such as sending money from one person to another or recording the votes for an upcoming election by mail ballot. Whether or not it makes sense to invest and incorporate this technology depends largely on the business blockchain cost/benefit analysis and the level of interest from your current and future customer base on the use of cryptocurrencies. Product managers and product growth SME’s should keep a consistent pulse on their governance models and perform regular reviews to determine when it makes sense to leverage this technology.

October 14, 2020

How Hoteliers Can Prepare For Pent-Up Demand in the Post-Pandemic World

No sector in the world has remained immune to the disruption caused by COVID-19, with the travel and hospitality industry amongst the hardest hit. As travel bans against the U.S. continue, it has been predicted that pre-pandemic hotel levels will not recover until 2023 at the earliest. Even so, demand for domestic travel is beginning to return, with the number of online searches for hotels in the U.S. gathering pace. As hotels are increasingly being given the green light to welcome back guests, hoteliers are under pressure to redesign their digital experiences to make post-COVID-19 customers feel safe. 

New Customer Expectations 

Due to current health and safety concerns, what was once considered a “typical hotel experience” may now be viewed as unsafe by many, as travelers continue to avoid unnecessary human interaction. According to McKinsey, most U.S. leisure travelers are seeking additional health and safety measures in order to get them to travel again, making them highly sensitive and hyper-aware of the overall experience, and the amount of human interactions that were once attributed to good customer service. 

Here’s one suggestion. Hoteliers could easily update listings to make it clear to potential guests that they are focused on safety. For example: “Downtown Sheraton — certified safe and secure.” Customers can then see an immediate distinction between those that have taken extra precautions and are certified safe. With the average hotel website conversion rate standing at 2.2% pre-COVID, hoteliers need to find innovative ways to attract new and existing customers. 

Customers, particularly connected customers, are now interacting more often with brands through their digital channels and are expecting new guest safety protocols to be communicated in real-time. In this current climate, they will not hesitate to cancel a booking or leave a negative review if their expectations for a superior, and totally safe experience, have not been met.

Creating an End-to-End Digital Experience

Providing an omni-channel experience for today’s connected customers is now the bare minimum. Within this experience-driven sector, a brand’s digital footprint has become their only link to their customers prior to arrival. Each touchpoint of the guest’s journey is expected to coordinate seamlessly, and combine to create a single holistic experience, that leaves no question unanswered.  

In consideration of the uncertainty surrounding lockdown restrictions, and travelers’ own preferences, websites and apps will need to offer optimum flexibility when it comes to cancellations. Unexpected, short turnaround times to make booking alterations means new app features will need to be thoroughly and quickly tested, to ensure they can cope under high contact volumes. Consumers crave a simple, yet effective digital experience. Therefore, brands should strive to make their customers’ lives easier through technology and make them feel more at ease when returning to hotels. 

Mobile apps have become the most valuable means of communicating with care, and keeping customers up-to-date on restrictions and safety measures. Brands will need to be clear and transparent — before, during and after each stay — in order to reassure guests that their facilities are safe. It could be that one email reminder to customers the day before arrival, or a post-check-out message thanking guests, that will create excitement for anxious travelers. A continuous flow of updates and virtual dialogue with hoteliers’ customer service teams will cultivate trust and enhance customer lifetime value in the “new normal.”   

Contactless Hospitality

Contactless elements of the customer experience have also become non-negotiable. COVID-19 has redefined the meaning of “frictionless,” to the point where only 8 percent of guests feel comfortable checking in and out at a public kiosk. This is signaling a need for hoteliers to look for inventive ways to eliminate any physical touchpoint that customers see as risky – whilst remaining customer-centric.

For hoteliers, it’s important to remember that the customer experiences people are now used to are likely digital. Here’s one example: customers used to just walk into the bar and grab a chair. But that’s likely not what many people will want now. They might want to reserve their spot at the bar via an app or website, and have an understanding of what the bar is doing to sanitize their premises before they show up. 

To restore public confidence, and encourage more people to make bookings, brands will need to innovate their mobile apps to essentially become a one-stop shop to cater for all guests’ needs virtually. Mobile apps will be the primary, if not exclusive, means for customers to engage with hotel amenities. From room service, to ordering towels or hangars, to communicating with the concierge, or ordering in the gift shop, every aspect of the experience should be accessible from guests’ personal devices, and minimize unnecessary contact.

Apps can also be used to measure customer satisfaction in real time. Why wait until after the stay to ask how a customer’s experience was? Hoteliers will see the value in engaging with customers before the stay, during the stay and afterwards, to boost confidence and enjoyment. This will likely turn a regular customer into an advocate, who refers friends and colleagues and leaves positive ratings online. 

Roadmap to Recovery 

Despite the year’s shortfalls, travel will return. With a recovery set to take longer than other industries, hoteliers will need to use this run-up to recovery to go above and beyond the growing list of customer expectations. By reorienting the end-to-end digital experience, with an emphasis on health and safety, hoteliers can instill public confidence and overcome newfound pain points for post-pandemic travelers. 

This article was posted on RetailAndHospitalityHub.com.

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