They are what you would expect to see when you’re flicking through the travel brochure (or perhaps more commonly now, the travel website). In a market where points of differentiation are small, these ‘selling’ points are what a brand must do well to stay competitive.
However, while a hotel must concentrate on these features to build up the ‘wow’ factor, it must also concentrate equally as hard on satisfying one much more fundamental aspect, and one that is often overlooked – room access, security and control.
Why? Well many hotels still use magstripe or chip card reader technology to form the basis of their room access control. This technology has been around since around the 80’s, and while it has become a mainstay of the hotel industry, it hasn’t been without its problems.
One of the main issues is that the technology is not contactless. In other words, to operate the room lock, contact between card and door lock is required. Due to this frequent contact, dust, dirt and grime can build up on both objects. This can render the lock and card unusable if not maintained or cleaned, and guests being stuck outside their rooms and unable to gain entry is a common scenario.
Looking at it from the guest perspective, they may well be weary from having travelled for many hours, perhaps have a young family and have trudged their way around a large hotel. To have to make their way back down to reception to resolve a room access issue can be a hugely unpleasant experience that will stick long in the memory.
On the security side, magstripe and chipped cards are also lacking. As they cannot be connected to online systems, audit trails are not possible, and room locking functionality is limited.
The rise of contactless RFID technology
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology is rapidly becoming the answer to the problems that magstripe and chipped cards and locks were unable to solve.
For hotels, the contactless nature of RFID provides two important cost benefits. First, it removes the problem of wear and tear with grime and dirt build-up as there is no contact required between lock and key, ultimately resulting in less ongoing labour maintenance costs.
Second, and probably more importantly, retrofitting and labour costs are much lower, as RFID locks don’t require hardwiring into the building. CISA’s RFID locks, eGO and eSIGNO, for example, run off AAA batteries that power the lock in excess of 20,000 cycles. Contactless locks are more aesthetically pleasing too – unsightly doorways covered in metalwork to hide wiring and drilling damage should become a thing of the past.
Opening the door to a world of integrated security
While bringing costs down will naturally prick up ears across the industry, it is what RFID technology can do with security for both guest and hotel that truly makes it a better choice on the current market.
Indeed, according The Economist’s Gulliver Business Travel blog, one contributor noted a situation where an intruder was able to gain access and steal from a friend’s room at a hotel they were staying in, but even several weeks after the theft, the hotel manager was still unable to give an answer as to what could have happened.
As RFID locks record a log of activity within their computers, security managers can now quickly report back to guests on who entered the room and when, enhancing integrity and transparency. On the other hand, for the hotel, it gives added protection from liability issues and guests who make false claims of stolen property.
The ability to integrate RFID locks into full online and live systems is also a big continuing development that is still being explored and refined. For guests, it can be as simple not having to hang ‘Do Not Disturb’ signs outside the door and instead using button or smartphone control from within the room. Housekeeping can actively see which rooms are available for cleaning and not unexpectedly barge in on guests if they haven’t hung up their signs or answered at the first knock.
For security managers, full-scale lockdown or all-area access at the touch of a button is now possible, making extreme situations potentially more manageable.
The hidden key to a better guest experience, and loyalty?
RFID technology has rightly become one of the major talking points within the door security industry, and we are just starting to scratch the surface of how to tailor it to the hotel scene.
While it has yet to become a one of those attributes that the guest may be actively looking for from a hotel, hoteliers would be wise to promote it within their offering as a visible selling point.
Going back to the PwC Consumer Intelligence Series, it is reported that loyalty is derived from soft benefits such as ‘convenience’ and ‘for travelers, loyalty is about receiving benefits they don’t actually request’.
Surely, having peace of mind and a seamless experience belongs as one of those ‘hidden’ benefits to guest satisfaction.
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