Convenience is a customer experience essential

The marvellous thing about current consumer trends is that boutique hospitality is definitely in fashion, which is helping independently run hotels compete with the major chains.
One of the reasons these smaller venues are experiencing such a demand is the level of attention to detail and personalisation they can provide.

Unlike the big hotel brands, where every room is almost identical wherever you go, holidaymakers and business travellers can experience something truly unique, and enjoy the one-to-one service that comes with it.

In fact, customer service tends to be the backbone of the independent hotel industry; the draw that keeps guests coming back again and again. The challenge for owners is to maintain these standards in all interactions, to create pleasant, helpful patron experiences.

This, of course, is no mean feat, especially for smaller hotels, which lack the same resources as larger hospitality vendors. However, there are straightforward ways to innovate customer encounters in line with the industry’s standard setters, to drive revenue and encourage repeat business.

It might not be the first opportunity that springs to mind, but refreshing the payment methods on offer can unlock untapped potential for hoteliers, for a number of reasons:

1. Cards are a familiar currency
Gone are the days where cash was king; consumers now turn to card for everyday transactions, even low value ones. This extends to the hospitality industry, where they are used to making transactions for meals, drinks, even hotel stays through their card – to the point where they come to expect it.

As a result, visitors can become deflated when they arrive at a venue and find they can’t pay by card during their stay.

In addition, accepting cards can attract more overseas visitors. For example, Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC) allows shoppers to pay in their local currency at the point of sale. This means customers can be confident about the amount on their bill when they get their card statement at home, rather than having the uncertainty of changing currency conversion rates. Even better, the hotelier gets to share in the savings the guests can make.

2. Cards give customers choice
While many hoteliers have online card booking systems in place to reserve and pay for rooms/packages in advance, customers don’t stop spending money when they arrive at the check-in desk. From dinner at the hotel to an impromptu night cap, most visitors will make additional purchases during their stay, and many prefer to pay as they go along, rather than adding it to their end bill.

Offering card payments gives these guests the flexibility of choosing to pay by plastic or cash. It also stops them being limited to the change in their pocket, which can often lead to customers spending more.

3. Cards make encounters quicker and more convenient
Time is a lucrative currency for today’s consumers, so every second counts when it comes to optimising customer service – particularly when dealing with business travellers.

Adding card payments can speed up transaction times to not only improve individual encounters, but also reduce the chance of queues building up during peak checking out times. This is especially important as it is the final opportunity to engage with guests, which means a bad parting experience can define their brand perception.

To increase convenience even further, hoteliers can invest in a card machine with contactless capabilities, to enable ‘touch and go’ transactions up to £20 (rising to £30 in September). This is ideal for guests making payments at the bar or restaurant during their stay.

4. Cards improve cash flow
As any growing business knows, cash flow is king, and accepting card payments can improve that cash flow. Whenever a customer makes a card transaction, the sum is credited into the merchant’s account. It also removes the reliance of staff having to bank the money, removes counting inaccuracies and provides a securer means for accepting payments.

Though these are back-end benefits, an increase in cash flow gives hoteliers greater power to make investment into the front end of the business, to improve the service customers receive.

Ultimately, the key to outstanding service is building experiences around customer needs. Card payments are a powerful tool in hoteliers’ armoury for improving the speed, flexibility and convenience of encounters – so that guests remember the quality of the meal or the restful night’s sleep they enjoyed, not the fact they had to wander to the cash point down the road in order to settle the bill.

About Gareth Poppleton: Gareth co-founded Retail Merchant Services Limited, a specialist provider of low cost card payment solutions, in 2007. Today Retail Merchant Services is the UK’s leading independent credit card processing business, looking after 36,000 happy customers. Many of these customers run independent businesses, benefitting from the extra support Retail Merchant Services provides.

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