The road to a great guest experience is paved with adapting to demands as the world changes. Mobile check-in is now an expectation from boutique spots to international chains, and the technology has opened the door to a better guest experience. Guests today can let themselves in without feeling left out in the cold.
SJ Sawhney is the co-founder of Canary Technologies, a California-based software company offering contactless check-in. He notes a significant uptick in demand in early 2020. “At the start of the pandemic, lots of properties around the world were scrambling to find solutions to comply with local health-and-safety standards. There was a huge spike in interest for contactless check-in and checkout solutions, which made complete sense. Today, more hoteliers than ever are interested in implementing a mobile check-in solution because consumers got used to the experience. Many even prefer it now because a mobile experience reduces the boring administrative stuff you have to deal with at the front desk.”
April Brown and Sarah Sklash co-founded The June Motel in Ontario’s Prince Edward County in 2016, and opened a second location in Sauble Beach, Ont. in 2020. They credit the easy jump into mobile check-in with an already modest setup. “We actually had a text-message concierge service when we first started The June. It was just a cell phone in the lobby that guests had the number for and we used it to text local recommendations, directions, answer any questions, and so on. That evolved into the platform we still use to this day, and eventually contactless check-in during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since we used similar technology pre-COVID, it was actually pretty easy to roll out,” says Brown.
This One or That One?
When it comes to which mobile check-in to choose, Sawhney says there are really only two options. “For a fully mobile experience that enables guests to check-in before they arrive at a property, there’s web-based solutions and native apps. Both of these approaches can provide a feature-rich user experience for guests, but web-based solutions have a lower barrier to entry and higher adoption. Generally, web-based solutions see around an 80 to 90 per cent adoption rate by hotel guests. Native apps usually only see about 15 to 20 per cent.”
However the service is accessed, mobile check-in is more than just clicking a button to get a key — it’s emerged as a tool to connect with guests during their stay and improve the guest experience.
At The June, the platform is also used as a tool for direct communication with guests. “We’re able to send automated text messages to all our guests and provide updates during their stays. Guests can text our staff directly from the comfort of their room if they have any issues, questions, or need recommendations, and we can have personalized conversations in general,” says Brown.
From small companies to international chains, the approach is the same. The Marriott Bonvoy Mobile App allows guests to check in remotely, chat with the hotel to have special requests fulfilled, use their phone as their room key, and even order food. “We’re seeing more customers interacting via the Marriott Bonvoy mobile app throughout their stay. We continue to see increased usage of the mobile key and currently, we offer mobile key in almost 75 per cent of hotels globally and 76 per cent of hotels in the U.S. & Canada,” says Oliver Meinzer, vice-president of Digital Guest Experience at Marriott International.
Best of Both Worlds
And though mobile check-in is likely here for good, at The June they’re bringing humans back.
“This year, we’re bringing our in-person check-in back, and we’re really excited about it,” says Brown. “Contactless check-in will still be optional for guests who either want to keep their distance or will be arriving late, after the Lobby Bars close and staff go home.”
This move proves accommodating guests’ needs is the real key to great service.
By Andrea Victory