Hilton is about to launch a revolutionary product that several chains have been talking about for years: an iPhone and Android app that will let guests check-in by phone, assign their own choice of room, and use their phone as a room key.
This gives the power of choice to customers, and cuts down on hotel staffing needs if it takes off. But there are several challenges, and one in particular that will make me wary of using it..
Hilton has announced that guests will soon be able to use their mobile device to check-in, choose rooms from digital floorplans, purchase room upgrades, and make special requests.
By the end of this summer, guests can check in and choose rooms via Apple and Android HHonors apps at the following properties – Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts, Conrad Hotels & Resorts, Hilton Hotels & Resorts, Hilton Garden Inn, Homewood Suites and Home2 Suites.
In the fall, DoubleTree by Hilton and Embassy Suites within the US will be added to the list of mobile check-in enabled properties. By the end of 2014, more than 4,000 Hilton Worldwide properties will be included.
Here’s how it works:
- Guests can check in via the app or desktop at 6am the day before a stay.
- They’ll be able to pick a specific room (and will be given floor plans and photos).
- Room selection will be based on available hotel inventory.
- The system will offer paid upgrades.
- Starting next year rooms will be set up to allow guests to use the app as a room key.
- Once that happens, no need to visit the front desk, just go straight to the room.
- Something I use already with Hyatt and much like, online checkout will be available and an email bill will be sent. Hilton expects this rolled out worldwide by end of 2016.
Choose your own room, and mobile device as room key are potentially revolutionary.
There are real challenges, some that will no doubt get worked through and with clear solutions by the time this is all live and some fundamental to this sort of approach:
- I would have expected check-in and room assignment to be available only on the day of arrival, not the day before. If they only show rooms that are vacant the day before check-in at 6am that’s going to be of pretty limited use at busy hotels (since there won’t be (m)any. If they include rooms that are supposed to become available that’ll be a problem: What if they extend their stay? What if they get late checkout? What if a room got trashed and has to be taken out of service? At what time does the key activate inside the app?
- The app is brilliant not just as a hotel guest convenience but as an upsell tool — show them the rooms they can choose from, they look kind of bad, and an eStandby upgrade is only a few bucks more… Better to have the app do the upsell than to rely on front desk agents to do it. You can ensure consistency and show photos of what they’d be buying.
- Decent free elite upgrades will be hard to get via an app. Hilton doesn’t guarantee suite upgrades, sometimes they get assigned but even if they are available there’s no entitlement. It’s hard to imagine an app being generous, that will or will not get done on the hotel level by a human. I’d rather talk to the human in that case.