Digital technology has become integral to the 21st-century hotel experience. In particular, more and more hotels are investing in messaging platforms, voice assistants, and in-room tablets to enhance in-room guest communication.
The benefits of these technologies are undoubted, but some hotels are mistakenly thinking that they will replace the in-room phone. Why is that a mistake? First and foremost, not all travelers will engage with new digital communication technologies — especially less tech-savvy older generations.
In addition, the in-room phone is still the main way guests order room service, they also frequently use it to call the front desk, make housekeeping requests and get advice on local restaurants and attractions. So if your hotel is considering doing away with the guest room phone, here are some of the major reasons to reconsider.
Above all, it’s vital to have a reliable form of communication in case of emergencies. If a guest can’t use their mobile for an unforeseen reason, they need a quick and easy alternative. This is where the guest room phone comes in. Plus, modern in-room phones have guest-service keys that can be programmed to a selected emergency number at the hotel. This means an emergency call can be made with a simple tap of a button. Also an in-room analogue phone doesn’t require power, so it will still work as a communication tool in the case of a power outage.
Digital communication platforms offer a fast and frictionless way to communicate. But not in every situation. If a guest arrives hungry and wants to order room service, placing an order using the in-room phone is arguably the fastest way to do that. While tech-savvy guests might prefer to place orders through your hotel app or in-room iPad, it’s important to provide a familiar alternative. Not all guests want to download an app or have the time to work out how to use the in-room tablet just to order room service if they are hungry now.
The In-room Phone Drives Revenue
A lot of hoteliers believe that in-room phones no longer drive revenue. But that’s not entirely true. Dig a little deeper and you find that this viewpoint only relates to revenue from external calls.
In reality, the majority of guests still use the in-room phone to order Room Service, so hoteliers need to look at the revenue that comes from Room Service as a result of the phone before they dispense with it.
Many hoteliers only look at the cost centre called Telephones on their P&L, which can give them a distorted view of how much revenue the in-room phone is actually generating.
All Generations Can Use An In-Room Phone
As touched upon above, it’s important to remember that not everyone is comfortable with mobile technology. While baby boomers are certainly more tech-savvy than common assumptions might have us believe, they’re still more likely to make a request by picking up the phone than trying to access your hotel app.
Older generations still commonly see the telephone as a key communication channel. Why make life harder for them by taking it away? While mobile-reliant younger travelers might not think twice, an in-room telephone is something that older demographics still expect to see and regard as familiar and reassuring.
A Desire for Tech-Free Travel
A growing number of travelers now take a break in search of a digital detox. They want to enjoy a tech-free experience that allows them to disconnect from their smartphones and unplug from the internet, if only for a few days.
Offering an in-room phone makes it easier for guests that genuinely want to escape their constantly connected lives. In an age when hotels are investing heavily in the latest digital communication tools, it’s worth remembering that some guests will value your efforts to help them disconnect from their tech.
If your hotel’s mobile phone reception isn’t great, or your guests’ forget or misplace their phone chargers, the lack of an in-room phone suddenly makes communication a hassle. If a guest has to head down to your lobby to talk to your team, that’s hardly a great experience. If they need to stumble out of bed to do this in the middle of the night, they’re likely to feel more than a little disgruntled.
Of course, these kinds of scenarios can quickly lead a frustrated guest to vent their feelings on TripAdvisor. By making sure guests always have an easy way to get in touch with your team, you can manage your brand reputation by resolving potential issues sooner.
A Quality Phone is Part of Great Design (And it Saves You Money)
The guest looks at the quality of the items in the room as a reflection of the overall quality of the experience that they’re paying for. A cheap looking phone instantly downgrades that experience.
When you consider that hotel owners and developers often spend millions of dollars on luxury room design and decor, it seems crazy to ruin an otherwise beautiful looking room by installing a cheap phone which saves a few dollars per room at best.
Too often, a phone is chosen simply based on price which can often be false economy as the cheaper phone doesn’t always last as long, making the long-term financial outlay greater. Staff also have to spend time replacing these phones, but the worst part is that inevitably the guest is inconvenienced when the phone in their room doesn’t work.
As with all amenities, it’s important to ensure that the phone you chose reflects your brand and its promise to your guest. Does the phone reflect the quality of your brand in your guest’s eyes? If it’s a cordless phone does it go back on the cradle easily and charge?
In addition, let’s not forget the charm of a true hotel phone, complete with cute icons for each available guest service. There is a certain charm about a hotel phone and we have often provided phones for film sets so that they can create an authentic hotel room. In the digital age, it’s nice to have a few reminders of the classic hotel experience.
It’s Time to Rethink the Guest Room Phone
Before you consider doing away with the guest room phone, take a step back and consider the unique benefits it still offers.
Mobile messaging platforms and hotel apps are great for remote communication, but the in-room phone still drives revenue, and it remains the most simple and reliable way for guests to communicate with your team. It also provides the best way for your hotel to build rapport and demonstrate empathy with guests by offering a channel for personal, one-to-one conversations.
Ultimately, the guest room phone and the latest digital platforms should not be seen as mutually exclusive. Hospitality is about offering everyone a choice, and having a range of communication tools available will ensure all your guests are catered for and able to connect with you and your team.