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How to Approach the Changing Environment of Customer and Visitor Experience

April 4, 2019 by Sam Slater

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The digital revolution impacts everyone and every industry. Changing how people experience the world, each other and businesses. 

A friendly face at the check-in counter is undoubtedly still valuable and part of the experience at a hotel or hospital or even office. It just might not be enough anymore. Hotel guests now expect instant access to data related to their stay, the ability to share those experiences, and personalized follow-ups. Hospital patients are looking for similarly custom, instant experiences.

Colage Visual Expereince

Anytime you're working with guests or patients, you have to account for that trend. From the first awareness about your business to the end of their stay, they want and need to be connected. As importantly, they need the experience you offer in person to match up with their online expectations and vice versa.

Virtual hotel tours are just the beginning. The changing environment of customer and visitor experience requires a comprehensive rethinking of how you approach your target audience. 

Digital Expectations in Hospitality

Hospitality marketers have long considered customer journeys as an excellent tool to evaluate their touch points with potential guests. If you know where your audience is while they search for hotels like yours, you can better position your brand in their mind. With the digital transformation, that journey has transformed from linear into an infinite loop:

  • You have to attract your guests from the moment they start browsing.
  • Virtual experiences allow them to make it easier to choose your hotel.
  • They experience your hotel both physically and digitally.
  • When the trip is complete, they need an opportunity to express their thoughts.
  • The next time they research potential hotels, you should be front and center.
  • You have to attract your guests from the moment they start browsing.

Pay special attention to the second and third bullet in that process. For modern hotel guests, the digital experience is indistinguishable from their physical environment. They consider their abilities to find the right hotel, choose a room they like, and find their way around the premises once they've arrived to be just as important as that friendly face at the entrance.

The first stage of digital transformation meant simply offering some digital opportunities. In stage two, they have become fully integrated into the larger plan:

Digital transformation 2.0 uses current technologies in new ways to deliver high-quality services to guests while also embracing new technologies that enable more personalized services and extend brand reach and reputation. Digital transformation 2.0 efforts are composed of more robust and services-rich mobile apps, comprehensive in-room connectivity technologies and back-office data analytics working to improve the overall guest experience.

These endeavors extend the value of hotels' initial investments, as well as streamlining their processes, improving service quality and increasing customer satisfaction.

In other words, it's no longer optional. If you don't acknowledge and adjust to the changing expectations of potential hotel guests, you will fall behind.

Digital Expectations in Healthcare

The digital transformation is no less important in the healthcare sector, and especially for hospitals. In many ways, serving the same audience as hotels would. Of course, the situation in which they find themselves is much different. What are their expectations?

According to one report, patients are generally dissatisfied with the state of healthcare, especially among younger generations. Here, too, expectations have shifted, while the industry hasn't necessarily kept up. Beyond the treatment itself, convenience of the channel ranks among the top factors of dissatisfaction.

While it can be interpreted in multiple ways, the most obvious explanation for that finding is similar to the above. Hospital patients expect more than just good treatment and a friendly front desk staff. They look for and need convenience, as well. That can take many shapes, some of which we'll examine below. The most obvious takeaway: these patients expect a more robust digital infrastructure than many hospitals offer.

couple entering hospital

At the same time, this digital experience has to overlap into the in-person and more traditional opportunities and touch points your hospital has with your potential patients:

For all their digital intensity, highly-digital health consumers still value traditional channel customer service: 87 percent are most likely to interact with their health plan via the phone, for example, almost as many as their less digital peers (93%). This suggests that providing healthcare transparency services that offer consistent experiences at every touch point, anytime, anywhere could be key to meeting their expectations.

Digital has become a basic expectation, but it cannot be exclusive.

What do Healthcare and Hospitality Have in Common?

They're very different industries. But in many ways, healthcare and hospitality are actually quite similar. Both culminate in a personal experience that's impossible to achieve in the digital realm alone. Both tend to require a significant investment of both time and money. While one relaxes, the other heals. But both are major events instead of simple conveniences, the moment they happen.

These commonalities have transferred into the changing guest and patient experience. Thanks to digital transformation in their personal life and surroundings, both audiences have come to expect a baseline of digital service that goes far beyond a simple app or website. Their customer journey is at once digital and in-person.

The name of the game, in other words, is integration. Only hotels and hospitals that can offer a truly customized visitor experience can hope to meet and exceed expectations. That experience has to flow seamlessly from pre-visit to post-visit, with everything in-between part of the consideration. The digital has to interact with the physical environment. That's the challenge of modern hospitality and healthcare marketing, and it's one whose answer has to be comprehensive.

How to Build an Omnichannel Guest Experience

Your visitor experience has to be integrated. That means it has to stretch between and beyond individual channels, with common threads weaving together the entire experience. It's time to discuss just how you can build that type of omnichannel customer journey, leveraging technologies designed to solve just that problem.

hotel lobby reception desk

Before the Visit: Virtual Hotel Tours and Experiences

In these industries, the customer experience starts well before the first visit. For hotel guests, it tends to start when they first realize they want or need a place to stay. For patients, it's the moment when they schedule their appointment and begin the planning process.

On the most basic level, you need information relevant to these tasks easily available on your website and optimized for search engines. Ideally, though, your efforts should reach far beyond those basics. Recall that your audience expects a fully integrated digital experience. Now is your opportunity to get started on that process.

Virtual hotel tours are one way to accomplish that feat. They allow your audience to get a better view of what the hotel they're about to book actually looks like. The more immersive 360-degree photos and videos help them imagine themselves in the space. Through your virtual tour, you can show off spaces like:

  • Individual rooms and room types.
  • The hotel lobby.
  • Any restaurants or other social spaces in the hotel.
  • Your gym and/or pool area.
  • Surrounding areas, especially attractions nearby.

Research has found visitors spend between five and 10 times more time on a website that includes a virtual tour. For hotels, the inclusion of a virtual tour increases look-to-book rates by up to 50 percent.

Hospitals tend to be more straightforward, largely because their purpose tends to be more functional. You don't have to woo your audience unless you're competing with other healthcare providers in the area. You do, however, have to give your audience a good idea of what to expect.

Showcase parking areas, eating opportunities, and more. Allow your audience to familiarize themselves with the space even before they step foot in it. The better you can prepare them, the more comfortable they'll be during their actual visit.

During the Visit: Hotel and Hospital Wayfinding

With a comprehensive virtual tour, you've introduced your audience to your physical space. Now, they're arriving, and things change drastically. How will they find their way around?

Where hotels have traditionally emphasized the pre-visit virtual tour aspect of the digital experience, hospitals are leading the way in wayfinding. In reality, both can equally benefit from this concept, given they both rely on the fact that their guests don't get lost, find their way, and don't get frustrated in the process.

In a hospital, that might include an easily available digital map designed to lead the way from the parking area to the lobby and, eventually the right department. For long-term patients, extending that same experience to their guests extends the customer service aspect and maximizes goodwill on a larger scale. 

The same problems exist in hotels, though the stakes might be lower. How will your guest find their way from the check-in counter to the room? Why is that gym so difficult to find at 6:00 am? Which of the restaurants on the premises are easy to find when hunger strikes? The right wayfinding solution allows your patrons to make sure they don't get lost, and makes sure they find their way out of a jam when they do. 

Indoor wayfinding is a crucial part of any experience that involves large physical spaces. It has to be exact to be effective, mapping individual doors and floors in a way that's easy to identify. Trained by Waze and Google Maps, your audience expects not to get lost. It's up to you to make sure you can live up to that expectation.

After the Visit: Customizable Interactive Maps

Finally, don't discount what happens after the actual, physical experience. If the modern customer journey truly is an infinite loop, then the old cliche that after the game is before the game has to apply here as well. Your digital touch points after completion of the actual service can be crucial in encouraging future interactions.

For hotels, the goal might be turning your space into the default option for next year's corporate or leisure trip. For a hospital, it might be making sure potential patients don't consider competitors or smaller clinical options. Either way, the key to success is building a post-visit strategy designed to stay top of mind.

Many digital channels can help you in that arena, from communication channels like text and emails to customer engagement surveys and opportunities to share their reviews. All of them tend to be successful. At the same time, they don't have to be your only choice in achieving your goals of long-term loyalty and guest retention.

Consider the benefits of customizable interactive maps as an example. No longer needed for wayfinding issues, they can now be leveraged for vehicles to provide urgent information your patients are looking for. From a doctor's contact information to a way to remember an unforgettable vacation, they can be populated with data your audience can then customize for their biggest needs.

Are You Prepared for the Changing Environment of Customer and Visitor Experiences?

The digital revolution has led to lasting change across industries that has forever changed the way we do business. It has led to rising expectations that cannot and will not be taken back. The only way to success is to make sure you meet and exceed those expectations.

That's often easier said than done. Do it right, though, and the benefits are significant. A seamless digital and real-life experience will create a sustainable competitive advantage that differentiates you from your competition. 

Of course, the above tactics are just a few of the many opportunities you have to integrate digital channels into your physical guest experience. Still, they offer a degree of customization and immersion that many other channels simply can't. As a result, they lend themselves ideally to a strategy designed to address the changing environment of customer and visitor experiences.

You might be looking to integrate virtual hotel tours or a hospital wayfinding solution. Either way, we can help. Concept3D specializes in immersive experiences designed to be as beautiful as they are functional. Contact us to start talking about a potential partnership to help you address the digital expectations of your customers, for today and tomorrow.

Topics: Wayfinding, Virtual Engagement

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