Hotel Automation Guide Pt. 1: 
Automating the Guest Journey 

Trade Secrets | Guest Services | Making a Profit | Meet & Greet

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Your hotel is nothing without guests. Your job is to make sure those guests have the best experience possible at each stage of their journey – from before they enter your doors to after they leave.

The guest journey weaves through a wide range of touchpoints, each pivotal in shaping the overall experience. Yet, as industry challenges mount, from staff shortages to evolving guest expectations, how can you ensure that your guests have a smooth experience at each step? 

In this article, we’ll explore how hotel automation can help you enrich the guest journey from pre-arrival to post-departure. First, let’s look at that primary touchpoint – the front desk, where guests get to see your hotel’s commitment to service excellence in person. 

Reimagining the front desk with automation

The front desk is usually the nerve center of hotel operations. It’s the hub from which your team orchestrates guest interactions, manages reservations, and ensures check-ins and check-outs run smoothly. And, of course, it’s where guests receive the strongest overall impression of your hospitality.  

In short, the front desk is where your service really needs to shine. 

However, the quality of your front desk service may be threatened by the escalating demands placed on staff. The hospitality industry continues to grapple with significant staff shortages, with 67% of US hotels and 85% of European hotels recently reporting a scarcity of skilled labor.* In the face of these labor gaps, remaining front desk employees are facing higher workloads. Now, hoteliers are seeking to alleviate the strain on staff, so they can sustain the highest standards of service. 

Enter hotel automation: the solution that can take care of tasks throughout the guest journey.

Automating specific tasks can ensure you provide smooth guest experiences while giving front desk staff more time than ever before to focus on fantastic in-person service.  

In this article, we’ll cover how four key stages in the guest journey are being transformed through automation. Let’s begin with that cornerstone of guest experience – communication. 

1. Guest communications

It’s no secret that digital communication methods and platforms have advanced hugely in recent years. Now, travelers increasingly expect to be able to interact with their hotel at any hour, day or night. As a result, front desk staff are often left overwhelmed with enquiries and/or answering the same questions many times per day.  

And this expectation often starts before the guest even books. Providing instant responses to prospective guests is key to turning their online queries into bookings. In fact, our research has found that 50% of online searchers will click back to OTAs or go to your competitors if they don’t get an instant answer to their initial enquiry.  

And yet two-thirds of these enquiries are sent at hours when staff are least able to provide that instant answer. 

Automated guest messaging provides the ideal solution to this challenge. Leading the charge is generative AI, which can be employed to provide accurate, predictive responses to website queries 24/7. For example, with eviivo Concierge, our groundbreaking AI messaging tool, our users now handle 200% more incoming online enquiries than before. With this round-the-clock availability, no opportunity to help a prospective guest – and convert them into booking – goes missed.  

A written webchat interaction between a hotel guest and eviivo's AI-powered Concierge on a mobile phone screen.
An interaction between the AI-powered eviivo Concierge tool and a guest.

While AI is at the forefront of providing instant, automated interactions, make sure to use it alongside other forms of hotel automation to keep guests informed and engaged at each step of their journey. After all, if you send the right comms at the right moments, your guests won’t need to reach out to you first at all!  

For example, automated emails allow you to provide a real sense of hospitality for guests before, during, and after their stay. Consider scheduling email sends to guests that allow you to automatically: 

  • Send booking confirmations. 
  • Provide key information, such as check-in instructions. 
  • Gently remind guests when payments are due. 
  • Upsell extras to guests. 

By automating these regular communications (and more), you can provide the answers guests need, without them having to ask. What’s more, you simultaneously ensure that your front-of-house team isn’t overwhelmed with constant queries, urgent guest messages, and managing manual email sends.

…In fact, staff gain more time to focus on that other critical element of hotel guest communication – the face-to-face interactions they can provide when the guest arrives!  

2. Payment collection and scheduling

There’s no denying that payments can be a pain. Processing payments manually is a notoriously time-consuming and tedious affair. What’s more, it presents plenty of opportunities for human error. Whether they involve card numbers being inputted incorrectly or charges being misspelt, errors made when processing payments can have serious repercussions for security.  

Additionally, many hotels are finding that their manual payment processes no longer support the preferred payment methods of their guests. This is because people are increasingly turning to a greater range of digital and contactless ways to pay. 

Effective payment automation solves these issues by introducing greater efficiency, accuracy, security, and flexibility to payment processing. Enabling automated payment collection allows everything to be processed much faster. This gives your teams precious time back to focus on other guest needs. Automated processing also improves accuracy, minimising the risk of human error whenever transactions are handled.  

In addition to the peace of mind that accuracy provides, automated payment systems also typically offer enhanced security features. To be sure that your incoming payments are being handled securely, look for payment systems that offer full native PCI compliance on automated transactions. 

A hotel guest at their laptop uses a credit card to submit their payment online.

The best automated payment processing systems support various contactless payment methods – including credit cards, mobile payments, and online transfers – and channels, including the OTAs that your guests use to book. This allows you to improve the guest experience from the jump by accommodating the booker’s payment preferences. 

Of course, your preferences as a hotelier should also be factored into how you set up your payment automation. Look for a system that allows you to choose from: 

  • Collecting payments automatically. 
  • Automatically requesting payments by email. 
  • Pre-authorizing payment cards automatically. 
  • Automatically requesting a pre-authorization by email. 

You should also have the flexibility to schedule automated pre-authorization or collection so that it takes place at the time that’s most convenient for you or your guests (e.g., at the time of booking, or when the cancellation deadline is reached).  

eviivo Suite’s unparalleled payment automation capabilities allow you to do all this and more. The below table outlines some of eviivo’s key features and how they benefit hoteliers:

Payment automation featureBenefit
Automate payments completely and/or schedule payment request emails at set times.Improve your cash flows by collecting any amount at exactly the right time. Accelerate the collection of funds, reducing the time between guest stays and receipt of payments. Help the hotel better manage its finances and investments.
Set different payment schedules for bookings, extras, damage deposits, and others charges or fees.Create the customized payment flows that work best for your business.
Secure damage deposits through automated pre-authorization.Save the time and hassle of managing unnecessary guest refunds.
Ensure payment transactions are subject to the most stringent PCI DSS and 3DS-2 compliance checks.Operate with absolute peace of mind

3. Contactless check-in and check-out

Check-in and check-out are two of the most crucial moments in the guest experience. After all, they impact both a guest’s first impression and lasting memory of your hotel’s service.  

Whereas efficient check-in sets a great tempo for a guest’s stay, long queues or delays on arrival are sure to frustrate any traveler – particularly if they’ve had a tiring journey. Enabling a smooth check-out is equally important. Guests do not want to deal with complicated procedures or excessive paperwork, yet it’s vital to ensure your billing is accurate for every booking. Business travelers in particular don’t want to walk away without a faultless invoice for their expense claims! 

Automation can once again step in to mitigate the risk of an unhappy check-in or check-out experience.  

Check-in

To ensure a smooth check-in, you may wish to consider the growing number of guests who would prefer not to wait at the front desk at all. By automating check-in instructions and room access codes to be sent to guests before they arrive, you give them the opportunity to head straight to their room – or the self-service kiosk.

This also reduces the queue at the front desk for those guests who do prefer to check-in ‘the old-fashioned way’. In effect, you’re providing the best of both worlds. 

Check-out

There are multiple ways that automation can help make the check-out process equally painless for both parties. Give guests the information they want in advance by automating pre-departure payment instructions. Or, let them review every detail of their stay with guest statements and invoices that are ready to print or email in one click. To save time and speed up the settlement of bills, set up your billing so that extra fees like cleaning, WiFi, parking or breakfast are automatically added to the guest bill during their stay.  

eviivo Suite generates branded, personalised invoices or guest statements for a smoother check-out. These statements and invoices always show the price paid by the guest, together with a credit reflecting clearly whatever was prepaid via the OTA. By allowing guests to see a full breakdown of the stay at your price – not the OTA’s wholesale price – you may even encourage them to book direct with you in future… 

4. Reputation management

Did you know that online guest reviews have a bigger influence on whether travelers book with you than your star rating?†

In the digital-first landscape, the social proof provided by guest reviews has never been more critical to winning new business. Yet, collecting, managing and publishing guest feedback online can feel like a full-time job in itself. 

Automation provides an effortless way to encourage online reviews – one that again involves scheduling specific communications. Set up an automated email to guests after they depart, requesting that they leave a review. We recommend sending this email 2 days after the guest checks out, when they’ve had enough time to travel home (and unpack!) but the memory of their stay is still fresh.  

Look for automated systems that are integrated with key review platforms like your website and other important online channels (e.g., Google reviews). This gives you the option to automatically publish your reviews on those channels. By doing so, you remove another task from the reputation management process and get your 5-star feedback online as soon as possible. 

And to maintain your first-rate reputation, why not centralize your guest communications in one inbox? eviivo Suite’s unified messaging inbox is the first in the industry to integrate messages from Booking.com, Airbnb, Vrbo, and Expedia, as well as your direct bookings, AI Concierge interactions and, yes, your guests’ reviews. With all these messages in one place, your team is able to stay on top of every guest interaction. 

Conclusion

By automating previously manual tasks, front-of-house staff are finding more ways to save time, create efficiencies, and be productive. When you let automation take care of time-consuming admin, you’re freeing up your customer-facing staff to deliver great face-to-face interactions, and your back-office team to focus on the bigger (strategic) picture.  

Needless to say, these staff benefits also have a huge impact on the guest experience – and, ultimately, your hotel’s bottom line.

To learn about how automation can also transform your hotel’s back office operations (from revenue management to performance and financial reporting), head to part two of our hotel automation guide.

*American Hotel & Lodging Association Survey, 2024 / 2023 Deloitte European Hotel Industry survey, 2023.   
 †Statista, 2022

Learn more about how eviivo can help you automate the guest journey and reimagine your hotel’s front desk.

EXPLORE AUTOMATION

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