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  • Guest experience
    hospitality: how
    companies can deliver
    a best-in-class security
    and customer experience

  • Author: Satta Sarmah Hightower

Revenue in the United States travel and hospitality industry has grown to more than $1.2 trillion dollars over the last decade. For the industry to resume its growth after COVID-19, it must be laser-focused on providing the best possible customer experience.

The hospitality industry is turning to technology to achieve this goal. From hotels and cruise lines to restaurants and airlines, mobile technology is transforming the guest experience hospitality companies deliver. Guests expect quality, convenience and responsiveness, and mobile devices allow the customer service hospitality companies offer to be increasingly on-demand, available anywhere and anytime.

Yet your company must balance convenience with data privacy and security, ensuring that all the customer data you collect and the devices that connect to your network don't lead to security breaches that could compromise your reputation and customer relationships.

How tech drives better hospitality customer service

The pandemic has hit the hospitality industry arguably harder than nearly any other sector. However, as the industry slowly adapts to a new normal, technology will be key to giving guests a safe and enjoyable experience and increasing their loyalty.

Industry research already demonstrates this: 72% of hotel guests are more likely to return to a property if the technology they wanted was available, according to Hospitality Technology's 2019 Customer Engagement Technology Study. The study also found that hospitality providers are making first-time investments or upgrades in areas like instant messaging, mobile payments, chatbots, customer mobile apps and interactive digital signage, among others.

The hospitality industry is already leaning into technology by embracing a variety of digital capabilities. Today, guests can check in and out of a hotel on their mobile phones without ever having to visit the front desk. With a few taps on a hotel or cruise line's mobile app, they can download a QR code to access their mobile boarding pass, make restaurant reservations, book spa services and access location-based information and services thanks to the integration of beacon technology.

Hotels and cruise lines are also using technology to increase energy efficiency by monitoring and controlling energy usage in unoccupied rooms and adjusting room temperatures to customers' preferences. They're even using task management platforms to automate housekeeping and maintenance schedules and calibrate these workflows to align with occupancy rates and customers' needs.

Hilton, for example, offers its hotel guests a range of self-service tools and has essentially turned guests' smartphones into "a concierge and remote control all-in-one," allowing them to request turn-down and room service and control their room temperature and television directly from their devices. Hilton has also used beacon technology to create mobile travel guides that provide guests with information about different activities and amenities based on their real-time location.

JetBlue has tapped into the power of mobile to facilitate a self-service check-in and bag drop-off experience for passengers. It also offers a personalized dashboard on its mobile app where customers in its loyalty program can get updated information about their travel points and upcoming trips.

Data fuels all of these capabilities, and as mobile technology continues to improve the guest experience hospitality companies offer, your brand will need to become increasingly security-driven to protect all the valuable customer data you collect.

Enhancing security in the hospitality industry

In the last decade, more than a dozen data breaches have occurred in the hotel sector. Point-of-sale intrusions and crimeware (both forms of malware), stolen credentials and exploiting security gaps contribute to the majority of data breaches in the hospitality industry, according to Verizon's 2020 Data Breach Investigations Report.

As your company collects more customer data, you must take several steps to secure your network infrastructure and improve your data management capabilities. Managed software-defined networking solutions can provide a secure, cloud-based environment that allows your company to gain more visibility into and control over all the devices and applications that connect to your network.

These solutions enable you to better manage business-critical network traffic so guests can perform tasks on their mobile devices—whether it's ordering room service or booking a pool cabana—in a timely manner. By working with a managed services provider, your company can offload some of your technology and application management, freeing your IT team to shift their focus from back-end administration to mission-critical tasks that directly impact the guest experience.

Hospitality companies must also continuously improve security around payment card information. At a baseline, your company's efforts should include end-to-end data encryption, next-gen firewalls and advanced intrusion-detection systems to guard against threats like malware. They should also include traffic-filtering and network-monitoring tools for a more proactive defense. At the same time, email phishing schemes remain a constant threat, so your organization must complement these technologies with ongoing security training to build awareness among employees, as stolen credentials can significantly increase the risk of security breaches.

With more rules around data protection, including the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), implementing more robust security is a must for hospitality companies that need to meet rising customer expectations while protecting data privacy. Not focusing on security could jeopardize your company's reputation and consumers' trust in your brand. Even if you deliver a best-in-class guest experience, consumers may overlook your brand if you don't make every effort to keep their data safe.

Discover how Verizon hospitality technology can help you deliver a better guest experience.