Mobile Key—The Pros and Cons of the Growing Hotel Tech Trend

...And How to Handle the Cons Like a Pro!

Although the functionality goes by a few different names—Mobile Key, Keyless Entry, Digital Key—hotels around the globe are taking hold of this growing trend. In short, mobile key functionality allows the guest to access their room (and other areas of the hotel that normally require a magnetized plastic key card) with their mobile device. All the guest has to do is open the hotel’s mobile app and push unlock on their phone screen once they are within a few feet of the door.

How Does It Work?

Mobile key relies on a Bluetooth signal that is sent between the guest room door and the guest’s smartphone. Once the guest is within range of a mobile key-equipped lock, they simply unlock their door. The functionality requires the guest to download the hotel’s mobile app and request mobile key access by opting in through the app.

Pros of Mobile Key

On the guest side, mobile key is a major time-saver as the guest can check-in digitally and bypass the often long front desk lines. Even wait times of more than five minutes at the front desk can significantly diminish the overall guest experience. It also gives guests more “control” over their hotel experience which can be beneficial as freedom and flexibility continue to be a driver of positive guest experiences.

Individual hotels to larger hospitality brands are also seeing a number of positive benefits after implementing keyless entry. Benefits include increased guest satisfaction because of the innate convenience guests receive by being able to go straight to their room, to increased direct bookings and re-bookings because more guests operate out of the hotel brand’s app. With the rise of third party booking websites, major hotel brands are exploring numerous ways to foster direct bookings—mobile key being one tactic.

Cons of Mobile Key

Although mobile key can save money by reducing the number of magnetized plastic keys, it ultimately has a high startup cost for properties by having to replace all of the door locks to make them both mobile key and key card accessible. In addition, only one mobile key is given per hotel room which means the rest of the guests will have to check-in the “old-fashioned way” and go down to the front desk to retrieve plastic key cards.

Most importantly, keyless entry eliminates many opportunities for hotel staff to interact with guests during their stay, ultimately removing the human touch that is crucial to a great hospitality experience. With more and more guests bypassing the front desk, they have less communication with the hotel staff; therefore, staff cannot capture guest feedback or questions as easily, often leading to decreased guest satisfaction scores or seeing negative feedback posted on online review sites like TripAdvisor. Many, if not most, of these reviews could have been prevented if the hotel staff were aware of the situation while the guest was onsite and provided the necessary service recovery.

...And How to Handle the Cons Like a Pro!

One of the ways many hotels with mobile key overcome the decrease in staff-to-guest communication is by implementing guest messaging. Guest messaging still gives guests the opportunity to make requests and give feedback in real-time via messaging directly within their hotel brand’s mobile app, via SMS text messaging, and more, while still bypassing the front desk using digital check-in. Digital messaging has a knack for intercepting and capturing those negative reviews that would have otherwise gone unreported during the guest stay. Many hotels receive the best of both worlds by pairing mobile key with guest messaging platforms, like Kipsu, in order for guests to still feel the freedom and flexibility keyless entry brings, while still delivering the human-to-human hospitality via digital messaging.

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