One of the key values at Treebo is to be unreasonably customer obsessed. This means we look at each interaction a potential customer has with us and aim to make it as frictionless and delightful as possible. A simple example of this is that, unlike most online booking platforms, we don’t even ask customers to log in to make a booking.
Being a budget hotel chain, unlike aggregators, we continue to interact with the customer even after they make a booking and actually end up at the hotel. This means we need to optimise every part of the interaction right from when a guest starts searching for a hotel until they check out of the hotel.
Trying to solve these problems in the budget segment at scale means that technology plays a key role in operationalizing these solutions. We are the first ones to recognize that technology hasn’t yet percolated into the hotel segment and there’s a long way to go here. As one of the early starters, we want to build solutions that can be implemented at scale and start delighting our guests right away.
After talking to customers, hotel staff and mining through a lot of feedback data we realized that WiFi is one of the most important things our guests care about. This seems fairly intuitive, especially in the budget travel segment.
We can break this problem down into two key parts:
- How good is the wifi at the property – speed and availability
- How easy is it for the guest to connect to the wifi
We tackled the first part of the problem through on-ground solutions at the properties. Ensuring we optimise network topology, scale up capacity based on usage and potential needs of each property and a bunch of other things. We reached a point where our pilot 50 properties had zero downtime high-speed wifi.
Now for the second part of the problem, we wanted to ensure that guests can connect to wifi with minimal effort. Before we dive into how we solved this, let’s take a step back and understand why this is such a big deal because on the face of it connecting to a public wifi doesn’t seem like that much of a hassle – take airports for example:
- You search for an open network
- Enter your details on a landing page
- Request an OTP
- Once you authorize yourself, you get 45 mins of internet access
The process takes about 3 – 5 mins to complete and while it isn’t the most intuitive experience, it isn’t overly cumbersome either.
The challenge, however, is a bit different for guests who are about to check-in to a hotel.
Purely from a process point of view:
- We need to ensure that each guest has access for the entire duration of their stay
- We don’t want to ask them to enter an OTP because we already validate their phone number during the check-in process
An easy option is to rely on the front desk manager to grant access while checking in a guest. However, this is undesirable because it adds more time and complexity to the check-in process. This will inevitably result in one of the following situations:
- There are errors in authorization around the duration for which the guest is given access, e.g. for a 4 day stay a guest is given access for only 2 days
- The phone number that gets access is incorrect and the guest is unable to access wifi
- The Front Desk Manager (FDM) forgets to give access altogether
In each of these scenarios, the guest will be required to once again reach out to the FDM to get access resulting in a poor experience.
We decided to solve for this by building a feature called InstaConnect, to ensure that guests can connect seamlessly to Wi-Fi.
Once we decided on the solution, we had two key criteria for our MVP:
- All guests should be able to benefit from this irrespective of which channel they booked from.
- The authorization process should be easy, intuitive and not require guests to remember or note down a password of any kind, and not even enter their booking ID.
The conventional approach of auto-connect linked to an app or a device did not seem viable given not everyone books via the app or has it open at the time of checking in.
The challenge here was to figure out the correct MVP given that we get bookings from several different demand channels (direct, OTA, corp, walk-in) & we have varying levels of information about each guest
Here’s how we went about taking our first crack at a solution:
- To make this work for all our guests, we linked access to the phone number at the time booking AND at the time of check-in
- This ensures that even guests who don’t provide their phone number at the time of booking or book for someone else, still enjoy InstaConnect
- Next, to ease the authorization process, we simply set their password as their phone number
- Lastly, we ensured that we communicated this to guests via SMS both right after making a booking and just after they were checked-in.
This was for first-time guests. For repeat guests using the same device – they will be automatically connected to the hotel wifi on the once they walk into a property.
So what changes for guests because of this?
- They are aware that WiFi is available at their hotel
- They also know in advance that their phone number is the password
In some cases, this means they can access wifi the instant they reach the hotel even before checking in or talking to the FDM. In all other cases it means that as soon as they are checked in, they know how to access WiFi.
Adding this element of delight right at the start of their stay is a huge value addition because at this point of time the only thing standing between them and their room is the check-in process and anything we do reduce even a few minutes here adds exponential delight to the overall stay.
This article was originally published on the Treebo Tech Blog.