Why login when you can InstaConnect?
The best part of my holiday was when I spent an hour on the phone trying to connect to my hotel wifi — said nobody ever.
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 login to make a booking.
A simple example of this is that, unlike most online booking platforms, we don’t even ask customers to login to make a booking.
Being a brand we continue to interact with the customer even after a booking is made, paid for and consumed. This is unlike most aggregators today. This also 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 heavy reliance on technology. We are the first one’s to recognise 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 realised 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 authorise 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 need to ask them to enter an OTP because we already validate their phone number during the checkin 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 authorisation regarding 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 the WiFi network
- The Front Desk Manager (FDM) forgets to give access altogether and has to be reminded constantly by an irritated guest
In each of these scenarios the guest will be required to, once again, reach out to the front desk manager to get access resulting in poor experience.
We decided to solve for this by building a feature called InstaConnect, to ensure that guests can connect seamlessly to WiFi.
Once we decided on the solution, we had two key criteria for our MVP :
- Guests should be able to benefit from this irrespective of where their booking came from — OTA, Treebo.com etc.
- The authorisation process should be simple, intuitive and not require guests to rely on manual intervention from staff or remember/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 (Treebo.com, Treebo app, Online Travel Agents, Corporate, Local Sales) & we have varying levels of information about each guest at the time of booking creation.
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. Only thing needed is to enter the phone number used at the time of check-in for one-time authentication.
- Lastly, we ensured that we communicated this to guests via SMS both right after making a booking and just after they were checked-in
All guests need to do now to connect to wifi is select the Treebo network and enter their phone number.
Adding this element of delight right at the start of a 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 of a guest who has just arrived after a tiring journey.
This is just a first step which impacts a small but crucial part of a guest’s overall experience. Watch this space for a lot more on how technology can be used to solve complex operations problems and transform budget travel experiences at scale.
The rockstars behind this product are Krishna Nellutla, Ankur Jain, Santosh Agsar, Abhishek Nair, Rahul Das, Gaurav Kinra & myself.
A big thank you to Mo & Bonie for contributing to the post.
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