How HotelBuddy Powers a Contactless Guest Experience
Stream Maker Account user HotelBuddy is revolutionizing the hotel industry with software that enables a contactless guest experience.
Nearly every part of the travel industry has been transformed by mobile technology. Airline passengers arrive at their gate with tickets already on their phones. Taxis are summoned using ride-sharing apps such as Lyft or Uber, where passengers message their driver directly. Scannable QR codes provide access to museums, art exhibits, sporting events, and concerts.
However, there’s one vital part of the travel industry that has been slow to adopt new tech: hotels. Whether it be a large multinational hotel chain or a mom-and-pop inn, accommodation providers lag behind nearly all other travel sectors. Guests must still interact directly with hotel staff to check-in, receive a key, pay for a room, order room service, and even check out.
Seasoned hoteliers Hannes Mulla and Kadi Saadlo are changing the stale experience of staying in a hotel through an intuitive new technology, HotelBuddy. Unlike traditional property management software, which typically only tracks reservations, payments, and room availability, the Estonian-based HotelBuddy is revolutionizing the hotel industry by providing guests an entirely contactless experience.
Integrally, HotelBuddy empowers hotels to maintain — and even improve — superior customer service via in-app chat powered by the Stream Chat API. We sat down with Saadlo to learn more about the value that HotelBuddy offers accommodation providers, and why in-app messaging is key to improving customer service.
Stream: What is the founding story of HotelBuddy?
Kadi Saadlo: I managed hotels for 12 years, and Hannes has been running his own IT company for around 15 years, with a focus on the hospitality industry. We were both seeing the same problem but from different perspectives: While it’s common for travelers to book hotels online, once they arrive at the hotel they still need to wait in a line to see a receptionist, fill out paper forms to document information, and receive a key to their room.
HotelBuddy is digitizing this process. A guest can visit a hotel just using their cell phone. We are currently working with mid-sized hotels with 50+ rooms and independent hotels. We see the opportunity to work with large hotel chains in the future, as well.
Why is it important for HotelBuddy to support in-app chat?
We believe that guest communication is a crucial part of a positive guest journey. Live chat messaging has become the norm on how people prefer to communicate. In-app chat was an essential part of our technology from the beginning.
How does HotelBuddy use the Stream Chat API?
We use Stream for different use cases. There is a user interface for the guest to interact with hotel staff before and during their stay. Hotel staff can also communicate with the guest, or even with other members of the staff, using this same functionality.
The idea is to pioneer more efficient communication methods — most guests would rather text a room service order, or ask for more towels, rather than pick up a phone and call the front desk.
What led you to integrate chat from Stream versus building messaging functionality in-house?
We learned about Stream from one of our developers! Before we added chat to HotelBuddy, we were trying to decide if we should build it ourselves or integrate chat using an external company. After some market research, we realized that the Stream API was well-suited for our needs. We decided to try Stream, and so far the feedback has been really good.
Our developers even made a list of pros and cons to help us make the chat buy vs. build decision. As you know, there’s a lot of complexity in building chat functionality. We felt it would make more sense to stick to what we are good at building, which is our hotel technology.
How has the integration process been so far?
So far the integration of Stream Chat has been quite seamless, and Stream’s customer support has been really helpful.
What’s your vision for HotelBuddy, and the hotel industry in general?
One thing is for certain: Hotels will continue to digitize their technology. The pandemic made it abundantly clear to hoteliers that contactless service is an important part of the modern hotel industry. We believe that our technology can help push the industry forward.
So far, we’ve been focused on providing solutions to hoteliers in our home market, which are the Baltic states. We’re in the early launch phase, and we’re testing our product in two hotels in Estonia. We’ll soon sign contracts with hotels in Scandinavia. From 2022 on, there will be increasingly more hotels joining HotelBuddy.
We plan to continue to use the chat functionality for the long term to offer improved customer service. (In fact, the newest hotels don’t even have phones in their rooms.) It is now expected that hotels have some sort of chat functionality, and this is what travelers want.