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Hilton Makes Check-In Easier

The hotelier is adding wireless kiosks to another 45 hotels and adding check-in capabilities to its Web site.
Hilton Hotels Corp. is preparing to triple the number of ways guests can check in. The 2,200 hotel-chain has been testing check-in kiosks since December at its marquee hotels in New York and Chicago, and the returns are in: They're a hit. Thanks to better-than-expected adoption, the company will, by year's end, deploy kiosks at 45 of its hotels, allowing guests to get a room key without a visit to the front desk upon arrival. Likewise, also by year's end, the company will start letting guests check in on its Hilton.com Web site up to 36 hours before arrival.

Delivering check-in capabilities via kiosks and the Web was a logical follow-up to the completion last year of the company's $50 million OnQ customer-information environment, Hilton CIO Tim Harvey says. The transactional information flow required to tie hotel front desks with the check-in process in OnQ is being replicated for the Kiosk and Web channels. "Whether it's done manually by a person, online, or via kiosk, a check-in is a check-in is a check-in," Harvey says. "You just reuse the check-in logic."

Guests approaching the wireless kiosks slide their credit card or Hilton Honors loyalty card into the machine. The kiosk accesses reservation information by issuing a Web-services call to OnQ, then gives guests the option of changing their credit-card numbers and other personal information, after which the machine dispenses one or more room-key cards. The 45 hotels will get an average of three kiosks, and a full-time attendant will be assigned to provide any assistance guests need in using them.

It was hoped the kiosks would be used by 5% of guests arriving at the New York and Chicago properties, but in the six months they've been in operation, 15% of guests have put them to use, Harvey says. With such success under its belt, Hilton will up the ante by introducing two additional kiosk capabilities in relatively short order: VIP guests will have the ability to upgrade their room types by year's end; and sometime in 2005, the kiosks will be able to print airline boarding passes for guests who offer their frequent flier account information.

Meanwhile, the Web check-in tool will let guests print documents with bar codes that can then be read by the kiosks or can be handed to front desk agents to speed the check-in process at properties that aren't equipped with kiosks. Chuck Scoggins, senior director of Hilton.com, says integration challenges made the new check-in options unfeasible prior to the OnQ deployment. "Imagine trying to do something like this with multiple property-management systems. Impossible."

The move toward more flexibility in its interaction with customers reflects the evolving way in which guests are booking hotel rooms with Hilton. Some 13% of guests now book Hilton rooms online, and that channel is growing by 45% annually, says Dar Yasseri, director of CRM operations.

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