• Integrations
  • Book a demo

Online Check-in For Hotels: It’s Easier Than You Think

By December 16, 2021October 31st, 2022hotels
Online Check-in For Hotels: It’s Easier Than You Think

Technology: great when it works, an absolute pain in the butt when it doesn’t. So we get it if you’re worried that online check-in will make things more complicated for your hotel, not less.

You may worry you won’t have time or expertise to install and operate it properly, that it’ll be too complex or won't work as planned, or that staff won’t have the time to learn the new processes. 

Maybe you’ve had bad experiences with hotel automation before, and fear you won’t have anyone to ask for help when you need it. Perhaps you’re afraid that the whole thing will just cost too much.

We know hotel check-in automation can sound intimidating, with lots of moving parts—especially if you’re not tech-savvy—and it’s easy to think it will just complicate everything.

But actually, the opposite is true.

This is just as well because online check-in is becoming a real ‘must-have’ for the ultimate hotel guest experience.

Our research showed that 82.4% of hospitality industry professionals see installing “keyless technology” as a major priority over the next two years, while 96.4% of respondents said that their guests appreciate, expect, or even demand automated, keyless check-in as part of their stay. 

And forward-thinking hotels, like Toronto’s The Annex and The Wyman in Colorado, are using hotel automation to great customer satisfaction, without compromising on charm or comfort.

To help you join them, we’ve laid out the process step-by-step below, to help you make the switch to hotel automation and online check-in as easy and streamlined as possible.

Is it time for your hotel to provide online check-in?

Operto integrates with your PMS to provide guest access, check-in, and verification. 

What does online check-in for hotels really mean?

In its simplest form, the clue is in the name—online check-in enables contactless check-in for hotels, without having to visit a physical front desk in person, or use a physical room key. 

This means that they can use their own mobile device as a digital key, or use a mobile app or dashboard to check-in on their arrival day, and gain access to their room via a keycode or mobile check-in, without having to wait around or meet someone. 

There are no front desks, no waiting for staff, no stresses in case of delays, and no physical keys or keycards that can get lost, stolen, or stop working.

Oftentimes, this can be done easily with the help of a hotel management software.

01_Digital Front Desk Online check in

Advantages of online check-in also include: 

For the guest

  • Arrival, check-in, and access information sent in advance for peace of mind. 

  • Easy access and self check-in on guest’s arrival, no waiting in line or needless in-person interaction.

  • Great first impression, better guest satisfaction.

  • No stress in case of travel delays.

  • Check-in at any time.

  • Better security as only those with current keycode can enter.

  • No risk of keycard or key no longer working or getting lost.

  • Easier in-app messaging with hosts, hotel management, or room service.

  • Easy, on-demand check-out time.

For the hotelier or manager

  • Guests have peace of mind and feel taken care of even before they arrive.

  • Great first impression for guests, leading to happier guests and better reviews.

  • Access can be granted or revoked remotely, for easier offsite management.

  • No stress in case of guest travel delays.

  • Staff are freed from hotel lobbies and reception desks, swiping cards and handing out keys from behind the desk, and can be more useful elsewhere, such as giving guests a better, more personalized stay.

  • Lean operation that works brilliantly with reduced staff per unit.

  • Enhanced security; keys can’t be copied, lost, or stolen; and keycodes change automatically with each new guest.

  • See at a glance who is in what room and which locks are locked or open.

  • Coordinate cleaners and maintenance by giving them their own codes.

  • Revenue is boosted as online systems mean you can offer upsells such as extended stays.

  • As much as 30% energy is saved per year, as digital technology enables you to turn down the heat or lights when the room is not in use, saving costs and resources (a major plus for eco-friendly hotels).

What you need to consider when taking your hotel check-in online

Of course, setting up online check-in isn’t as simple as taking keys away. There are some things you’ll need to consider, and some investment to make upfront. 

However, it’s easier than you think, and once it’s done, the system will make your check-in and hotel operations (and more!) smoother and easier for years to come. 

Choosing a dedicated platform such as Operto, which is designed to simplify digital hotel automation—including online check-in and more—means you’ll get personalized support the whole way, from installation to optimum operations long-term.

Follow our 6-step plan to get started today.

1. You’ll need to get smart locks

02_Nuki Smart Lock Access

A great smart lock system is the first step in setting up online check-in

Smart locks are the starting point for any online check-in system, as they allow guests to enter using a keycode sent in advance, or at the very least, by using their mobile phone as a digital key.

Smart locks are one of the biggest hurdles to setting up the system, but choosing a platform such as Operto means you can get advice on the best locks to choose and how to install them.

Keypad locks are arguably the best kind, as they don’t rely on smartphones or fobs. And, when connected to a system such as Operto and your hotel PMS, they can boost security by automatically changing keycodes with each new guest, and simplify room turnarounds by giving separate codes to cleaners too.

Many can also be retrofitted onto your existing hotel door locks, limiting installation costs. 

Some of the most popular smart locks include: 

  • Yale - A global range of reliable models for all access needs, with keypads and a variety of styles.

  • August - A sleek simple smart lock that pairs with a smart keypad.

  • Nuki - A chunky-yet-stylish lock with banking-level encryption that can be easily retrofitted.

  • Schlage - A range of classic smart locks in a vintage style from the globally recognized brand.  

  • Igloohome - A solid deadbolt with a modern keypad that can work offline and remotely using AlgoPIN technology.

All of the locks above integrate with Operto, so you can get set up right away.

2. You’ll need to train your team and take baby steps

03_Front desk staff

Transitioning away from a front desk won’t be an overnight process

Setting up online check-in will require your team to learn the new system and adjust, but the learning curve is less severe than you might think.

First, you’ll want to sort out access, by installing a smart lock system you’re happy with, and that works successfully when it comes to contacting and checking-in guests

Then, you’ll want to decide whether you want to do away with the front desk completely, or go for a reduced or hybrid model. Only once access is working well can you then start to dissolve the front desk. It won’t happen overnight, and that’s normal.

We recommend you consider asking experts for help, to ensure you go straight to an effective, modern set-up, and work with a team that can help you every step of the way. 

We also recommend appointing a “digital champion” internally and externally, whose main role is to help transition your team to the new system. With outside help—such as Operto’s support team, who work with clients as partners—you don’t have to be an overnight expert in digital systems. 

You and your team can learn as you go.

Plus, using a system such as Operto, which brings all of your tools under one dashboard, makes it easier and less complicated to manage. It reduces tech fatigue, constant switching between platforms, and endless tool overwhelm.

Choosing a platform that prioritizes excellent support is paramount because setting up your online check-in solution isn’t just about picking the cheapest smart lock, installing it on your door, and hoping for the best. 

It’s also about ensuring that the smart lock works in the long term and connects to the rest of your digital platform. You need to be confident the system will continue to work for you as your business grows and scales.

3. Choose software that integrates with your PMS

04_Hostfully Management Platform screenshot

Choosing software that integrates with your PMS, such as Hostfully Property Management Platform here, adds even better functionality | Credit: Hostfully.com

Because online check-in isn’t just about the smart lock hardware, the software that you choose to operate the system is also crucial. 

Software that integrates with your PMS, such as Operto, can take over where many PMSs leave off. 

Integrated software means you can collect guest data, automate emails, communicate directly with guests, empower guests with in-room smart devices such as lighting and thermostats, and even offer great upsells.

For example, Operto integrates with top brands, including:

  • Mews - The classic PMS giant that powers everything from booking to check-out and beyond.

  • WebRezPro - The all-in-one cloud management system designed for all kinds of hospitality business models.

  • Hostfully - The property management system for growing vacation rentals.

  • Cloudbeds - The award-winning platform for hotels and STRs.

4. Choose software that helps you verify guests and take payment

05_Autohost guest screening screenshot

Tools such as Autohost integrate with Operto for intelligent guest screening and moreTools such as Autohost integrate with Operto for intelligent guest screening and more | Credit: Autohost.ai

A PMS is only the start. You’ll also need software that picks up where the PMS leaves off and provides added security details such as verifying ID, checking backgrounds, and working against payment fraud.

Operto not only enables smart device functionality and online check-in but also heightens security by integrating with platforms that prioritize security. 

By integrating with a range of specialized partners, Operto enables hosts to perform guest screening, ID verification, and background checks, as well as set up specially-designed short-term rental insurance, and run algorithms that protect against fraud.

Most digital property management systems will also act as booking engines and enable you to securely take and process payments for initial reservations, as well as extras and upsells.

5. Free your front desk staff to be more useful elsewhere

06_hotel staff freed from behind front desk

Freeing up staff from behind the front desk means they can be more helpful elsewhere

Automating check-in by taking it online means you no longer need staff behind your front desk doing menial, repetitive tasks such as waiting for guests, swiping credit cards, verifying IDs, handing over physical keys, or answering the same questions over and over.

But that doesn’t mean you have to get rid of your front desk staff completely if you don’t want to.

In fact, online check-in means you can free staff from behind the desk, so they have more time to be more helpful, more efficient, move around the hotel more easily and usefully, and have the capacity to offer a more personalized, dynamic service to guests.

This means they can help with in-person tasks such as storing luggage, managing communal spaces—such as bars, coffee shops, or even communal events—and offering personalized recommendations and local advice to guests, to give them a better, friendlier stay.

6. Showcase online check-in throughout your marketing

07_Marketing benefits boosted

Boost your marketing by showcasing the advantages of online check-in

With so many advantages, online check-in can be a great feature to mention in your marketing, and help guests see your commitment to their enjoyment and experience. 

Making the advantages of online check-in clear in your marketing—whether on your website, social media, or even your OTA listing—will show guests how seamless and easy staying with you can be.

Guests will appreciate this and book with you rather than risk the hassle and confusion of stressful traditional check-in arrangements (after all, no one wants to find themselves unable to get into their hotel room after a long, tiring journey).

Taking check-in online is ultimately worth it for hotels

Overall, online check-in may seem complicated, but with a bit of planning and a realistic approach to installation, it’s easier than you think to get started.

From added peace of mind for the guest and your staff, remote access, heightened security, less risk, less stress, and happier guests, the advantages are undeniable.

Yes, you’ll need to install smart locks, train your staff, and choose some software, but the advantages in terms of operating with a lean, dynamic staff and marketing your property as modern and guest-centric will more than pay off.

What’s more, connecting reliable, robust hardware with a powerful PMS and an all-in-one software like Operto enables even greater functionality. This means better guest communication and services, with continued support that makes the process even easier than you ever thought possible.

Is it time for your hotel to provide online check-in?

Operto integrates with your PMS to provide guest access, check-in, and verification.