Wyndham CIO on how mobile tipping can boost guest, employee satisfaction
Hotel guests and workers alike emerged from the pandemic with less cash in hand, and industry players — like Wyndham — have taken note.
Throughout the pandemic, which brought on a rise in contactless payments, hotel guests were carrying fewer bills and looking for a new way to tip. Hotel workers needed a solution for tipping, too, because potentially lower cash tips meant lower total pay — already a concern for many.
In early 2022, Wyndham franchisees expressed this concern to the company’s technology advisory board. It listened, and so began the process of providing their hotels with a frictionless mobile tipping solution that would cater to both workers and guests.
In September 2022, the hotel company announced a partnership with Béné to provide a new portfolio-wide cashless tipping solution for its U.S. and Canadian franchisees.
For hotels that opt in to the mobile tipping platform, Béné provides personalized materials — think business cards and an in-room desk sign — for each employee. This signage includes a personalized QR code, which once scanned shows a picture of the worker. Guests can scan the code, no app download needed, during their stay and choose how much to tip their housekeeper or other hotel employee. The platform accepts multiple forms of payment, including credit card, Apple Pay and Google Pay.
The amount tipped by a guest can be deposited directly into a worker's bank account, into the property's account to be distributed with regular payroll or loaded onto a debit card.
Approximately 400 Wyndham hotels across the U.S. and Canada are currently utilizing the Béné platform, and there are another 400 in the pipeline, according to Wyndham CIO Scott Strickland.
The hotel company plans to expand its partnership with Béné, integrating the platform into its property management system to allow guests to add tips directly to their room charge.
Strickland told Hotel Dive that Wyndham is also exploring inserting mobile tipping at guest checkout with an enterprise solution by Canary Technologies. Strickland declined to provide additional information on the partnership, as it’s in its initial stages. Currently, Canary Technologies provides a variety of digital solutions for tipping, check-in and checkout and guest messaging to more than 20,000 hoteliers.
According to Strickland, Wyndham hopes that adopting digital tipping solutions will help it retain hotel workers at a time when the industry faces a major shortage — as well as increase guest satisfaction with personalized, frictionless technology.
The labor impact
The pandemic forced hospitality employees out of work, and many who left did not return, Strickland said. In June, an AHLA survey found that 82% of hotels in the U.S. still report staffing shortages, despite 75% of hoteliers increasing wages to try to attract and retain talent.
Meanwhile, the fight for fairer wages and improved on-the-job conditions persists, as evidenced by ongoing hotel union worker strikes in Southern California.
Tips are a significant portion of hotel workers’ compensation, but unlike other industries, the hospitality space has experienced a decrease in tipping following the pandemic, Canary Technologies Head of Growth Marketing Bryan Michalis told Hotel Dive.
“Making [hotel workers’] compensation more competitive with other industries will absolutely help retention and decreasing turnover,” Michalis said. “Our recent survey found that nearly 80% of hotel employees said they'd be more likely to stay with their current employer if digital tipping was offered.”
According to Strickland, at hotels with Béné, a housekeeper’s income will increase by about $4 to $5 per hour. “So that helps a lot with the [wage] gap,” he said.
Wyndham properties that have adopted the Béné platform have experienced a 14% average monthly increase in frequency of tips per property and a 45% monthly increase in average amount of tips per employee, according to data provided by the mobile tipping platform.
Similarly, Canary Technologies’ 2023 State of Tipping in Hotels survey found that 70% of hotel guests would tip more if a digital tipping solution was available, and nearly 40% would prefer to digitally tip staff.
On average, the survey found, 19% of Americans tip between $6 and $10, while 25% tip $16 to $20 and 13% tip between $21 and $30.
While the average mobile tip is $9.20, Strickland said, Wyndham hotels have seen mobile tips total upward of $100 through the Béné platform — something Strickland doesn’t believe would have been granted via cash.
Personalization is key
Compared to other solutions, the Béné digital tipping platform personalizes the connection between guests and housekeepers, even though they rarely meet face-to-face, according to a company statement obtained by Hotel Dive. Béné’s material displays the name of the housekeeper who prepared the room, and when the guest scans the tipping card, the guest is presented with a photo of the housekeeper.
In general, displaying a tipping card increases the amount of the tip by 70%, and by personalizing the collateral with the name of the housekeeper, the likelihood of a tip increases by 46%, according to Béné, citing a 2019 study by the International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management.
Guests have responded positively to the technology at Wyndham properties, and hotels have seen increased tipping as a direct result of Béné’s personalized signage, Strickland said. “We found that if there is a picture [on the signage], people are actually more likely to tip because it feels more personal.”
The process “makes you smile,” he added. “There’s very little friction [...] and ultimately, it improves the guests’ experience and makes them feel good about staying in our hotels.”