Embodied “customer-first” mentality by utilizing the congestion data to operate the inn (Futari no Yuyado Yubana Mankai)
Futari no Yuyado Yubana Mankai has 6 private-use hot springs that do not require reservation. Since they installed VACAN, the real-time occupancy information of those hot springs can be viewed from the guests’ smartphones. We interviewed them to ask how things have changes since they started using VACAN.
Service Installed: VACAN for Hotels
Area Installed: Private-use hot springs
Interviewed: Mr. Ishijima and Mr. Shima from Futari no Yuyado Yubanamankai
ーI heard Futari no Yuyado Yubana Mankai is famous for their hot springs.
We have six private use hot springs, and we want to make sure the guests can use them whenever they want. We want the guests to enjoy their stay without many restrictions, so we have never used a reservation system.
ーIn what way are you using VACAN?
The real-time availability information of the 6 private-use hot springs can be viewed from smartphones, so guests can view the information from their room. We’ve received feedback that it’s easier for guests can go to the bath when they want.
ーHow did you find out about VACAN?
At first we were able to operate without taking large-scale measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 because we do not accept large groups to begin with and do not have buffets or public baths. However things changed around March~April (2020) when there was a request from the government to temporarily close our inn.
We started to think that we need to take measures to prevent our guests from coming in contact with each other as much as possible. “Avoiding crowds” has become a hot topic everywhere, so we felt that we need to take action as well.
We want to provide a safe environment for our guests but at the same time, we don’t want to make them feel uncomfortable by having too many restrictions. We weren’t sure how we should balance taking measures and having the guests enjoy their stay safely.
We had to come up with ways to prevent crowds, but this is something we never thought of before, so we started doing research online. That’s how we found out about VACAN. We thought using sensors to visualize the level of congestion and allowing guests to view that information from their rooms was an interesting idea, so we contacted them.
ーWere you considering installing VACAN from the beginning?
We were interested but when we sent the inquiry, we were still at the “Let’s just listen to the explanation” stage.
All of our hot springs are private-use hot springs. We heard that Furuya Ryokan in Atami coincidentally installed it in their public bath around the same time, and since Mr. Uchida always supported us, we asked them about VACAN’s system. Their feedback was good, but unlike Furuya Ryokan, where they count how many people are inside, in our case, we just need to know if it’s occupied or not. So at this stage, we weren’t sure if VACAN’s function met our needs.
ーWhich is why you chose the method that detects whether the door is open or closed.
Honestly, at first we were worried that VACAN’s technology was too much for us. When we told that to the person in charge, he said we can use the sensors that detects when the door opens or closes which is used to detect the vacancy information of restroom stalls. We were relieved that there are various ways to detect the level of congestion that matches different situations.
They performed and on-site filed inspection right away, and showed us what we need and the UI. We were sure this would help us so we decided to use VACAN.
ーWhat made you decide to install VACAN?
The first reason is how everything was handled. After we sent the inquiry, it only took a few weeks for them to come up with a very detailed plan. The on-site field inspection and installation was also quick and there weren’t too many things we had to do. The flexibility I talked about early is also one of the reason.
The second reason is that we were sure this would lead to in increase in customer satisfaction rate. Up until then, the hot springs were our inn’s selling point, but the guests can only tell if it’s available or not by going there and checking that it’s not locked. So we received some feedback that it’s a bit inconvenient.
However, if guests can check the availability from their rooms, it will solve this problem. Also, with the ongoing pandemic, it’s important for guests to avoid coming in contact with each other as much as possible so we thought this can help with that as well.
The changes we faced because of COVID-19 was only the last push. Overall, by installing VACAN, we can increase the customer satisfaction rate without much burden. If so, we couldn’t find a reason to not install it.
ーSo COVID-19 was only the initial motive?
The pandemic was what made us reconsider our operation, but regardless, we always want our guests to feel at ease when they’re staying here. For that, we needed to solve the problem where guests don’t know if the hot spring is available until they go there, which is why we decided to use this service.
We feel like this is a good investment if we can increase the customer satisfaction by solving this problem we’ve had for a long time.
ーWhat are something you were worried about when you decided to install VACAN?
The thing we were worried about most was “would guests of any age use it?”. This is a very simple system where anyone can view the availability information if they scan the QR code. However, we were worried about some guests not being able to scan it or if it would be a hassle.
However when we actually started using it, the guests had no problems using it. There are a lot of people who are used to using QR codes because they use it to add friends on LINE or use it for QR code payments. It was also used for coupons for Go To Travel Campaign so guest of all ages know how to use QR codes, so it was unexpected but we were happy about it.
Also each guest views it about 4~5 times a day, so we know that it’s helpful. As a result, the number of positive reviews on hotel booking sites are increasing, bringing positive results in the marketing and branding perspectives.
Are you doing anything special to have the guests use this system?
When the guest checks in, we give them a handout explaining how to use it and have them scan the QR code as a test. If we only leave a note in the rooms, they may not notice it or may not know how to use it.
If we explain it using the handout, it’s not too much for us and we can explain how to scan the QR code to them. There are a lot of guests who are happy to hear about such a high tech system.
We also promoted this system on social media to let more guests know about it.
Did you face any problems when you started using it?
Some IT services are complicated, but this service was easy to use, so we didn’t face any big problems. Before we shared it with all the guest, we had some regular guest try it out so it we were able to explain it a lot smoother.
Is there anything new you would like to try after the installation?
We want to utilize the congestion data. We now know when then hot springs are being used, and as a result we found out that 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. is the most popular time. Before, we thought the hot springs wouldn’t be used much before breakfast, but this was not true.
Since we can view this information, we can adjust the time we clean the bath tubs and change the waters, and prepare the hot spring so the guests can enjoy using it from the morning. We can also use the data to arrange shifts and decide how many people need to be there.
We also know which hot spring is the most popular, and can remodel the interior, and check the impact of those changes. By obtaining the congestion information, we can utilize the data to improve our operation. From now on, we want to use the data to create an even better environment for our guests.