Hotel technology has come a very long way over the past decade and yet it still has a very long way to go in order to catch up with other industries. Companies such as SAP and Infor, in the ERP space, have taken the user experience to the next level by implementing social and mobile aspects to their platforms. This new movement ensures that the platform is truly engaging, the user is more productive, and the educational curve is largely diminished – resulting in cost savings.
When we think about mobility within the hotel and travel industry, our minds immediately gravitate to the hotel room or air travel booking process using a smartphone or possibly a tablet. The term mobility gets washed away with little impact or focus on guest experience.
We, as an industry, have been extremely complacent when it comes to ensuring that our guests feel as if they are genuinely experiencing the best service possible. We position our staff behind huge front desks; have the General Manager’s office in the basement; the housekeepers are only visible in hallways or elevators, and they pass us simply uttering pleasantries. The Food and Beverage Directors office is located near the kitchen, and he or she patrols the public outlets only during peak periods. This is not an ideal environment whereby a hotel can create a long-lasting (aka profitable) relationship with their guests.
Now enters a genuine term of mobility. In some earlier pieces, I have written about the need for hotels to break free from the shackles that bind employees to the limitations of their respective areas, destined to call on others when a guest requires attention outside the scope of the employee’s primary duties. True mobility is the key to enabling your employees to deliver the ultimate in guest service at every touch point. Mobility empowers staff to build relationships with guests beyond the essential meet and greet upon arrival or wave goodbye when guests depart.
Systems and technologies that hotels require to operate their business have, at times, been the malevolent force behind the epidemic of guest experience complacency. If the system requires you to be stuck behind a front desk or use some antiquated phone system to update the status of a room, then, unfortunately, the employee is only doing as best as the system can deliver. Today, almost all of the installed property management systems require a front desk, as is the case with point of sale. The server must run over to a terminal to input an order, housekeeping has to update the status of a room using the phone in the room, and if the guest has a special request when they see the housekeeper, he or she must jot it down in a notebook. This is definitely not the optimal way to run a hotel or exceed service expectations.
The implementation of a “New Way to Hotel” platform is the only means by which hotels can keep pace with the new and ever-changing requirements of today’s travelers. Employees must be mobile to connect with the guest face to face in order to create a relationship. Loyalty programs may influence the guest stay at a particular hotel brand because they want free nights or added perks, but does this mean they are loyal to the hotel chain? No, they are likely loyal to free nights. The key is building relationships with the guests on a personal level.
Technology has evolved to the point where it has the capability to deliver any type of data to any type of device at any given moment. We no longer require immense systems that try their best to keep us in one place. Innovation now enables us to run an entire system (or many systems) using wireless tablets as the main hardware interface. We have IP interfaces available to a myriad of older systems that can provide data to the tablets, ensurig that guest needs are managed effectively.
Imagine the scenario where front desk agents walk guests to their room and engage in a thoughtful rapport with them, while gathering critical information for the guest profile. Imagine housekeeping staff, using the exact same tablet, being able to place an order or notify another department about a guest request they receive. There are hotel systems available today that can facilitate this level of exemplary service, and they are redefining what guest service should truly be.
The latest “Cloud-based” and “Software as a Service” hospitality solutions are changing the game and helping the hotel industry reimagine the future. By leveraging SaaS property management systems that use tablets and smartphones as the primary hardware device, employees are empowered to go above and beyond when providing the personalized attention that keeps guests coming back. Hoteliers that are bold enough to embrace new mobile platforms will be the big winners in the coming years. The hotel technology is available, so how will you use mobility to improve the guest journey?
About the Author:
Jos Schaap, CEO – Founder of StayNTouch
Jos has a 20+ year track record in hotel software technology. He began StayNTouch with the vision of re-inventing the hotel PMS technology; making it simple, mobile and transitioning the software to the cloud. Prior to StayNTouch, Jos spent 17 years at MICROS Systems Inc. (Now Oracle Hospitality), as a Senior Vice President in charge of global product development and strategy for the Lodging and eCommerce divisions. During his tenure, MICROS’ hospitality products became the global market leader growing the company’s revenues from less than $300 million to $1.1 billion. Jos was responsible for introducing a number of new products enabling MICROS to enter all hospitality segments from limited to full-service hotels. Connect with Jos on linkedin.com/in/josschaap.