All posts by Freowini Golla

3 Things StayNTouch Is Thankful for This Thanksgiving

In this season of thanks, there are so many things to be thankful about – great families, fortunate events, caring friends, amazing communities, and all the gifts of life we’re all lucky to have. At StayNTouch, we’re especially thankful for all the wonderful friends, co-workers, customers, clients, and readers like you! And for the day that is in it, we would like to share with you a little note to all those who we are grateful for here at StayNTouch.

Awesome customers! In this time of gratitude, we are especially grateful for our valued customers. Thank you for recognizing our innovative approach, for putting faith in our company, and making our success happen. We appreciate your confidence in us. We are especially thankful to our clients who constantly motivate and challenge us to continually meet and exceed expectations. We are grateful for the pleasure of serving you and meeting your business needs.

A Brilliant Team: To our employees, we are lucky to be in the company of dedicated and talented individuals who each bring with them their unique skills and experience. Our brilliant group of employees consistently provide exceptional service and deliver outstanding results. Without their commitment, creativity, and high standards, we would not be the thriving company we are. We are thankful to be surrounded by such a unique group of employees here at the StayNTouch family.

Shiji Group: Something which we are especially grateful for is, earlier this year, Shiji Group, a leader in global hotel technology acquired StayNTouch. We are grateful that we found a company that shares a mutual trust and desire to change the hospitality technology landscape and elevate the standard of service with a global sales and support infrastructure. We want to thank you for welcoming us into the Shiji Group family and being a trusted, collaborative partner. 

While 2018 isn’t quite over yet, here’s to another year of giving thanks for all our blessings. From all of us at StayNTouch, we wish everyone a safe and joyful Thanksgiving holiday!

Insufficient Customer Support: Why Do Hotels Put Up With It?

Technology is a vital part of any hotel. The Property Management System (PMS) is at the heart of hotel operations helping with efficiency and guest experience. Hotels rely on their PMS for managing their operations, their marketing and every stage of the guest journey—from planning to check-in, during the stay, at check out, and after the visit. It is an indispensable hotel tool.

However, a recent Hospitality Technology Study found that overwhelmingly, 55.2% of hoteliers were not satisfied with their current PMS provider – and according to another new global hotel PMS study, The Future of Hotel Management Systems, insufficient support from vendors topped the list of concerns expressed by hoteliers about their property management systems. When asked about their biggest concerns with their existing PMS, 30% of respondents say lack of support from their PMS vendor – mentioning it nearly twice as often as any other pain point. More than half (57%) of hotel chains rate their PMS vendor as average or poor for their support services.

RELATED: Software As A Service? Better Focus On The Service!

RElATED: Service and Reputation Go Hand in Hand: Tech Suppliers and Hotels Need to Work Together

With new technology and solutions constantly emerging and being developed to help hotels run more smoothly, generate more ancillary revenue, improve communication with guests etc. why does a hotel choose to remain with vendors they are not satisfied with, vendors that do not provide adequate support? Well, it seems that when it comes to trying new solutions, many hotels are just simply reluctant to do so. Reluctance to switch to a new provider or implement a new solution stems from concerns over the cost of investment, lack of trust in a new vendor and more often than not, the perceived risk of switching is far too high. And because of these reasons, hoteliers are willing to stick out their current situation, regardless of the sub-standard support provided.

While choosing a new PMS is no simple task – it can be daunting if not, intimidating selecting the right fit for your property but by not evaluating alternative and newer solutions, hoteliers are missing out. Upgrading or moving to cloud-based property management system can reduce costs, streamline operations and enable you to stay connected with the new mobile traveler. In a fast-paced business environment, those that choose to stay “safe” and keep legacy property management systems in place are holding themselves back from reaching out to their customers in time.

With the abundance of new technology in the property management systems industry, if you unhappy with your current solution, there is no time like the present to upgrade your PMS!

Key characteristics of outstanding customer support

Good customer service is different from company to company, but there are some key characteristics of superior customer support, such as;

Transparent and rapid response times: One of the most important attributes of good customer service is a fast and accurate response time. You should be concerned with how quickly a vendor will respond to queries and resolve issues that you may have without compromising the quality of work. Quick response time sends a message of respect, urgency, and responsiveness, and also shows a company’s concern for their customers and their experience with their product or service.

Open and direct communication: Another important aspect of outstanding customer support is communication. The best vendors or suppliers are open and direct. If there’s a change to the status quo or the service provided is not delivered as anticipated, they tell you upfront, communicating quickly, politely, and accurately to remedy the issue. Similarly, if they need clarification about requirements, they ask for it.

Provide multiple points of contact: All good customer support should provide a frictionless process for getting in touch. Offering multiple channels and points of contact to connect with the customer provides convince and choice, and gives you, the customer options to choose from based on your preferred channel or issue at hand.

Take Responsibility: As the saying goes, honesty is the best policy. Good customer services providers take responsibility for the customer’s care. They are honest, own up to mistakes and are willing to apologize and compensate for errors. Once the issue is resolved they should communicate what they plan to do to change or prevent the same mistake from happening again.

Creative and flexible: Another characteristic of strong customer support includes the ability to come up with workable solutions, regardless of the complexity of the problem or issue. Similarly, your vendor or supplier should not only be able to provide helpful recommendations that you can use to learn and grow but also… FUTURE.

It’s important to choose vendors wisely, as they greatly contribute to your success. Providing exceptional customer support is both necessary and fundamental in today’s business landscape as it not only lets you run your business but enables you to grow your business.

Holding Providers Accountable is a Critical Part of a Hotel’s Success

When it comes to the hotel industry, suppliers and vendors are at the heart of many processes and activities and as such play a key, if not a critical role in your hotel’s success. Hotel operators and suppliers alike agree that forging strong, long-term relationships is critical to success. But like any relationship, it takes work. All relationships require effort to maintain, and accountability is probably the single most important element fuelling truly successful business relationship.

Accountability is not simply taking the blame when something goes wrong. Accountability is about delivering on a commitment. It’s responsibility to an outcome, not just a set of tasks. It is a core driver for achieving results. But, when working with vendors, how can a company build accountability into its relationship? Here are a few pointers to consider.

Clarify Expectations: Accountability begins with clear expectations. It is critical at the start of any vendor relationship to communicate your goals, business vision, and your expectations. Similarly, it is easy for a customer to feel steamrolled by a vendor, especially if the customer is much smaller and the vendor has a strict set of policies and procedures in place. The earlier you make your expectations clear to the vendor, the sooner you will find out if and how they will be met.

Clarify responsibilities: Another key way to ensure accountability with a vendor is to know what they must do — and do not expect them to do anything more. Basically, put everything in writing. Your contract should specify all responsibilities very clearly. The contract is the only thing you can refer to or count on should an issue or misunderstanding arise, so make sure that your expectations are aligned to it.

Clarify Brand Values: Your company’s brand holds a lot of value. You do not want to tarnish it due to the actions of an unprofessional or unethical vendor. Equally, don’t assume that vendors know your company’s core values. Be communicative, tell them of your needs and standards. And while it might sound over the top, determine if training vendors are necessary to meet your needs. The additional expense will be worth it.

Clarify Performance Reporting: When you have engaged with a vendor you should track and measure performance against the contract to ensure that the company is meeting your needs and complying with your requirements. Similarly, schedule periodic and detailed progress reports from the vendor as well as holding regular business review meetings. Both can help bring to light any glitches or problems early on, and allow you to resolve any issues before they become big problems and also help identify areas that may need improvements.

Vendors and suppliers can have a huge impact on your business – and holding them accountable is a critical part of your hotel’s success. While both buyers and suppliers reap the rewards of good relationships, ultimately it’s the consumer, or in this case, the guest who benefits.

IT Service Accountability Issues: They’re More Common Than You Think

In this digital generation, technology is at the core of almost all activity. It has changed the way we think and how businesses work. In the hotel industry, thousands of companies worldwide provide hundreds of software applications to help hotels and hotel companies manage operations to provide better guest service. As hospitality is a 24/7/365 industry; it’s important that assistance is available whenever problems arise to limit disruptions to your business. Any good PMS provider will take care of updates and upgrades, routine maintenance, and ensure the safety and security of your data, saving time and money while easing stress. But a recent Hospitality Technology Study revealed that over 55% of hoteliers are not satisfied with their current PMS provider, citing poor support offered by the vendor as one of their frustrations.

IT service accountability issues are frustrating for staff and guests alike. They lower efficiency and decrease satisfaction scores costing hotels real money. The annual cost of managing (on-premise) software applications can be as much as four times the cost of the initial purchase! And companies can spend up to 80% of their total IT budget just to maintain and run existing systems and infrastructure. So, why exactly do hoteliers tolerate poor performance and continue to spend money on such solutions?

In the retail or consumer world, with so many competitors vying for the customer’s business, the effort a company makes to deliver better service can really make it stand out. The discrepancy in customer service between good and bad companies is obvious. However, when it comes to customer service in the B2B world, it is typically different.

In the B2B arena, more often than not, there may only be a few well-established main players in the market, meaning businesses generally have fewer choices when picking enterprise solutions, so when they find a vendor they like, they tend to stick with it. Not only that but enterprise customers believe they need “enterprise” i.e. complex solutions to run their businesses so they don’t really look at alternatives. Once in place, many hoteliers are simply afraid of changing to a new solution due to the perceived hassle involved in upgrading or moving to a new system. In this situation, which is all too common, if a vendor delivers subpar customer support service, while a business might be frustrated, they will more than likely put up with it.

The hospitality industry benefits vastly from technology. But in order for it to be effective, it is critical that hotels can get the help they need when they need it. If you are working with a PMS company which takes days to respond to issues, then it’s time for you to find a PMS company which provided 24×7 support and can help you manage issues in real-time. Delayed resolutions hurt businesses and you shouldn’t be stuck for too long with a bad service provider.

Suppliers and vendors play a key role in your company’s success. Those that provide quality support can give you a competitive advantage by allowing you do more while spending less resulting in satisfied guests and increased profitability.

Budget Season: The key tech considerations for 2019

Budget season is well and truly upon us. Hotels everywhere are in the throes of preparing their annual budgets – if not close to completion. While there are many facets to every budget, each year, technology is taking up a bigger portion of hotel sales, marketing, and operations budgets. Why? Because consumer expectations are growing and technology has become imperative to enhance the guest experience. Today, guests expect technology to be at their fingertips throughout their stay, align with their smart devices and enhance their experience with your property in a way that is convenient, instantaneous and personal.

With a velocity of change in technology that is extraordinary, and a continuous myriad of investment opportunities and possibilities, how should hotels begin to prioritize tech spending for the coming year?  Here are 3 key areas we think every hotel should consider this budget season to help plan for a more profitable 2019.

  • Get a Cloud-based Property Management System: If you haven’t already moved to the cloud, maybe now is the time to include it in your budget. Cloud technology enables hoteliers to invest in powerful, modern, mobile-centric PMS systems that not only help them enhance guest engagement but also streamline operations, realize new revenue opportunities and boost productivity. Cloud-based technology is always up-to-date, never at risk for failure, and can be accessed for any device type, giving your team the flexibility to make smart decisions about hotel resources and operations fast, no matter where they are.

To top it off, the financial benefits of a next-generation PMS are multifold. Cloud eliminates the upfront purchase of hardware and offers affordable subscription /’pay-as-you-go’ plans meaning hoteliers can move expenditure from Capex to Opex – which can be very freeing to a hotels budget. Cloud solutions also enable faster feature development, automatic software updates, minimum downtime, and low maintenance when compared to traditional on-premises PMS. Cloud helps to streamline operations across the organization, providing better management controls leading to increased staff efficiency and reduce operational costs.

  • Provide Mobile Check-in: Most people now have smartphones because of the ease of access they provide to just about anything a person could want or need – so naturally, consumers are beginning to demand that hotels let them do more with their phones, and increasingly see their mobile devices as the key to making their entire stay more convenient. In fact, a recent survey has demonstrated that over 60% of guests say that it is “very or extremely important” for hotels to continue to invest in technology that improves the guest experience while another study found that the simplification of tasks to be the most important factor in the mobile travel experience – in particular, check-in.

Check-in can be quick and painless at times, but travelers want the guaranteed convenience of a frictionless experience. Mobile check-in is the gateway to that ideal experience. It ensures guests can quickly proceed to their rooms without spending time at the front desk – not only dramatically improving the customer’s experience with your property, but it also frees up front desk staff to service

  • Do more with your data: Hotels have long amassed a goldmine of data but have underused it. But investing in a business intelligence tool can give you the edge to deep-dive into all the data you collect at your hotel and put it into perspective for you in such a way that you can make amends to the already existing strategy, help reduce your operational costs, increase your revenue and find ways to make your business an all-around success.

A hotel BI tools allow hoteliers to get a holistic view of business – and when integrated with your Cloud PMS, you can get consolidated data in the blink of an eye. By investing in and exploiting BI tool to derive insights that are most relevant to you, at the right time, will fetch you welcomed results.

While traditionally hoteliers have been hesitant to request budgets for hotel tech either due to the complexity of a current system in place or the immediate ROI potential of newer solutions seeming vague and difficult to define – technology budgets that include innovative mobile-centric solutions should be looked at as a long-term, revenue generating investment that will position hoteliers to adapt and grow with evolving guest demands.

Ancillaries represent a significant opportunity for hotels

A new trend report by Skift, sponsored by iSeatz, highlights that ancillaries will play a much more central role in the entire process of hotel and customer engagement. They will no longer be a mere supplement to other travel products but will increasingly become the main event. The reason being is that in the guest’s eyes, hotels are no longer simply selling access to just rooms and beds but instead are providers of travel experiences. “They now travel gatekeepers and tastemakers, selling access to a universe of related experiences connected to dining, entertainment, spas, tours and activities, retail, local services, and more”.

For the astute hoteliers at the forefront of this mindset change, the paybacks are high. By offering personalised ancillary products and services will not only help to unlock new and lucrative revenue streams, increase up-sell and cross-sell opportunities, both of which contribute to the hotels bottom line, but they also create new opportunities to engage consumers not just at the moment of the sale but throughout the entire customer journey, and there is also an opportunity to evolve the hotels loyalty program. By integrating ancillary products effectively into a loyalty program, hotels can build deeper relationships with guests and offer more seamless, flexible rewards.

And the power of ancillaries is undeniable. The airline industry adopted the practice of cross-selling and up-selling trip extras more than a decade ago with impactful results. The size of the ancillary market for airlines was estimated at over $82 billion last year – over four times what it was ten years ago. Hotels, on the other hand, have not been nearly as aggressive in exploiting the ancillary opportunity and clearly, they are potentially missing out on billions of dollars of revenue as a result.

But, the selling of ancillary services within the hotel industry has always been a bit of chore. Not only that, but a lot of the time, the selling of ancillary products and services can come across as a mediocre bid to squeeze a bit more money out of the customer. However, at times, and more importantly guest expectations are changing. There is now a growing demand for more personalized and convenient buying experiences and a desire from guests and locals alike for hotels to serve as community hubs. With this shift in consumer habits, there is now an opportunity for hotels to reimagine the role of ancillaries in their business strategy.

While it sounds like a no-brainer, creating and implementing an effective strategy will not be straightforward or without its issues. But for those willing to overcome a variety of obstacles standing in the way, untapping into the world of ancillaries, represents a significant opportunity for hotels to add revenue while gaining a more detailed understanding of the wants and needs of their customers, and an ability to drive more repeat business and create loyal customers.

Get the full report here.

What does TripAdvisor’s move to social mean for hoteliers?

If you’ve been living under a rock this past week or two you might have just missed TripAdvisor’s unveiling of its new site and mobile experience. The debut of Travel Feed, which will roll out later this year, is more or less TripAdvisor’s move into the social media world – These days, there’s a social media app for everything, the world has become more social, so naturally, TripAdvisor has made one for travel.

The proposed new website/app proposes to be the most personalized and connected travel community, that will inspire and empower individuals with ‘social assistive tools’ to plan and book better with relevant advice and information from friends and experts they trust. Users will no longer use the original platform for completing tasks such as finding a hotel but instead users can follow social recommendations from friends, influencers, bloggers and publishers to not only plan their own trips, but users will now also be able to book hotels, make dining reservations, sign up for tours and activities on the site or through the app. Not only that but during a trip, users’ personalized travel feed will notify them when they pass by a restaurant or point of interest that one of their friends has reviewed on TripAdvisor. And of course, users can also leave their own tips and reviews, post-trip.

As Skift put it, basically, TripAdvisor are “… trying to enmesh itself in everything from travel inspiration to booking, both pre-trip and during the journey, as well as storytelling Snapchat- and Instagram-style“.  

It sounds exciting but will it be successful? Many travel brands — particularly social travel start-ups — have tried and failed to become the Facebook of travel. And there are already many for and against arguments over TripAdvisor’s redesign. One on hand, while the idea makes sense, it remains to be seen how successful TripAdvisor will be in convincing its global users that there’s a need for them to create yet another social media profile on top of their Facebook, Instagram, and other social media accounts. But on the other hand, with the new Travel Feed, everything will now be in one convenient location – no more Googling 10 different websites when planning and booking travel, and, more importantly, it will be personalized.

Not only that but compared to other travel start-ups, TripAdvisor is not exactly starting from scratch; it averages 456 million unique visitors a month and it’s new Travel Feed already touts 500 (well-known and already influential) partners who are currently using the beta version and diligently creating hundreds of pieces of inspiring and helpful travel content prior to the end of year launch date.

So will users more time engaging on a social site that is only dedicated to travel or will they simply fall back on the familiar? Time will only tell.

What does it mean for hoteliers? If hoteliers hadn’t enough to worry about, this is probably another new social site that they will need to get familiar with – it will also more than likely mean that you need to revisit your  current marketing plan and focus on branding, as the new platform will combine the feed design, similar to Twitter, the social experience of friends, similar to Facebook i.e. TripAdvisor’s Travel Feed will put friend’s likes and suggestions up front – so if you are not active and miss out on those all-important “likes” you’ll more than like not feature near the top!

But it’s not all doom and gloom, the new platform does offer businesses the opportunity to use the travel feed to reach new and potential customers in real time. For instance, “a restaurant general manager could write a post to entice visitors nearby to go to his/her restaurants with a 10% off offer…” Elliot Cohen, TripAdvisor’s VP of product.

The project is still in beta, so when you get it, take the time to read up on the changes coming down the line and adjust your marketing strategy accordingly.

In summary, TripAdvisor believes this redesign is significant for the company’s future. But as for the critics, the jury is still out on the benefit. In the meantime, if you haven’t already seen it, why not check out the pre-launch video. (can you embed this?)