All posts by Jos Schaap

[LISTEN To The Podcast] Why It’s Imperative Hotels Make the Jump to a Cloud PMS

Advice on selecting the right property management software

With the emergence of hotel technology trends  in the hotel industry, mobile is creating a paradigm shift from the more traditional on-premise PMS based models to new cloud based PMSs. However, while this concept is becoming more prevalent throughout the hospitality industry, many hoteliers have been dependant on, on-premise PMSs for a long time, a system that makes up the backbone of their business, and are not convinced about making any such changes.

In the first of a series, our premiere podcast sees StayNTouch’s Founder and CEO, Jos Schaap focus on why hoteliers need to reconsider the system they already have in place and why is it important for them to make the jump from on premise PMS to cloud based PMS that provides the functionality that is required today to meet the demands of the new mobile enabled guest.

We talk about the many operational advantages; from security and stability to easy of use, the systems flexibility to adapt to new technologies and it’s accessibility. The financial gains; it’s ability to easily connect and integrate with multiple systems and it’s capacity to manage guest data allow for easier upselling of products and services. And guest satisfaction; how technology can enhance the guest service component, drive greater customer experience and engagement, and increase overall satisfaction.

In summary, here are 5 key take-a-ways you will get from listening to our first podcast;
1. How an on-premise hotel PMS has become out-dated and is now hurting the bottom line for hotels
2. Why your hotel is more secure in the clouds than in a back room somewhere
3. The most important factor/feature of a mobile PMS
4. How a cloud PMS cuts costs and increases revenue for hotels
5. How a mobile PMS actually increases the engagement between guests and staff and helps to build customer loyalty

Listen to our podcast now!

If have any questions or concerns on any of the content we discussed in our podcast or have any topics that you would like us to debate just drop us a line at info@stayntouch.com or get in touch via our Facebook page or Twitter account!

Thanks for listening!

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Digitally Adept Hotels – Are we looking at the big picture?

 

digital adept award

Earlier this week the annual L2 Digital IQ Index of luxury brand hotels was released revealing the most digitally savvy winners (and losers) of 2016. The index, by New York-based brand consultancy firm L2, benchmarks the digital performance of 55 luxury hotel brands operating globally. Their analyses focused on the 4 key areas of Mobile, Site and eCommerce, Digital Marketing and Social Media, and results were based on a scoring classification that included Genius, Gifted, Average, Challenged and Feeble – that last one seems pretty harsh.

For the second year in a row, Marriott Hotels took top honors, taking the title of “genius” (the only one!) followed by 9 “gifted” hotels. Forty hotels made up the mix of “average” and “challenged” and unfortunately 5 were awarded the title of “feeble” – which I am sure they won’t be too happy about. “Marriott was lauded for its Travel Brilliantly microsite that encourages guests to submit user-generated content, its mobile site and mobile app, and its online Marriott Traveller magazine,” says travel news site, Skift. It is true that, in terms of online presence and content, the Marriott user experience is cohesive, their brand messaging is consistent, and their marketing is well integrated both across channels and properties.

But there seems to be something missing here.

It’s funny how almost all of this report is related to the areas of marketing, branding and social. It seems that for L2, digital adept-ness is defined by sales and marketing only – nothing of the impact of digital on operations or service is mentioned.

Perhaps the world is a little blind as to where the real opportunities for digital – the improvement of the post-purchase guest experience, and the improvement of staff efficiency. Over the past year or so, the hotel industry has begun to embrace the digital connection between staff and guests during the stay. We submit: mobile PMS, mobile check-in and out, keyless entry, housekeepers on smartphones, in-hotel messenger apps, digital concierges, robot housekeeping, etc. To be digitally adept, a hotel company needs to think in terms of the entire hotel business, not just the consumer marketing side.

The real digitally adept hotels in the industry are often the new independent hotels that are re-imagining the entire hotel service culture from the ground up. A few of our clients, like Yotel, ROW NYC and Carillon Miami have been the real leaders in both the digital operations space and the marketing space. For what it is worth, we are giving them the Genius status.

Whereas the big brands are digital marketing leaders, converting operations to digital is much tougher for them. It is like turning a battleship. Standardizing on mobile check-in across 3000 hotels is a challenge. Some have tackled it though – our customer, MGM Resorts, has led the digital way with the very successful implementations of mobile check-in at places like Aria Resort & Casino.

Just remember, mobile check-in or housekeeping efficiency may not seem as sexy as social media or a cool website – but they certainly matter a lot more when that guest writes their TripAdvisor review!

by Jos Schaap, StayNTouch

 

IoT and the hospitality industry are a natural fit

Internet of Things and hotels

The Internet of things, or “IoT” as it is more commonly referred to, is a hot topic of conversation in almost every industry – but what exactly is it? In simple terms it means the communication that occurs between Internet-enabled devices and systems i.e. machine-to-machine connectivity (or M2M). “This is the concept of basically connecting any device with an on and off switch to the Internet (and/or to each other). This includes everything from cell phones, coffee makers, washing machines, headphones, lamps, wearable devices and almost anything else you can think of…if it has an on and off switch then chances are it can be a part of the IoT,” says Jacob Morgan, Forbes.

Gartner predicts that there will be 26 billion IoT connected devices by 2020 and as a concept IoT has the potential to impact how we live and work. It is the next evolutionary step in technology development and there are many advantages of incorporating it into our everyday. There are already many products in place that now have the ability to communicate, such as thermostats, bulbs, smart plugs etc. which monitor energy, heat and light consumption levels in order to relay the information or adjust automatically.

The foundations of IoT already exists in some hotels, such as mobile check-in facilities, keyless entry; some have introduced the use of robotics with robot housekeeping staff and butlers. But there is a huge range of opportunities which have yet to be explored. Some have hypothesized possibilities that include room temperature and lighting that would adjust based on your stay history, while taking time of day into consideration. A connected mirror in your room could display the temperature outside, weather details for the day and local news headlines; media centers would play your preferred music and TV shows, the coffee machine would even brew your favorite coffee and your mobile could alert you “to leave in the next few minutes as your car is approaching to take you to your business destination”.

The presence of IoT within a hotel opens up more possibilities for what services and digital capabilities a hotel could offer up to its guests. Already, some in the industry are using beacons to detect where the guest is in a hotel and then push promotions to mobile phones based on both location and guest preference.

Device supplied information help hotels to track and ‘learn’ each guest’s individual preferences ­­– going way beyond typical preferences like a non-smoking room or extra pillows. Is the guest an early riser? When and how often does the guest go to the gym? Does the guest always eat the M&Ms in the in-room bar? With personal data, the hotel can do some small things that provide a more personal stay experience. How about free M&Ms upon checking in for the guest with a sweet-tooth or an up-sell for personal training or a pass to the local Gold’s Gym for the fitness nut?

Personalized experiences is the big trend in today’s hotels and technology and data are helping deliver on that promise. But in line with our last blog post, this means that a hotel’s Wi-Fi needs to be upgraded sooner than later!

By Jos Schaap, StayNTouch

Hoteliers: Just give us fast, free Wi-Fi – Everyone else does!

free wifi in hotels

With the continuous, perhaps never ending growth of mobile device usage and our need to be forever connected to the world, Wi-Fi isn’t just an expected amenity or even a necessity, there is a presumption that is it readily available wherever you go – whether you are at home, at a friend or neighbors, out having a coffee, dinner, a pint, at the airport, in a hotel, even in the park! Travelers “have an expectation of ubiquitous connectivity in their lives, especially younger travelers,” Henry H. Harteveldt, Airline & Travel Industry Analyst. “Walking on the street, in coffee shops, and it frustrates them when they are told they’re offline. The traveler wants to have control over when they go online.”

For guests, free Wi-Fi in hotels is no longer a luxury like bottled water, designer toiletries, or complimentary dry cleaning. In a Hotels.com survey, guests ranked free Wi-Fi as the most important in-room amenity, guests with children cite it as crucial and business travelers consider it essential. Another, more recent survey by Roomzzz revealed 65% of guests log-on to Wi-Fi within 7 minutes of check-in, and a quarter of guests say that they would not stay in a hotel that didn’t provide free Wi-Fi. “The public’s expectation has switched from ‘It’s nice when you have Wi-Fi’ to ‘You must have Wi-Fi’, that evolution is a problem for hotels.” Max Rayner, Hudson Crossing.

Wi-Fi has become an integral part of day-to-day life and not being able to connect is seen as a huge inconvenience. While 64% of hotels worldwide reportedly offer Wi-Fi, this doesn’t necessarily appease guests – any and all T&Cs come under scrutiny, in particular connectivity and costs that might be associated with Wi-Fi access. Many big hotel brands and luxury hotels still charge guests for Wi-Fi access which travelers have likened to airlines charging to check luggage i.e. they are not happy about it.

Some guests are so passionate about by the lack of and want of free fast Wi-Fi, if it were up to them they would see an amendment to the constitution guarantying free Wi-Fi in all hotels! Perhaps a step too far, but really what they are saying is, for hotel guests, Wi-Fi has become like soap. This isn’t a nice-to-have. It is an amenity that makes the hotel a home away from home. Like towels and hot water, it is very noticeable if the hotel has chosen to leave it out. “There is pretty much universal acceptance that guests consider access to the internet as important a service as any other that a hotel can offer, beyond providing a bed and a safe environment.” Tnooz.

Nowadays, you can walk into almost any Starbucks or McDonalds and sit down to reasonably fast Wi-Fi for the price of a cup of coffee or Happy Meal. Wi-Fi access is now so universal in public spaces; hoteliers need to accept that guests expect the same free Internet once they check in. For hotels that do offer the holy grail of Wi-Fi, they immediately have an advantage over competitors. And for hotels that offer mobile services to their guests: good, free, clean Wi-Fi is simply a part of the infrastructure required. It supports your mobile strategy.

by Jos Schaap, StayNTouch

Hotel Industry Trends: Self Service or Personal Interaction

Hotel technology self service

If you follow this blog and read all the posts you might think we are offering some conflicting pieces of advice…

On one hand we are total advocates for hotel guest self-service through the use of mobile check-in, check-out and mobile keys – all of which allow you to bypass the front desk and reduce your need to interact with hotel staff.

On the other hand, we sell Rover, a mobile PMS that is built to help staff go where the guests are and have more personal interactions with the guest anywhere.

So, which one is it? More staff interaction or less? The answer is: whatever the guest wants. After all, that is the essence of service.

Traditionally, the approach to building guest satisfaction saw hotels focused on services such as carrying your bag, 24-hour gourmet in-room dining, choice in pillows (foam, feather, super-fluffy), bathroom amenities, laundry service, wake up calls etc. In summary, the more you can wait on the guest, the better the service.

However, our love for mobile devices is based on being able to move around while still being connected whenever we want. Our notions of happiness are now focused on freedom and choice rather than on being pampered.

So with mobile technologies, guests no longer must conform to the business operations of the hotel, such as waiting in a long line to check in. They have the freedom to skip the front desk and head straight to their room after a busy day.

And if you ask any guest about the best parts of their stay, they wouldn’t mention the big marble front desk. Tablets and smartphones now help staff get out from behind their desks to have real, personal interactions with customers in places that are convenient to the guest.

So there really isn’t a paradox in what we are saying. It is simple. Our products facilitate choice and empower guest freedom.

By Jos Schaap, StayNTouch

Hotel Reservation Software’s Ghosts of Systems Past

In 1953, IBM sales executive Blair Smith was flying from Los Angeles to New York.  Sitting next to him was American Airlines President CR Smith.  Sharing a common last name, they began to talk. This casual meeting in the “Coffee, Tea, or Me?”-era of flight set the stage for future of travel and hospitality.

Up until this time, flights were booked via a “Magnetronic Reservisor,” a system of vacuum tubes and a magnetic storage drums that allowed the airline to store seat availability. Even before the electromechanical system, operators had rolodexes with flight numbers and availability.  In just a few years, airlines went from a pen and paper process to a computerized reservation software known as the “Semi-Automated Business Research Environment” or, more colloquially, SABRE.  Shortly thereafter, other airlines built their own reservation software like Deltamatic and Apollo.

These systems eventually extended to hotel inventory and opened to Travel Agents.  But it wasn’t until 1996, when a small division of Microsoft launched a website for the ‘do-it-yourself’ traveler called Expedia, that we entered the modern age of travel booking.  Online hotel bookings and flight reservations meant that the consumer of the flight or hotel stay could book directly without requiring the aid of a classic Travel Agent.

Fast forward 18 years, more than 50% of hotel bookings are now made online.  Guests self-booking reservations is less than a 20 year old, but is an essential part of just about every hotel’s business.  That saidm Sabre and Apollo, borne of 1950’s technology still send bookings from agents to hotels today.  Major brands and properties run their multi-billion dollar operations on AS/400 and FoxPro systems, technology that dates back 30 years.

Over the past ten years, we’ve seen the boom of consumer software while hotel technology has languished. Customers can geolocate themselves and book a room tonight on their phone, but those reservations often still travel through the old guard of distribution: the roads and bridges traversed by reservations in the digital age date back to the Cold War.  As with any thoroughfare, the older the infrastructure gets, the harder it is to maintain.

So what’s a hotelier to do?  How can someone run a hotel in today’s economy with yesterday’s technology?  How does one eliminate aging, legacy hotel software systems from every day operations?  Distribution is going to be a hard nut to crack, mostly due to the almighty dollar; Micros sold to Oracle for $5.3B.  Priceline’s market cap is 10 times that at $55B.

Choice of Service

It’s easy to imagine hoteliers in 1999 being hesitant to sell rooms online. “Our reservationists upsell packages, they respond to requests.  The guest experience starts at booking and ends at check-out,” might be something you would have heard from a hotelier in 1998. In corollary, in response to the notion of self-service check-in/out, a hotelier in 2014 might say:  “Our front desk agents upsell packages and they respond to requests.  Our guest experience starts at check-in and ends at check-out.”  Historically, hotel software systems didn’t actually change the hotel’s service standards or the guest’s experience during the stay, it was simply the delivery of the service experience that changed.  Hotels that offer compelling packages on their website still sell compelling packages to guests.  Further, guests who want the booking concierge experience may still call the hotel directly.  Online booking simply gave guests a choice. Similarly, self check-in and out isn’t going to negatively affect the guest experience; the right hotel property management system will give guests the choice of experience.

Integration

At the advent of online booking, hoteliers had to syndicate inventory to third party channels on separate extranets, received faxes when a booking came through, at which point a reservations agent typed the details into the hotel property management system.  As the number of channels expanded, and the numbers of bookings increased.  Hoteliers were soon managing multiple inventories for multiple sources and manual data entry became unwieldy.   Hotel distribution channels and hotel property management systems eventually became better integrated, alleviating the pain of selling rooms online

Surely, we’ve all learned our lesson and no one would ever consider a self check-in/out solution that wasn’t integrated to the hotel PMS software, right?  Right?

The Whole Picture

But check-in is only part of the reservation transaction, and check-in and out are inherently more complex than booking.  A booking’s two parts of search and selection are relatively indistinguishable, and they happen sequentially.  Check-in and out occur hours—if not days—apart.  A booking is entirely dependent on availability, and availability is binary variable: either availability exists for the time searched, or it does not.  While check-out cannot occur without a check-in, the nature of the check-out is not dependent upon the nature of the check-in. A booking is a single-department transaction, while check-in and out require a coordinated effort between the front desk and housekeeping.

Typically, the front desk has acted as a proxy for the guest in the transaction, but when self check-in and out, the guest is not a direct stakeholder.  To effectively offer a self-service stay, direct lines of communication must exist between housekeeper, housekeeping supervisor, the front desk and the guest.  If housekeeping isn’t in the self-service stay equation, an operational bottleneck is being overlooked.  Furthermore, if housekeeping isn’t integrated to the hotel PMS software, that operational bottleneck is exacerbated, rather than alleviated.

Imagine a hotel with an online booking engine that displays availability, but asks guests to “Call to book.”  If automation is just an facade on a manual process, operational inefficiencies aren’t minimized, they’re actually increased!

As an industry, we’ve accepted the automation and integration of booking and the notion of a self-service search.  However, we’ve stayed entrenched in the technology of the last generation.  The self-service stay is already here, it’s up to hoteliers whether they want to simply ride the wave, or create a sea change.

By Bryn Williams, Director Strategic Accounts at StayNTouch, Inc.

 

StayNTouch on techcrunch.com

As part of an article on Acceleprise StayNTouch got a nice mentioning on techcrunch.com, here is an extract of the article:

” StayNTouch has two co-founders, each with more than 20 years experience in the hospitality industry. StayNTouch is rethinking the interaction between the hotel and their guests using a single cloud-based solution that manages all on-property touch points, both for the hotel staff and the guests.”

“Acceleprise is demonstrative of a new startup culture emerging that is quickly growing. Investors are looking beyond the consumer world for startups that can disrupt the legacy providers with services that leverage cloud infrastructures and the need to get work done faster, be more productive and more connected. Further, businesses are trying to solve problems with more than ever before. All in all it adds up to being a strong year for enterprise startups as they exploit the changing enterprise landscape.”

Please go to techcrunch.com to read the full article.

Digital Check-In Enhances guest Satisfaction!

Checkin is still a big stumble block in many hotels, and often not a very nice experience.

It’s cumbersome, often guests are asked to enter all their personal details on a registration card (again), they have to wait in line and sign a piece of paper before they are given a key. The room key represents the biggest barrier around self service check in. Here are some more interesting ways on how IHG and Hilton are working to make the checkin experience more efficient and pleasant, mostly from a kiosk device, but already with some thoughts to be able to do it from a smartphone, here are some interesting thoughts from www.hotelnewsnow.com.

“REPORT FROM THE U.S.—As new technologies emerge and evolve within the hotel industry, hoteliers continue to analyze which tools will effectively increase guest satisfaction.
Some brands have identified the ability to give guests choices during the check-in process as one way to do that, but there is some question as to whether or not the implementation of these tools actually is more efficient for the guest.

Checking-in with kiosks
As part of its Crowne Plaza refresh initiative, InterContinental Hotels Group conducted extensive research on the amenities that guests, particularly business travelers, want out of a hotel stay.

“They want us to value their time,” Gina LaBarre, VP of brand delivery for the Americas division of IHG, told HotelNewsNow.com earlier this year during the company’s Americas Investors and Leadership Conference.

“One way we feel like we can do that … is to provide different options for check-in,” she said.”

I think what is important to note from this article is not so much the kiosk, but really the different approach each brand takes, and the growing multiple ways guests can choose to check in. Hotels will have to start looking beyond traditional check in at the front desk and the kiosk. They need to explore other alternatives, such as the SmartPhone.

Read the entire post at www.hotelnewsnow.com