All posts by michelewood2019

Hotel of the future: How mobile devices are redefining the hospitality industry

A mobile device has become a vital phantom-like limb for most of us. We have come to rely on our smartphones for everything, from staying in touch with family and friends to delegating errands, managing our home, working, ordering food, buying groceries, paying bills, acquiring and streaming movies and music, booking a taxi, storing loyalty cards, using it as a wallet, opening doors, making payments… the list is endless. They have come to change the very nature of how we interact with the world around us.

As we become more demanding regarding the kinds of services we have at our fingertips, hospitality is an industry that has been highly affected by the increasing use of mobile devices; they have drastically reshaped their functioning.

Here are just a few ways mobile devices are influencing the future of hospitality.

Rise of Self-Check-In: In many airports, it’s no longer necessary to stand in a queue to check in and people expect the same kind of easy, technology-driven check-ins at hotels. Where guests previously expected to be greeted by front desk staff, guests now want control over their check-in experiences, preferring a mobile check-in option, allowing them to bypass lines and interact with the hotel freely. While most hotels today have a front desk that is much the same as it was two decades ago, self-service check-in is becoming the new standard – even some brands like CitizenM Hotels have done away with the front desk altogether, opting instead for self-service kiosks in their lobbies.  

Wi-Fi Infrastructure Overhaul: A decade ago, if you looked to the future of hospitality, you would have never thought that WiFi would be a key factor in choosing a hotel. With connected consumers checking their mobile devices an average of 150 times a day, for hotel guests, WiFi connectivity is second in importance only to clean sheets. WiFi is no longer considered a luxury. In fact, most consumers today assume it will be available and are frustrated when it’s not – 96% of guests think Wi-Fi should be free with many considering a lack of it to be a deal-breaker. As such, hoteliers across the globe are re-thinking their current infrastructure, updating their networks and increasing their coverage.

Rise of the Portable Concierge: The role of the hotel concierge might never disappear entirely, but with mobile technology and the numerous travels based and social apps available, guests can research and find all the information they need that a traditional concierge used to provide. As a result, many hotels now provide their own mobile app that provides guests with access to important local and property information at the tips of their fingers. Many mobile concierge solutions even offer a two-way chat to accommodate immediate conversation to ensure guests’ requests and needs are being met.

The Demise of Pay-Per-View: In-room, on-demand video is a thing of the past as guests across all generations increasingly prefer streaming from their personal devices. A survey by Smith Micro Software showed that 81% of respondents want access to their own mobile content at hotels and 55% said that mobile content availability at a hotel would influence where they choose to stay. While Marriott was one of the first adopters to offer guests access to streaming services they use at home, many hotels have since followed suit.

Similarly, many hotels are beginning to offer an all in one system so that guests can have control over more room function such as lights, temperatures, music, etc. all via their mobile device.

It’s only been ten years but mobile has significantly reshaped the hotel industry and transformed guest expectations. As mobile continues to occupy more importance in the consumer’s daily life, fine tuning your hospitality venture to make to most of mobile is imperative in order to drive guest engagement, increase revenue growthand remain competitive.

Tips to Increase Hotel Occupancy During a Slow Season

Low seasons can make or break a property, particularly if budgets are already tight. If your hotel is already operating on threadbare profit margins, any significant dip in bookings and revenue can spell disaster. That goes double if the lull comes along with parts of the year that require significant upkeep and maintenance like harsh winter months.

A property manager who plans ahead can account for the typical seasonal occupancy drop and head it off before it even begins. Clever tricks, careful planning, and a bit of pop psychology can bring guests into your hotel to help keep you in the black during off-seasons until you’re back at full occupancy.

Figure Out Your Low Season

The first step any hotelier should take in counteracting a slow season is to determine exactly when the downturn starts each year. Is it tied to the weather, holidays or other events? Is there a corresponding slump in the social calendar of your locale? Sketching out the boundaries of your off months will help you determine what factors are causing it and come up with a plan to fight it.

Target The Right Customers

Once you have mapped out the portion of the year that gives you fits, it’s time for a bit of critical thinking. The solutions to a downturn can range from traditional problem-solving to out-of-the-box ideas for collaborating within your city. In the end, however, it all comes down to getting your ideas in front of the eyes and ears of the right folks. Namely, people who wouldn’t be a part of your clientele during your prosperous months.

If the downturn is due to the winter, target winter sports enthusiasts, hikers, and people in business. If the drop-off comes between festivals and major cultural events, market an authentic experience free from crowds. Reach out to local organizations and the city to find out what less-publicized events happen during your down months and try to find a way to tie your property into those occasions.

Customer Loyalty Programs

While you’re out looking for new people and opportunities to fill your rooms when things start to get a little slow, don’t neglect your already established customer base. A loyalty program with well-defined perks and special rates for folks who often stay at your hotel can help bring them out for a weekend vacation where otherwise they might have stayed home.

Keeping an eye on the likes, dislikes and draws for your most frequent customers is relatively easy given the rise of BI software. Gathering data today’s customers willingly share is simple. When those tools are integrated with mobile, cloud-based property management systems, the data on who stays with you and why can be retrieved in no time at all. The insight allows you to shape your perks to keep those customers returning.

Create Special Packages

All-in-one packages take the stress out of planning a vacation and might help an on-the-fence guest decide to stay at your hotel.

If your lull occurs in the middle of the summer, create a discount package complete with outdoor activities around the area to draw in guests. If it crops up when people would rather stay warm and cozy, consider a romantic couples’ package complete with everything your guests might need for a night in. If you see a more consistent dip in the middle of the week, try packaging your hotel with deals that will appeal to business travelers.

Lower Your Prices

We know this is the last thing you want to hear, but there’s that old saying about birds in hands. An empty room is doing you no good. A discounted room is helping offset the costs of its own operation. If other attempts of drawing in customers aren’t cutting it, consider dropping your prices in a fairly obvious fashion.

We don’t mean that you should drop your prices by eye-popping amounts. You still need to turn a profit, understandably. There are other ways to make sure that a customer knows prices have dropped. Doubling back on that loyalty program, you could easily alert your best customers to the intriguing rates via an exclusive email blast.

For those who aren’t already in the know, make it clear that you’ve marked the price down on your website. Call it an “offseason special” if you want.  Include the old price with one of those big, red slash lines through it on your website.

This trick of putting a higher price next to a lower price is called “anchoring.” It’s a well-established tool to get wary consumers to go ahead and buy something. Use it to your advantage and up your occupancy rates throughout the hard months.

5 Innovative Ways to Induce Productivity and Scale Hotel Revenue

Running a hotel is like playing the stock market. You’re constantly making investments in new strategies, new team members and new technology to see if they pay dividends in the long-term. One of the hardest places to measure a return on investment is productivity. When methods become set, it’s difficult to know what you’re not doing right and what changes could help increase revenue. 

There are a few surefire ways to increase the output of your staff, the efficiency of your hotel and, ultimately, your revenue. These tweaks are by no means minor, but they pay off in ways that are orders of magnitude greater than a quick fix.

Invest In Your Team 

One of the best ways to increase productivity in the long-term is to invest in your team. Replacing staff takes a lot of time and resources while throwing a wrench in the day-to-day operations of your property. It’s better to work a little harder to ensure that your staff is happy than to have to deal with the occasionally disastrous results of a displeased team. 

The problem goes beyond turnover. It’s been proven that unhappy staff do shoddier work. Gallup found that 85 percent of employees felt they were “not engaged or actively disengaged at work.” That led to an estimated $7 trillion dollars in lost productivity.  

There are several ways to invest in your team that will shore up your team’s feelings of engagement at work, leading to more productive days and a better return on an investment in labor.   

Providing incentives for upsells, name-drops in positive reviews and pushing other revenue drivers with guests gives employees a reason to be engaged and a return on that engagement. Training your employees on new systems, larger trends in the hotel marketplace and theories of business and management will make them feel that you are invested in them. 

Encourage Communication

Your employees need to feel like they can talk to their co-workers, both on their level and higher up the chain. Providing an open line for them to reach you increases the likelihood that problems will be brought to your attention. That’s certainly preferable to a system where issues are allowed to fester until they become impossible to ignore. 

Beyond that, employees who have to carry out the transactions and functions that are repeated every single day are likely to see small ways these tasks can be made more efficient.

Go Paperless

This one is a no-brainer. Removing paper costs are a quick way to cut out a big expense while saving time. The right software can automatically store information and make retrieval of that data exponentially easier. In addition, the eco-friendliness of this move is good for the Earth and your own marketing efforts. 

Consider Cloud-based Property Management Systems

While we’re talking about going paperless and making communication easier, we should take a second to talk about cloud-based property management systems. A PMS that is hosted in the cloud rather than contained in a front desk computer enables quick communication between all members of your staff. Modern management software like the kind offered by StayNTouch can be accessed via smartphones and tablets, decentralizing your operation and allowing problems to be fixed that much faster. 

Target Your Marketing

The data collected by any 21st-century booking engine can be put to excellent use by the property manager savvy enough to use it. Rather than trying a firehose approach of throwing your ads out alongside highly competitive search terms, it’s better to figure out who is staying at your hotel, what is important to them and why they chose your property. Once those questions are answered, ads can be targeted on platforms like Facebook to people with a similar outlook or life experience, thereby increasing your conversion rate. It doesn’t matter how good your advertising is if nobody looks at it. So, save time and figure out how to grab the type of people most likely to pause.

Ultimately, increasing productivity comes down to paring inefficiencies from the daily operations of your property. Speed bumps can come from staff that is not properly motivated to operate the hotel in an optimal way. Outdated technology can get in the way of work. Old systems might lead to slowdowns that reflect poorly on your property in an age where near-instantaneous transactions are expected. Plenty of time can be wasted time working on marketing materials for people who will never see it. 

The good news is all of these things are fixable for a property manager who has set their sights on increased efficiency. With a little training, an honest look at the tech that is keeping your property afloat and a thorough accounting of your guests and their preferences, your property can run smoother than ever in the coming year. 

Dismal Employee Engagement Is a Sign of Global Mismanagement:

Personalization & Security: Are you keeping your guests’ personal data safe?

Cybercrime is big business and security breaches of hotel guest data are becoming all too common, if not a fact of life. 2018 was dubbed “the year of the breach,” with hundreds of major brand names falling victim to data thieves including T-Mobile, British Airways, Air Canada and Marriot – the most recent hotel brand to join a very long list of hotel data breach exposures

Over the past decade, the hospitality industry has been the target of numerous security breaches and threats. More than a dozen data breaches and data security attacks have been reported by hotels since 2010, affecting everything from major multinational corporations including Hyatt, Hilton, Kimpton, Omni, to single properties and providers, namely, Orbitz, Sabre and FastBooking. Hospitality is an attractive target for hackers not only because they collect troves of passwords, personally identifiable information, credit card details and other sensitive information but unlike other industries, more of hotel applications and systems are exposed to the internet, creating more entry points for attack. 

While modern technology allows hoteliers to easily collect, store and use vast amounts of personal data about their customers enabling them to enhance, streamline and personalize the guest experience, any breach of data is serious, and can have severe consequences in terms of loss of revenue, financial penalties and also for the hotel’s reputation and customer loyalty.

As attacks continue to grow in frequency and sophistication, hospitality security requires ongoing diligence and multiple layers of defense. So what can and should you be doing to keep your guests’ personal data safe? 

Conduct a Risk Assessment of Your Existing Data: Hotels receive personal data details through multiple channels and touchpoints including email, fax, phone, website, forms, etc., and this data is often stored on multiple platforms across several departments. To properly assess risk and come up with a cybersecurity plan one of the first issues a hotel needs to tackle is to complete a full assessment to understanding all points where data is received, where specific data is held, who has (or actually needs) access to it and the implications of it being compromised.

Additionally, this risk assessment should include an examination of third party vendors to ensure their cyber protection is adequate. Weaknesses in a vendor’s cybersecurity could jeopardize your hotel data as well.

Hack Your Own System: In order to gauge just how robust and secure your data is and identify any weaknesses hoteliers can employ the expertise of the security research community. Ethical hackers can report vulnerabilities, security flaws, leaky servers and more before less well-intentioned individuals stumble across them, potentially leading to cyberattacks or data theft. 

Hyatt Hotels are one such brand that has recently launched a bug bounty program that will reward researchers who find vulnerabilities in its sites and apps – all in the name of keeping guest data safe. “As one of the first global hospitality brands to launch this type of program, we extend the ways we care for our guests and deepen our commitment to protecting their sensitive information,” Benjamin Vaughn, Chief Information Security Officer, Hyatt Hotels.

Implement Attach Based Security: As attacks continue to grow in frequency and sophistication, Tamulyn Takakura, Cybersecurity expert at Prevot has said “Its impossible and impractical to find and fix every vulnerability to account for every threat”.  As a solution to this, attack based security can provide hoteliers with real-time attack protection, meaning that attacks can be detected, prevented, and neutralized in real-time, so business keeps going even in the face of an such an event. While business would preferably like to prevent breaches from happening, should an incident occur, attack based security buys time, which is a critical asset to have when responding to data security threats.

Complete Ongoing Training and Monitoring: Prevention is always better than a cure when it comes to cybersecurity. Hoteliers should provide regular refresher training for all staff in data security to ensure an awareness culture exists and protect against possible breaches. Ensure employees know the processes in the event of a breach and to report any mistakes immediately to the DPO or the person or team responsible for data protection compliance.

While strengthening your defenses in the face of cyber security can be complicated and tedious, these are a few such ways your hotel can protect its business and guests from data breaches. Beyond the need to protect your company against heavy fines, audits, remediation costs, hoteliers need to realize the full consequences of data breaches also include reputational harm and potential loss of business. The business of the hotel industry is taking care of the guest and this care should be extended to include securely managing their information.

5 Ways Hotels Can Use Technology to Provide Better Customer Service

Technology has changed the way we travel. Travelers today, regardless of which generation they are a part of, carry and use mobile devices, they crave convenience, automation of pretty much everything, oh and an experience built around them. Not much to ask, right? 

Well, with the right technology you can provide better customer service. Here are five such ways:

Serve guests more efficiently: Well-executed operational functions are a key determinant of whether a guest’s stay meets their expectations and whether they check out satisfied. The right technology can augment your staff making it possible to operate a complete guest centric approach. With a cloud based mobile PMS hoteliers have the flexibility to efficiently run services and operations of their hotel remotely. Staff are free to move around the hotel servicing guests directly resulting in more face-time and enhancing their overall guest experience. Similarly, a mobile housekeeping solution synchronized with the front desk can update room status in real time letting front desk personnel know when guest rooms are ready, helping to expedite the check-in service and deliver a more efficient customer service.

Allows guests to help themselves: These days, customers want to travel as efficiently as possible. They are more hands-on and have a desire to be self-sufficient and retain greater control of their stay. With the right hotel tech, customers can complete the registration process remotely, self check-in, access their room, keep track of their expenses, settle their bill, along with a host of other services that they might choose to engage in such as making a reservation at your hotel restaurant or appointment at your spa facilities.

Offering your guests self-service options doesn’t replace the customer service traditionally provided by your staff, but instead satisfies an expanded definition of customer service now grounded by the conveniences of the instant gratification economy.

Guestroom Automation: In-room automation has potential to elevate the guest room service autonomously but at the same time also allows guests the freedom of creating their own environment – such as controlling room temperature, lighting, access to streaming services like Netflix or Hulu, music streaming services etc. 

Similarly, automation allows you to automate mundane operational tasks. Staff no longer spend time manually inputting or completely tedious repetitive tasks which not only reduces manual errors but it allows your hotel to spend more time creating a positive experience for your guests and thus providing a better customer service. 

Enhances Communication: There are approximately 5 billion people worldwide using messaging as a key way of communicating. Whatever the service used, most of us are fully hooked on messaging both in our private and professional lives – So it’s not overly surprising that guests report significantly higher satisfaction ratings when using instant or direct messaging channels to communicate with their hotel. Today’s travelers want their hotel stay built around their changing needs, including a desire to communicate on their terms. 

Implementing messaging technology makes it both more convenient and a practical option for guests to get in touch with any queries and likewise it enables staff to respond directly and resolve issues quickly, heightening the guest experience and making them feel valued.

Facilitates Personalization: Another way to deliver great customer service is through personalization. Personalization has become key make your guests feel valued. Using the right hotel technology and software, hoteliers can track, record and collate pertinent guest stay information, everything from service purchases, to amenities used, frequently visited locations, their food and music preferences, even down to the pillows they like. Utilizing this data effectively hoteliers can anticipate guest needs and provide a more personalized service elevating the overall customer service experience. And, on top it off, according to a study by Qubit, brands that create personalized experiences by integrating data and advanced technologies are currently achieving revenue increases of between 6% and 10%. So not only will you have happier guests but a healthier bank balance too.

Delivering top-of-the-line customer service is the best way for a brand to retain a greater share of the market. As technology continues to advance hoteliers will find new ways to interact with guests more efficiently, anticipate their needs, and provide the best customer service possible.

Your Hospitality New Year’s Resolutions – How To Make Your Hotel More Efficient In 2019

The new year offers a chance to look at the bigger picture. The calendar beginning anew is a time to take a look back at the year that was and plan for the year ahead, it’s also the perfect time to figure out what you can do to make your hotel run smoothly.

What were your stumbling blocks in 2018? Where can you get faster in 2019? What parts of the process can you cut out, offload or automate to ensure that, come 2020, you can look back on the last year and be proud?

We understand that the tough thing about big pictures is they are hard to see when you’re too close. That’s why we are going to give you a few tips on how to make your hotel faster, leaner and overall more efficient in the new year.

Consider Kiosks

The new year should be a time to eliminate unnecessary time-wasters. We know it can be tough to consider staffing for check-ins as something that can be cut out. After all, the person at the check-in desk has been a cornerstone of the hotel business for so long and has served as the key point of interaction between guests and hotels. But times are changing n more ways than just the date. Modern customers enjoy having the option to avoid checking in and out via a front desk agent and prefer to do so electronically.

Kiosks can also add an additional revenue stream, placing upsells like turndown service and other in-room add-ons in front of the customer as an option as they are checking in. Not only can this increase your rate of successful upsells, but it can also save staff time by not forcing them to push the sale on someone who isn’t interested.

Not being tied to check-in desks saves valuable time for employees and management alike, allowing staff to better serve the needs of guests who have already arrived.

Try Out Cloud-Based Management Software

While we’re on the subject of the desk, we should take a second to weigh whether it is necessary at all. To put it frankly, if your management style still runs through a single hub at your front desk, beholden to a legacy management system and requiring countless relays between management and staff, you’re burning away valuable time.

Cloud-based property management systems allow every single employee to access the system, their messages, and other crucial data without relying on a word from a desk-bound taskmaster. What’s best, cloud-based PMS don’t require any new hardware to operate, being that cloud-based property management systems are accessible from the tablets, phones and other equipment that your hotel already has on hand.

Head Questions Off At The Pass

If you do decide to switch to a mobile-enabled management system, particularly one that allows guests to interact with their booking via their smartphones, you can use the platform to answer frequently asked questions about the property, the surrounding area and policies. By placing the FAQ in front of them as they work their way through the app to access their keycard, you can cut out some of the simple questions an employee would need to answer that add up to a significant amount of time over the year for staff.

Learn Hootsuite

Social media is a part of the game now. If you aren’t meeting customers where they are, you can bet that another property that is willing to put in the leg work is getting to them. That being said, we know that there are only so many hours in the day and keeping an eye on the business will always take precedence over social media. Services like Hootsuite can be a lifesaver. 

The social media management platform organizers all of your accounts into one convenient place, allowing you to schedule messages well ahead of time. You won’t have to waste hours crafting posts and remembering passwords. Such a social media management system allows you to plan ahead and keeps your accounts from going dark during the busy season, should posting slip your mind.

Outsource Where Possible

You know your business. As such, it can be tempting to think that you can handle any new problem that comes your way. If the numbers have always worked out and the building’s still standing, it can be hard to assess how things could run smoother and therefore be easier. 

Consider handing off tasks like accounting, website building and appliance repair to accountants, designers, and repairmen. The one-time cost of paying an expert is worth it when you consider the time saved and the fact that the things built, fixed or figured by professionals who do it for a living tend to stay that way. If you can spare the expense of bringing in outside help, it’s almost certain it will pay off in the long run, in peace of mind if not monetarily.

Take the first step to a more efficient 2019 by contacting StayNTouch for a demo of their modern hotel property management solutions. Whether you need check-in kiosks, cloud-based management software or quicker, more responsive support, StayNTouch can get your year started right.