May 19 2016

Don’t forget the back office when you develop your New Digital Strategy

old-technologyIt’s fair to say that hotels have been slow to adopt new technology, but more recent times have seen hotels investing heavily in guest-facing technologies; everything from booking engines, mobile check-in, keyless entry, smart enabled rooms… the list goes on. Very promising!

Sadly, if you were to venture into the typical back office, you might think you entered a time warp where Windows 98 and IE6 are the latest tools available to work with. Okay, so it might not be this bad but it seems that hotel employees really do get a raw deal when it comes to technology and digital strategy.

At HTNG North American Conference 2016, top technology executives in the hotel industry said dealing with old legacy systems and convincing owners and franchisees about the importance of technology still remains a significant challenge. In a recent Oracle Hospitality study, of those who worked in the hotel industry in the past 5 years, 36% described their employer’s use of technology as “bad”.

So while hoteliers are finally getting it right in terms of guest facing technology, employees have been left in the shade to use on-premise legacy systems that are way past their prime and are quickly becoming ineffective. “Traditionally what has happened on the marketing side with the guest experience feels very disconnected from what happens on the employee engagement side…There is that void between the customer and employee applications.” Mohammad Gaber, Head of Travel Adobe.

When we think about investing in employing facing technology we automatically think of the business and the bottom line i.e. what are the initial costs and long term savings? It’s not often that we stop and consider the employee’s point-of-view in the equation. Bad technology can cause inefficiencies, which decrease productivity and affect job satisfaction. “Whether it’s the PMS, POS, CRM or revenue management software, employees are using complex systems that, due to cumbersome design, can end up hampering productivity and even diminishing job satisfaction,” says Stefan Tweraser of Snapshot.

A major benefit of technology is that it enables people to work better and smarter. “The discovery and deployment of digital technology often overshadows the human dimension of how people collaborate to share knowledge and insight, manage and use information, and effectively use digital tools to impact their performance and the company’s”, writes Donald A. March & Joe Peppard, Harvard Business Review. A redesigning of traditional technology software better serves the growing needs of hoteliers while also enabling employees to complete tasks efficiently. “Relevant content from the PMS and CRM systems need to be delivered to individual employees and departments in a simplistic, easily digestible, task-based format is a key priority…Staff need to be able to access information quickly, not only to inform guests about simple things such as events and promotions, but also to ensure that they can fulfil their roles properly” Greg Jones, Microsoft (Industry Solution Manager of Worldwide Hospitality and Travel at Microsoft.)

So, don’t forget about your employees in the digital revolution; after all the lifeblood of every business is its’ employees and employee happiness directly influences guest experience and happiness. “If you look after your staff, they’ll look after your customers,” says Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group. If employees don’t feel valued, your guests won’t either.

By Karen O’Neill, StayNTouch