A hotel property management system, or PMS, is powered by highly intelligent, cloud-based software. A PMS is essentially a hotel’s brain center. It empowers hotel managers to automate key functions, streamline operations, monitor key metrics, guard their hotel’s online reputation, and increase their profit margins.
While your PMS represents the brain center of your hotel, your guests also want to see your heart. It may seem like a contradiction, but many of your guests – think millennials and members of generation z – seek an efficient, technology-enhanced travel experience that is also authentic and human. They want it both ways: technology with a human touch. That’s something that only your people can deliver.
Front desk staff is being liberated from the front desk to pursue other customer-centered strategies and revenue-generating activities. The front-desk staff’s role is changing from issuing guest keys to issuing guest recommendations. As hotels re-imagine the front desk, they will expect staff to assume new responsibilities. Here are some ways that hotel managers can work with front desk staff to help reinvent their role and ensure they continue to add value during this period of rapid technological change.
Become an Expert
Hotels that invest in PMS solutions should encourage every member of the customer-facing staff to become knowledgeable in areas that are relevant to your guests. For example, if your hotel resides in a historical part of town, your staff should be able to talk at some length about the surrounding community. If craft beer is a big deal in your market, then they should be prepared to direct guests to a local brewery. The conversational connection your staff makes with each guest adds considerably more value than simply issuing a key.
Become a Customer Advocate
Front-desk staff that are less tied to the front desk can refashion their role into a guest advocate. Whenever and wherever they spot an opportunity to assist a guest, they do so proactively, without being told. They show empathy and eagerness to help guests resolve issues. In hotels that encourage self check-in, guest advocates sit down in the lobby or bar with newly arrived guests and assist them with using a tablet for check-in. Guest advocates add value by asking questions and anticipating their needs. The modern hotel lobby is indeed where technology and humanity intersects.
Make a Connection
Connection is something that takes effort; it takes much more than a friendly wave. The ability to put a name to a face can help facilitate the connection, but deepening it requires an authentic and meaningful conversational exchange between a guest and a staff member. And that takes us back to the PMS-enabled guest profile and history, which can be used by staff as a basis for providing not only a nice chat but also customized recommendations and offers. Not everything, of course, is covered in the guest profile. Staff must be trained how to ask questions to elicit pertinent information in a tactful manner. Knowing the purpose of a guest’s trip is fundamental. If a funeral is what’s brought her to town, then the staff member will want to temper his approach. If you never ask, you never know. The courtship – and that’s really what it is – should begin as soon as guests arrive. Freed from the confines of the front desk, staff can be assigned as greeters for rewards members and VIPs.
Protect Your Hotel’s Reputation
Far from making front desk staff obsolete, PMS has made them busier and more valuable than ever before. The ever-expanding job description of the front desk staff now includes soliciting positive reviews from recent guests while responding to negative comments and reviews by unhappy guests. In fact, when front desk staff members have a brief respite, many of them are on their smartphones, not messaging their friends but responding to negative reviews posted online.
What’s driving this? Online reviews have replaced traditional word of mouth as the main vehicle for sharing both criticism and praise. But it’s the former that can do serious damage to your hotel. Consider the research that found that one negative review on page one of the search engine results will cause your hotel to lose 22 percent of potential guests. Some of the bigger hotel chains have PR and social media specialists, but for most other hotels the front desk staff is responsible for fielding complaints as well as leveraging positive reviews.
A PMS that includes reputation management integrations utilizes artificial intelligence that can monitor in real time whenever your hotel’s name is mentioned online and throughout the social media universe. Hotels and resorts that invest in a cloud-based PMS solution like StayNTouch can ensure they are part of the social media conversation on an ongoing basis, enabling them to respond in real time to any criticism that threatens their hotel’s reputation and bottom line.
Using their PMS, the front desk staff should take ownership of each customer’s guest profile and history, and in particular VIPs and rewards program members. They should know their favorite wine, entertainment preferences, birthday, and, most important of all, the reason for their visit. The key is not to keep this information in one person’s hands but to share it widely with all the staff so everyone is on the same page and equipped to provide personalized service to every client.
Another example of the interaction between technology and people can be seen when a hotel connects its PMS system with other functions like food-and-beverage and transportation. A member of the front desk staff can use their hotel’s PMS to communicate to the transportation desk that an airport pickup must be scheduled for a guest at 2:30 p.m. When a staff member knows that a particular guest can’t stand sour cream, he can easily remind the kitchen. And when a guest asks for a recommendation for an afternoon off the beaten path, hotels can leverage the collective knowledge of their staff by sharing the question via their PMS.
While many travelers are drawn to sophisticated, high-tech hotels, they also desire balance. They want a human connection, and increasingly, that’s the role of the front desk staff. PMS technology doesn’t replace the front desk staff, but rather frees them up to focus on developing and deepening guest relationships, as well as protecting their hotel’s reputation and other responsibilities they have assumed. In this new world, PMS technology and human beings work hand in hand, complementing each other and creating synergy that leads to new efficiencies, enhanced customer service, and bigger profit margins for hotels.