Efficient operations are the backbone of any well-run hotel and the foundation of an exceptional guest experience. While targeted marketing and digital personalization are important components of a successful guest journey, they accomplish little if the guest has to wait in a long line for check-in, sleep in a hastily-cleaned room, or call multiple times to receive room service. In this article, we’ll look at five common sticking points that plague hotel operations, and explore different ways that mobile technology can streamline back-of-the-house processes.
— Priya Rajamani
Let’s start by acknowledging the 800-pound elephant lurking in the back of the hotel: For the past year, the hotel industry has faced a historic labor shortage, with a study by the Forbes Travel Guide showing that 92 percent of respondents faced significant hiring challenges in 2021 alone. This shortage persisted even while hotel occupancy steadily increased, and in spite of increased consumer demand for more responsive service and a hyper-personalized guest journey.
While the underlying causes of this shortage are complex, mobile technology can deliver a viable solution by expanding a hotel’s talent pool and helping them to get the most out of a smaller team. Because of this, it’s important for hoteliers to avoid legacy systems with complicated and clunky user interfaces. Outdated ‘Windows 95-style’ operating systems are difficult to learn, burdensome to use on the hotel floor, and restrict a hotel’s hiring pool to only those candidates who can acclimate to an obsolete system.
Instead, hoteliers should invest in mobile, SaaS-based systems, which leverage colorful and intuitive interfaces with dynamic “drag-and-drop” and “select-and-click” features. Because employees can master these systems in a matter of days rather than weeks, hotels can widen their talent pool and focus on employees who excel at engaging with and serving guests.
The traditional check-in process has always been a headache for both guests and hotel employees. Understaffed front desks are almost guaranteed to encounter long lines and bottlenecks. Meanwhile, requiring staff and guests to perform a scripted check-in dialogue creates interactions that seem forced and burdensome一especially to guests who just want to get into their room and on with their stay.
It’s critical to utilize a cloud-native PMS that provides guests with a mobile or kiosk-based self check-in option. Ideally, this welcome experience can be further enhanced by integrating with a digital payment platform as well as a keyless entry system, which would allow guests to check in, pay, and enter their room in less than a minute, entirely from their mobile device. The system can also provide an additional touchpoint for guests to further personalize their stay by sending targeted, automated offers for room upgrades, amenities, and monetized early check-in/ late check-out.
But self check-in can also be a boon to front desk staff by removing bottlenecks and freeing up employee bandwidth. Instead of huddling behind the front desk, a mobile PMS allows staff to roam the lobby and meet guests wherever they are, aided by a tablet that allows them to access the entire hotel. Instead of quickly reciting a check-in script, associates can admit guests into their rooms with a few keystrokes while engaging in a natural conversation about the guest’s stay, immediately handling any special requests on the fly.
For the hospitality industry, administrative work is the very definition of a necessary evil. While hotels require a certain amount of repetitive paperwork to function, too much can contribute to employee burnout and stand in the way of engaging staff-guest interactions.
No guest wants to talk to a staff member who is constantly buried in their screen, and no hotel employee started a hospitality career with the dream of doing paperwork. Fortunately, a cloud-native PMS can automate many common administrative tasks, such as room assignment, payment collection, report scheduling, and bulk check-in/ check-out, leaving staff with more time to serve their guests.
Traditional landline telephones are a terrible way to manage guest requests in today’s operational environment. Travelers shouldn’t have to downgrade to 1990s technology just to order room service or an additional turndown. Nobody likes being put on hold while a staff member tries to answer the phone or transfer a call, and answering calls takes the associate away from serving other guests. As demand for travel increases, so does the frequency of these delays, causing staff to feel overwhelmed and guests to feel underappreciated.
Integrating a cloud PMS with a mobile guest messaging platform will allow guests to instantly communicate with staff through their preferred app on their mobile device (Facebook, SMS, Whatsapp, etc), while staff will be able to handle multiple message threads simultaneously. Choosing a guest messaging system with a natural language AI can streamline this process even further by automating answers to common guest questions, thus saving employee bandwidth for more complicated requests.
Breakdowns in guest communications can harm your brand and undermine the guest experience, but so can disruptions in communication between staff. Sending housekeeping attendants to occupied rooms with late check-out, or stay-over reservations that have extended their stay, can undermine your team’s productivity and keep them from rooms that need more immediate attention. Sending an attendant to an occupied room that hasn’t requested service could turn out to be even worse. No guest wants the dreaded 7 AM knock from housekeeping when they’re trying to sleep. And of course, no one wants to pay for an early check-in only to find that their room isn’t ready because it’s still being serviced.
Hoteliers can avoid these issues by investing in either a dedicated operations platform or a mobile PMS built to streamline back-of-the-house operations. Features such as instant room status updates and auto-room assignment can go a long way toward streamlining staff communication and workflows. Similarly, automated housekeeping task management can instantly allocate tasks based on the number of people and the time required for each task, so teams can increase their productivity without overworking single associates.
Mobile technology can unburden back-of-the-house operations, and by extension unburden the entire guest experience. Intuitive, easy-to-use platforms can expand a hotel’s hiring pool, while automation can expand employee bandwidth by handling everything from common administrative tasks to mobile self check-in. Mobility can also improve communications between staff and guests, and streamline back-of-the-house processes and task management. With mobile PMS technology, staff can focus less on avoiding operational hiccups, and more on providing exemplary service to their guests.
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