March 17 2016
Posted in: Hotel Technology

Does mobile technology change guest/hotel interactions? Consider the story of the in-room phone.

old in-room phone

Here is a question: why is the in-room phone still in our hotel guest rooms? The hotel industry has been aggressive about eliminating certain items and services already that may not be needed such as logo towels, shoehorns, and even the telephone book which has been dispensed of since as far back as 2008. But the in-room is still holding on.

Of course, the in-room phone was traditionally the main point of contact with not only hotel staff, but the rest of the world. Room-service requests, reservation modifications, messages, concierge help – all funneled through the phone by the bed. Plus, the phone used to be a great source of hotel revenue. Local and long-distance calls were a typical part of the guest folio at the end of the stay.

Now, however, that revenue is long gone. It is almost a novelty to see such charges on a guest bill these days. And increasingly, guest/staff interactions on the in-room phone are becoming fewer. Obviously the culprit here is the mobile phone, the device that is our constant companion.

At StayNTouch, we are neither for nor against the in-room phone. For us, it is simply a sign of the overall changes in guest preference and guest behavior.  Mobile “phones” are not merely phones. In fact, they are probably less about making calls than gathering information and interacting with the rest of the world through a variety of means besides voice. Our little mobile companions allow us to book travel, accommodation, transport (or Uber), check-in, order room service, make a dinner reservations, stream TV and movies, instant chat with staff, request housekeeping, book a spa appointment, check out… etc. You can even make some of these requests before you arrive at the hotel. And that is just a fraction of the things that we are doing on our “phones” throughout the day.

StayNTouch feels strongly that hotels need to understand that guests are coming to expect interactions with hotels through these devices. Those hotels that don’t have a mobile service model will soon be seen as out-dated, or even worse, inconvenient. The in-room phone was just the beginning. Mobile technology will continue to force a change in the way hotels conduct business and generate revenue.

So why do we still have that in-room phone by the bed?  The number one reason is that in the event of an emergency a phone needs to be available. “The primary reason we continue to deploy them [in-room phone] is for local- and state-mandated 911 requirements,” says Vivek Shaiva, EVP and CIO, La Quinta Inns & Suites.

So it looks like the in-room hotel phone becoming the equivalent of the fire alarm. Required but, hopefully, rarely used. What else in your hotel is going to evolve next?

by Karen O’Neill, StayNTouch