September 26 2014

New Hotel Technology should follow the Airline Industry’s Lead

Many parallels exist between the airline and hotel industry. Both utilize variable pricing tied into demand. Both have seen their booking channels upended by online and mobile. However, once the booking has been completed, the technological similarities end.

You can hardly imagine checking in at the airport with a person anymore, yet the hotel front desk stalwart remains. More and more travelers arrive at the airport already checked in, yet hotel pre and self check-in still remain an elusive experience. Hotel reservation software typically doesn’t interface to the guests’ smartphone, yet mobile boarding passes are ubiquitous. Hotel mobile apps typically don’t allow the user to truly interact with the property beyond booking, whereas airline mobile apps can define the pre, in and post flight experience.

So what hotel technology trends can we extrapolate from the current state of airline technology? A recent Tnooz article, “How Airports are Leveraging Technology to Drive Revenue” points to current airline industry observations that are prescient for hoteliers to consider.

Happier Guests Spend More

“Passengers that report high levels of satisfaction at an airport tend to spend up to 45 percent more in retail shops, on average.” So transitively, could satisfied hotel guests spend more in onsite?

Your hotel management software should be more efficiently throughput your guests. Your property management software should expedite the guest’s arrival in her room—not extend it. The sooner that guest pushes open the door to her room, the sooner she is browsing the room service menu, checking out spa services, or booking tours through the concierge. If your hotel has a casino, every minute the guest stands in a line is a minute she is not sitting at a slot machine or a table. If your hotel PMS software creates more waits than it dissipates, your property is missing out on revenue.

Real Time, Personalized Information Makes Guests Happier

Airlines would would formerly guard delay causes and only announce said delays close to the time of boarding. Now airlines send emails and text messages so travelers can better plan their trip. Yet still, hotel guests hear, ‘your room’s not ready yet,’ or ‘Check back in an hour.” Why don’t hotels provide real time room information to guests?

One glaring problem, is the integration and communication between departments, further hindered by dated hotel software systems integration. Too often, the front desk doesn’t even know which rooms are clean, dirty, inspected, let alone occupied or vacant. Why? Get ready for the nerdy details:

Typically, properties rely on a serial (physically connected) interface between the PBX (private branch exchange), and the hotel property management software. This interface utilized an ACK/NAK protocol, where the interface scrolls through an update list. So the code entered into an in-room phone only updates the hotel’s PMS software when the room number is polled. In return, the hotel front desk software eventually updates the PBX extension listing with a checked in guest name, or turns off the extension upon check out. Indeed, theHTNG standard presented a more modern take, but usually required replacing functional, phone hardware for thousands of dollars.

Can you imagine a restaurant transmitting orders from the FOH to the BOH via a switchboard operator? Housekeeping is typically a hotel’s biggest operational bottleneck—more efficient rooms turnover means more is more paying guests in said rooms—and more often than not, the the housekeeping department is reliant upon an aging, phone extension hardware systems that looks like this.

Since the systems powering housekeeping are inefficient, front desk agents usually radio housekeeping supervisors to identify vacant clean rooms, lines increase, and guests spend less. How can a hotel provide real-time information to guests if it cannot provide real time information between systems and departments?

With Rover Housekeeping, and room attendant’s status and condition updates reflect instantaneously to the front desk, allowing front desk agents to assign the right room, the moment it’s ready. With Zest App, guests are alerted that their room is ready the moment it’s marked clean, so she can choose check in, or to continue eating lunch, playing blackjack, or enjoying a massage.

New Technology can improve the Guest Experience

Citing Coca-Cola, Andy Warhol waxed poetic about the American consumer equalization:

“You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too….All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it…and you know it.”

Your guests are already using the world’s best mobile apps and smart phone available. Your employees are as well. StayNTouch lets them experience your hotel through the same platforms.

By Bryn Williams, Director Strategic Accounts at StayNTouch, Inc.