We sat down with Stjepan Štajduhar, our Lead Product Designer, as he reveals the design secrets behind Stayntouch PMS' cutting-edge user interface. We discuss the role of psychology and design in developing a modern cloud PMS to boost staff productivity, promote guest engagement, and driving revenue.
Stjepan: Traditional PMS systems are products of an era focused on maximizing functionality. And while they improved what hotel staff can do, they didn’t adapt to the context in which hotel staff do their job.
Traditional PMS systems offer all the bells and whistles hoteliers need. But they bury them in cluttered screens riddled with buttons to click, abbreviations to figure out, and small text that are difficult to read. A hotel staff member has no choice but to focus on their screens 一 instead of the guest.
And with cumbersome navigation and many ways to perform the same task, it takes weeks to train staff before they get the hang of things.
At Stayntouch, we fixed all of that.
Stjepan: Frankly, our UI is born out of frustration and shaped by ignorance.
Many members of our Product Team worked in hotels. They’ve experienced first-hand where traditional PMS systems fall short. Their diverse experience and constant feedback from our customers are what allow us to dial in on the problems hotels face.
I’ve been with Stayntouch since day one, and I’ve designed the entire PMS from the ground up. And unlike the rest of the Product Team, I’m not a hotelier. That’s where ignorance comes in. I’ve never checked in a guest, but that allowed me to see things differently. When you’re not bogged down with, “This is how we always did it,” you can help figure out the best way to do something.
I’m also a psychologist, so there are a lot of psychological principles baked into the work we do here. These are the core principles that drive everything we do:
We don’t just design the UI here at Stayntouch. We design how people do their job. And our goal is to create a product that allows hotel staff to focus on their guests — not computer screens.
Stjepan: We design Stayntouch PMS in a way that allows us to place the burden of complexity on computers, not people.
Hotel operations are complex, and the PMS is considered the digital heart of a hotel. And when it skips a beat, everyone feels it — including staff and guests. We understand and appreciate that features play a critical part in hotel operations. But we’re not focused on just building features. We want to make features that unburden hotel operations so hotel staff can enhance the guest experience.
In a way, making software is like cooking. Use too much spice, and you’ll ruin the meal. Add too many features, and you’ll miss the opportunity to make software that serves people better.
We want hoteliers to feel like they’re in charge. When using our PMS, we don’t want them to feel like they’re on a long and loopy obstacle course. We want them to focus on the guest and trust the PMS to do what it needs to do without placing the burden on them.
Stjepan: Hotels are in the business of providing great hospitality. We’re in the business of providing software that allows them to do just that.
Great hospitality happens when hotel staff can engage with guests while providing exceptional service. When they have the emotional bandwidth to smile, they can foster emotional connections that lead to conversions. But it’s hard to smile when you’re frustrated with clunky, complicated software. So in a sense, picking the wrong PMS can hurt a hotel’s bottom line too.
That’s why we try to figure out how a particular task fits in the broader context of the job a hotel staff member needs to do. When we understand the context, we try to remove obstacles along the way, straightening the line from point A to point B.
We go to great lengths to resist the temptation to “show everything” our PMS can do. We take great care in not overwhelming hotel staff with options. Instead, we aim to give them what they need when they need it. So they have the mental and emotional energy to provide exceptional service to their guests.
Stjepan: Our PMS puts hotel staff in the drivers seat. They don’t have to spend weeks learning how to use it. Or remember six different ways to do the same thing. Or have prior experience with it. They don’t even need to have prior experience working in hotels. All they need to do is log in. If they have ever used a computer, they’ll figure out the rest quickly.
Besides what’s mentioned earlier, one of the ways we do this is by making sure our PMS sounds like a human, not a machine. When an associate encounters an error, we don’t want them to scratch their head, wondering what to do next. We make sure they know what is happening, why, and what they can do about it.
Stjepan: By getting out of the way. We’re not the star of the hotel: the guest is. And a hotel staff member’s job is to provide the guest with exceptional service 一 not struggle with the PMS that gets in the way.
But we can also follow hotel staff wherever they want to go, supporting them anywhere on-property or off. Our PMS runs on their phone or tablet, allowing them to step away from the front desk and engage guests wherever they are on the property. Or to check occupancy while they’re stuck in traffic traveling to work.
We designed Stayntouch PMS to be as easy to use as it can be 一 for guests too. That’s why certain parts of the PMS are guest-facing. Hotel staff can hand the tablet to guests and let them pick their own amenities or room options. People tend to value something more when they can take part in creating it. That’s why this “peak behind the curtain” approach to our design gives hotel staff the ability to build rapport and provide guests with a “micro-moment” they will remember.
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