September 24 2012
Posted in: Self service

Thinking… SmartPhone Hotel Services?

Yes I was, …. and not just recently… but back in 2008. During a MICROS user conference in Mallorca (Spain) during my key note speech I introduced the crowd to “Ann” a Gen Y traveller going everywhere with her SmartPhone (At that time most called it actually a PDA). In my role as SVP Hotel Product Development I wanted to see how the audience of mostly Hotel IT executives and experts would react to a future client such as Ann. More importantly would their hotels be ready for this type of functionality, or were they even thinking about it?

Ann at the time was in her mid 20-ties, left college a few years earlier, she was tech savvy and on-line or connected most of the day. She had to go on a business trip to New York, based out of San Francisco she booked her hotel room via Expedia, look for a cool hip boutique hotel. Here’s how I envisioned her stay experience to be:

  • Upon Expedia’s reservation confirmation, the hotel forwarded a separate confirmation to Ann informing her of the hotel’s self service “app” and the URL to download it from. Ann… curious… downloaded the App.
  • The App shows a nice overview of her upcoming stay with a number of services she could activate with the touch of a button
  • Ann, uses the App to update her stay preferences and to send a message to the hotel letting them know she will arrive early
  • One of her preferences is “auto checkin”…
  • On her departure to the airport, she checks the hotel App. She sees her city view room is confirmed. The App also let’s her know that closer to arrival time her room number will be confirmed
  • Just before switching of her phone in the plane for take off, the App sends her a nice short text, offering her a Spa treatment at 50% discount… a few clicks later, she has confirmed a Spa treatment
  • .. In the air from SFO to NY…
  • On landing in NY, she pulls her SmartPhone from her handbag, checks on emails and re-connects with the world
  • Bummer… a text message from the hotel (automatically sent by the PMS), it’s 7am… her room will not be ready until 10am
  • No big deal she things..her meeting is not until 1:00pm
  • Rather than going straight to the hotel she goes to a nearby Starbucks (Free wifi)
  • At 9:35, while enjoying her Latte, a text from the hotel… “Your room 201 is ready, please reply to receive your “InPhone Key”
  • Arriving at the hotel she recognizes that clunky Kiosk she tried to use last time… it’s still out of order
  • With her “InPhone Key” she can go straight to her room… her phone… is also her hotel room key!!!
  • She takes a quick shower… and is on the way to her meeting.
  • At 7:00pm she gets back to the hotel, hungry and tired, time for room service
  • Using her hotel App, which has a nice visual display of the hotels room service menu, with a few clicks.. her meal is ordered, the App prints it in the kitchen and a few minutes later it is being delivered to her room
  • While having dinner, she plays with the hotel App: she cancels turndown service, set her news paper to the USA Today, and requests a wake up call for the next morning, all with a few clicks from her SmarPhone
  • …. That was October 2008.

Fast forward to 2012: Today this vision is very real. Most guests have a SmartPhone, even older demographics and the not so tech savvy travelers. While PMS vendors continue to focus on hotel staff functions only, there is now good number of new companies that are providing self services solutions, and even the “InPhone Key” is no longer a vision. Openways (www.openways.com) has made that reality. Today hotels have access to all technology needed to provide for Ann’s “smartphone stay experience”. But yet only very few hotels actually offer SmartPhone self service as a “service” option. Why?

When processes require multiple vendors and systems, besides from costly, things become difficult to implement. In order for Ann to check herself in, or order rooms service, a few systems (and vendors) need to work well together, such as the PMS, POS, the self service App and door-lock vendor. Than there is the security issue, most on property used technology, still resides on the property, which makes integration with consumer facing Apps complicated, it brings added security measures as now many more consumers are using your network when connect to such a self service App.

Continue to follow this blog and I’ll help your hotel or hotel brand make Smartphone Self Service a reality.

stayNtouch!