Yes, we are in hospitality because we love the people business, but the fact is that it is still a business. And when we make technology choices, we tend to select those systems that will ultimately produce more revenue and operational efficiency so the business can generate more profits and can grow. However, when we are in the nooks and crannies of comparing hotel management software features and benefits, we often forget to step back and remember the foundation of our business’s income – the guest’s preference for our hotel.
When giving us their business, guests are making a choice. If new to the hotel, they are selecting based on descriptions and reviews. If returning, they are selecting based on a positive previous experience. In both cases, the gross value of the guest’s stay will depend on the quality of the experience on-property and their engagement with ancillary revenue opportunities. Every technology you buy needs to clearly relate back to the improvement of the guest experience. Yes, that even includes pre-sale technologies such as revenue management and distribution technologies. Reaching the right customers with the right pricing is the very first part of the guest experience.
Marketing, pricing and distribution decisions. The difference between a standard approach and a competitive approach is guest and market data. Any technology you select to facilitate those types of decisions should include the easy collection and analysis of customer behavior data. Guest profiles should inform personalization and messaging. Market conditions (weather, new airline carrier routes, feeder market economics, occupancy trends, etc.,) should inform product packaging and pricing. And channel performance (which OTAs are winning, which channels are declining) should inform distribution. All of this seems somewhat obvious, except the fact that many software systems don’t actually bring this data into account by default. So if you want to find and speak to customers the right way, your system needs to integrate guest-centric data by default.
The rubber really meets the road when the guest is on-site. Too often, the hotel PMS is seen as a room management technology. But the reality is that it is a guest management technology. Room availability is just the currency of the hotel PMS system. Guest satisfaction and brand engagement are the outcomes of the PMS – if you have the right kind of system. It should go without saying that improving the guest experience encourages return guests, good reviews and ancillary guest revenue. So you need to look at each core functional area of the PMS and determine whether it contributes to the betterment of the guest experience.
Let’s start with housekeeping. Every hotel PMS tracks a clean or dirty room. But the improvement of the guest experience lies in the communications speed. The sooner the room availability information is communicated, the sooner a guest can get to their room. Your PMS should support mobile integrations so that housekeeping staff can communicate room availability the second the room is ready.
Then there is transactional support – the ability to post charges to the room. Every PMS should have this capability, but the guest experience improves if the staff member can go to the guest and take requests anywhere on the property, then instantly post the request and charge to the PMS form their tablet or mobile phone. And the experience is improved further, if the guest can look over the shoulder of the staff member to view add-on options in full graphics on the tablet, thereby improving the up-sell performance.
And finally there is the most important guest management component – check-in and check-out. If you think about it, checking in and out really provides no value to the guest. It is a hotel management necessity only. So how can we improve this administrative aspect of the guest experience. The answer is a mobile-enabled PMS platform that supports choice of check-in process. Let the user check in through their mobile phone and then pick up their key from a kiosk. This reduces wait time and allows the guest to take care of the check-in process at their leisure. Then allow the guest to peruse upgrades and add-ons while they are in the taxi on the way to the hotel. This no-pressure sales environment will yield greater conversion. And on the backside of the stay, allow the guests to extend their stay a few hours by giving them the ability to order a late check out on their phone without having to call down to the front desk. Each interaction with the PMS has now provided an improvement to the typical hotel experience because the PMS is now guest-centric.
In summary, hotel technology is not about features and functions. All technologies should be bought with the ultimate goal of improving the guest hotel-to-guest interface. Sometimes the link to that outcome may be hard to pinpoint. But you have to ask yourself, “Is the system I am buying going to allow me to serve my guests better and that the other systems out there?” If the answer is “Yes,” then you have chosen wisely.