The Hotelier’s Wake Up Call!
Alarm bells are ringing everywhere as new technology permeates the hotel industry in a big way. Hoteliers, at times, have tried to turn a blind eye to transformative change due to the old saying “If it is not broken, why fix it?” Well, technology is moving so quickly that embracing this change has to happen, and it has to happen now.
Social has brought about a tremendous amount of change in the hoteliers’ world. Most importantly, it has increased awareness of the hotel and its products as well as truly involving the guest in a conversation. Hotels are constantly being bombarded with feedback via Facebook, Twitter, TripAdvisor as well as the barrage of other channels, and this now consumes a great deal of time.
Integration and distribution have also brought with it some incredible challenges. More channels of distribution make the management of hotel revenues more complicated and the requirement to integrate with the myriad of new hotel apps that let hotels book, check-in, request special items and text with the hotel add even more complexity.
How do you deal with all of this while operating old, antiquated on property systems?
What does mobility truly mean
Mobility does not just mean using a smartphone to do everything you need to do as a traveler; hotel mobility means so much more. In the case of the hotel industry, both guests and employees are seeing advantages of using their cell phones to either interact with the hotel via making hotel bookings or from a hotel perspective, to communicate with other hotel employees while on the property.
Mobility is fundamentally changing every industry by altering the way people shop, interact and creating disruptive business models. In fact, by 2020, the number of people who have smartphones will be more than the number of people who have running water. Phocuswright, in its US Traveler Technology Survey, 6th Edition, reports that consumers now use their smartphones to shop for hotel bookings at a rate of 57% and book hotel rooms at a rate of 33%. These are huge numbers. They are followed by high results for tablets and then followed by desktop usage.
One of the main reasons for the rise of smart devices is the exceptional user experience they provide. The Pew Research Center highlighted the findings of its research in this area by creating a “word cloud” from the adjectives people used to describe their experiences with smartphones (pictured above) including convenient, necessary and love.
However, once again, mobility means so much more. Hotels are still handcuffed by their front desk. Hotels have built a physical wall between their employees and their guests. High-touch engagement requires the development of a great relationship. How can this be done when you are “blocked” from truly “connecting” with your guests. Front desks need to go away. Enabling hotels to deliver exemplary service via a mobile device (tablet) and engage with the guest in a warm, inviting manner needs to take place, and this is our future.
The connected guest and what they want
Guests are very different and thus require varying levels of service. The hotel industry needs to be attuned to this and be able exactly what the connected guest wants and/or expects. Hotels can use mobility to streamline functions and improve service by providing information where and when it is needed, enabling quicker, smarter decisions as well as the ability to solve issues on the spot.
Competition in the hotel industry is intense, and providing personalized services through the latest technology is an absolute advantage that hotels should pursue. Phocuswright business travel research reports that 32% of business travelers want to use their smartphones to check in at their respective hotel and that 28% may use their phone to purchase an upgrade and 33% managed their itinerary.
Now, there are a large number of travelers that want the other side of the hotel engagement equation. They want to interact with the hotel staff. By delivering an on-property mobile engagement strategy along with the capability to help guest bypass your front desk, you will genuinely be delivering what the connected guests want and require.
Managing the costs of modern technology
Costs are always at the forefront of technological purchase decisions within the hotel industry. It has to be. Hotels run on relatively tight margins and thus need to optimize their budgets and cash flow.
Solutions that run “Software as a Service” models are becoming increasing popular. We have Marc Benioff and Salesforce to thank for this. Salesforce was indeed the trigger that showed the business world that you can optimize your tech spend and still use the best in CRM and SFA that your business requires.
With SaaS, you pay for what you need. The cost of entry is substantially lower, and when you grow as a hotel or need additional “space,” the scalability and flexibility of a SaaS solution is indeed a very smart choice. From an accounting perspective, SaaS give the hotel accounting group an extremely predictable cost to work with due to that fact that it is an “all-in” subscription pricing model. This helps you manage your budget and cash flow more effectively.
Running your hotel on a Tablet
Running your hotel on a tablet may seem unrealistic, but rest assured, it is not. In fact, it is the future.
Imagine being able to roam the lobby helping guests check-in, find the right restaurant for dinner, or give them directions to a gym nearby all the while creating a face to face relationship with your guest. This ‘untethered service’ is authentic guest engagement.
By enabling your hotel to have the capability of running its operations on a tablet, any type of tablet, you now empower your employees to get out from behind the front desk and engage your guests. In regards to housekeeping, you give them the same flexibility and power. When a quest stops a housekeeper in the hallway with a special request, he or she can now immediately make the request and confirm it for the guest on the spot.
When tablet adoption is so high, this makes sense. Phocuswright’s’ Mobile Landscape Report 2016 research finds that 59% of over 1000 queried, use a tablet. So this means that more than half of your employees will be educated on tablet use and thus by giving them a tool that enables them to do their jobs more effectively and engage will be the ultimate win/win.
Hoteliers need to hear the wake-up call as loudly as your guests do and begin the process to change the way you communicate, interact, engage and build relationships with your guests, so they keep on coming back and referring your hotel to their friends and families.
Plan for success
As you strategize how your hotel is going to keep up with emerging technologies, as well as the demands of travelers and competitors, here are some suggestions to keep in mind:
- Stay true to your unique brand promise and personality
- Understand how your guests are using mobile to shop and interact and develop solutions specifically for their needs
- Incorporate mobile capabilities across multiple operational and service functions, and develop SOPs for these areas to use as guidelines
- Actively solicit feedback from guests and staff to refine and improve
- Continuously innovate and expand as technology evolves. A mobile strategy is not finished the moment it is implemented – it is just the beginning