Interview: StayNTouch CEO on how our digital life has profoundly impacted our expectations of everything
What was the impetus for starting StayNTouch?
JS: I was on a bike ride with my dad (who went cross country), and we stopped at a coffee shop in Lander, Wyoming (mid-2012). When we ordered our coffee, the Barista took the order on an iPad and then turned it around towards me for me to swipe my card and sign on the tablet. This was the first time I experienced this type of transaction done on an iPad. I was intrigued by the interaction between the barista and myself – the fulfilling part of the transaction. I asked the manager a few questions about the technology and application they were using. That night my son downloaded the app, set up the POS on his iPad, and walked me through how to order a burger – only at that point, the app asked us to subscribe and pay a monthly fee in order to use it.
I was really impressed that in addition to the great customer/staff experience, the technology was also straightforward to use and setup. Even my 12-year-old son could set up a full restaurant POS on his iPad without any training. I thought this was amazing. Over the next ten days, while on the bike ride, I had a lot of time to think. The key to great hotel service is all about people, but often people are separated by a Front Desk. This barrier was making most requests, including check-in, and check out more of a transaction than a really personalized guest service experience. It is then that it occurred to me – if hotel staff could access the entire PMS on a tablet, they could better assist and engage with guests, as well as become much more efficient. Add to that, the ease of use associated with an iPad or tablet app, especially in hotels with high staff turnover, and it was something that was badly needed. That is what initially sparked the idea of developing the first cloud-based mobile hotel property management system with integrated guest self-service solutions.
What market segments need to step up their game when it comes to implementing new and innovative hotel technologies?
JS: I think in general all market segments can work towards upping their game as it relates to implementing new technologies – primarily if they are existing hotels. To me, there should be an increased focus for hotels to provide more self-service options. We can see from our database that over 66% of the guests in hotels who use all our self-service modules (mobile check-in, and self-service lobby check-in), opt to check in through a self-service solution.
Where do you see AI being used within the hotel industry?
JS: This is an interesting question. I am not sure how to answer that at this point. Can we use Artificial Intelligence to find guests in our system? Can we use it to have guests use Siri or Alexa to check themselves in? Maybe, but I think we first need to do a better job of collecting data on the guest, so we can optimize the latest technology to provide a better experience. Using this data to be more targeted, offer the early check-in, late checkout, or package extras at the right time for the right guest, these are things we can do a lot with, and they are things guests will appreciate even if they might need to pay more. Working towards putting the guest in control of their stay is as important if not more important than AI.
How do you think hotels can truly give the guest what they want?
JS: The digital transformation of our culture has changed our expectations about everything we encounter. Look at the way you interact with people, consume information, purchase goods and services, and so on. Everything is immediate and personalized. Entire industries such as retail, telecommunications, and media, have completely transformed in response. Unfortunately, the typical hotel experience looks very much like it did 20 years ago. That is why we have a vision for helping hotels to align their service model with our new, digital lives. To be competitive in today’s marketplace, we believe you need to free yourself from traditional assumptions about hotel operations. Our vision is to bring mobility to hotel staff and guests to create a genuinely guest-centric experience that parallels with your guests’ lives and makes your hotel business more successful.
Guests want their own way of entering and leaving the hotel; they want to choose how they interact, and they want to be in control.
What’s next for StayNTouch?
JS: We are in the middle of piloting our Rover Connect APIs, together with our largest customers. One customer is building a new mobile app for their hotels and wants to deliver fully integrated check-in and out experiences. Our APIs provide just that. Be on the lookout for our general release of Rover Connect in early 2018. We also have, on the way, our multi-property features. In short, we continue to work on being the right technology for today’s hotels and their guests!