As staff technology becomes the next frontier in guest satisfaction, the benefits will accrue to hotels that recognize the value of the staff experience before their competition.
What a year it has been for technology and for travel. While it may seem we have come such a long way over the last decade with technology, in some ways it is really just “the end of the beginning”. As you can see in this persuasive 20-minute presentation from one of Silicon Valley’s biggest VCs, the last 20 years have been primarily spent just getting everyone online (yes, the hotel industry is a bit further behind, but is making big strides towards this). Almost 75% of the world is now online, yet e-commerce (online spending) is still less than 10% of the total retail market (which includes spend offline in bars and restaurants, physical shops, cars and parts, and gas stations) and that is just a fraction of ALL consumer spending. Now with the maturity of the internet, the world is moving from the “easy things” of the internet (selling low touch goods and services to consumers) into things that are much bigger – businesses that run on information.
So what does this have to do with hotels? Well, for the first 5 years of ALICE we have been helping hotels follow this shift of moving all services and work online (replacing radios with iPods, and sticky notes with software). In some ways, this is the “easy” work. Over the next 10 years, the real opportunity to differentiate will come. That is when hotels start to understand what all this information means and how it is all connected. That is to say, starting to use the information to truly personalize the guest experience.
Let me give you an example. The fabulous Belmond just sold last week – perhaps surprisingly – to LVMH, the world’s largest luxury goods conglomerate, which includes brands such as Christian Dior (fashion), Veuve Clicquot (champagne), Sephora (cosmetics) and Hublot (watches). This move by LVMH follows its foray into hotels with the Bulgari Hotels and Resorts collection – a recognition that the future of luxury is not just goods, but experiences. It makes a lot of sense… Millennials crave experiences over goods, luxury and lower-end alike. However, this is just the beginning. Imagine a world where all of our data is connected, where LVMH is not just a group of high-end brands that a person might like across various categories, but a true platform. One where each connection with the brand is one of a constellation of connections. At that point, LVMH would have quite a remarkable amount of information and possibilities.
So, we are really just at the beginning. The good news for travel is that unlike so many industries, travel is distinctly human. As the world turns more and more online, it’s humanity we crave the most. And what is more human than travel? We found out at this month’s Expedia Partner Conference that 1 in 10 jobs globally is in travel. And furthermore, 1 in 5 new jobs over the next 10 years will be in travel. We are in the world’s greatest industry.
Here are a few more fun “facts” from the Expedia conference that we’ll leave you with to impress others with over the holidays
- Amazon is considering opening 3,000 more Amazon Go stores in the next 36 months (for reference, Chipotle opened 470 in 9 years)
- 11.7M jobs will be indirectly impacted by self-driving cars
- According to JetBlue Ventures, air taxis will exist by 2023 (that’s only 5 years until we have a flying taxi!)
- According to Harvard, in 2020 the cost of Uber is projected to go from $2.15 per mile to $0.25 per mile – making it less expensive than owning a personal car
- Across the world, 800M jobs will be impacted by automation, and in the U.S., automation will impact 1 out of every 3 people
- 1 out of every 3 hotel bookings is booked via mobile – we are all online now
- Millennials value travel over sex, carbs, and coffee
Have a great holiday and thank you for everything this year. You have all given us so much – we are truly grateful. It has been as hard as it has been rewarding. We are lucky to have a great team at ALICE and even greater partners and friends.
– Alex Shashou
Special congratulations to Alex Shashou, ALICE Co-Founder and President, for winning this year’s Next-Gen Leader Award, which recognizes the brightest young leaders shaking up the hospitality industry.
HX: The Awards winners from left to right – ALICE’s Alexander Shashou, Leola Edelin, Alex Pfaffenbach, Javier Egipciaco, and Steven Shern.
Study Shows How Prioritizing Hotel Staff Technology Can Drastically Boost Guest Satisfaction
Ensuring that each and every guest is happy and satisfied throughout their stay should be the number one priority for every hotel owner – but just how easy is this to accomplish within a modern hospitality environment?
According to the J.D. Power 2018 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study (NAGSI), once successful guest-facing technologies such as WiFi and in-room tablets are quickly plateauing in their effectiveness and increasingly less likely to improve a hotel’s guest satisfaction score.
With diminishing allure of guest-facing tech, alternative methods must now be employed by hoteliers to ensure their guests maintain a positive experience throughout their stay.
Amongst other suggestions, the J.D. Power report strongly emphasizes that an improvement in service levels is crucially important, and any technology that is able to improve the efficiency, performance, and mental wellbeing of hotel staff will be a strong investment for the future.
Though many would naturally assume the best way to improve service levels is to focus on tangible service metrics (shorter delivery times or more frequent room cleaning schedules etc.) – and we don’t disagree – we also think improving staff satisfaction by supplying them with the tools that make their lives easier is an overlooked but similarly effective approach in this regard.
Whereas in the past, investments in staff technology were relatively low, the 2018 Hotel Technology Study shows that hotels are rapidly increasing their technology budgets by an average of 4% of annual revenue, with the majority of hoteliers (61%) having claimed they expect to increase their spending on staff tech by 2019.
With market growth forecasts as high as this, there’s no denying that staff technology will have a huge role to play in shaping the hospitality industry of tomorrow, but what exactly is it that hoteliers stand to gain by investing in it?
Streamlining Administrative Duties
One of the major advantages operations platforms purpose-built to enhance the staff experience offer hoteliers is the reduction of paperwork and time-consuming oversight inherent to more siloed methods of hotel management.
One of the General Managers we work with referenced the “mounds and mounds” of paper required to manage operations at his hotel, prior to upgrading to cross-department staff operations technology. Before migrating to an operations platform, every hotel guest request and work order would be noted on a 4-copy carbon copy notepad, with one copy sent to the operations manager, one copy sent to the department manager, one copy sent to the housekeeper performing the task, and the last copy kept on file. At the end of each day, every department head would spend hours sifting through all these slips to learn about what had happened on property that day. Now, with a digital log of all hotel activity, end-of-day oversight takes just minutes.
Operations platforms can provide time-saving benefits for other staff too, like concierge, who can rely on operations technology for pre-built templates for guest itineraries and confirmation letters. This helps concierge achieve consistency and sophistication in formatting, and not waste valuable time creating materials from scratch every time a guest calls.
Automating Repetitive Work
While automation in hospitality undoubtedly has its limits, automating repetitive staff work can improve overall productivity, improve the staff experience, and give staff time to have more meaningful interactions with guests.
An example of this is the automation of a certain amount of text messaging between staff and guests. Indeed, texting has emerged as one of the most popular ways for hotels to communicate with their guests, but the time-consuming nature of one-on-one text messaging makes it seem at times at odds with the busy atmosphere of the front desk.
One of the biggest benefits of text message automation is that it saves staff from sending the same welcome message or WiFi password again and again, thereby giving staff more time to have meaningful conversations with guests. Automating responses to frequently-asked questions makes an immediate response easy, and lets staff focus on responding to other texts in a more timely fashion.
Text messaging automation also helps hotels engage guests throughout all phases of the guest journey – pre, during, and post-stay. Pre-arrival, hotels can leverage automation to communicate a welcome message before guests check in to convey a pleasant check-in experience and memorable stay. During the guest stay, automated messages can be used to convey information that guests might find useful, like the weather, daily hotel events, and restaurant specials. With text messaging automation, hotels also have the ability to be proactive in resolving guest issues before they checkout from the property. Sending departing surveys privately through automated text messages resolves issues before they reach review websites and hoteliers can capitalize on these complaints as insight to adjust standard operating procedures.
In recent beta testing, hotels that have adopted guest message automation as a part of their communication strategy have seen an increase in their guest engagement by over 25%.
Positive User Experience for Staff
It goes without saying that as technology evolves, the expectations of those who use it evolve too, and hoteliers must do everything they can to ensure these expectations are met – for both guests AND staff.
Given that millennials are currently the largest generation in the workplace, it makes sense for hoteliers to invest in a solution that suits their staff’s communication preferences and creates a working environment where they can exchange information in a way that is most convenient and natural to them.
Fortunately, with a staff operations platform installed, staff are able to easily access all the guest information they need, collaborate with team members, and communicate directly with each guest through a single platform that can be used on multiple devices.
In lieu of siloed systems of communication like email, telephone, pen & paper, or radios, an operations platform provides front and back of house staff with a transparent, seamless and fluid way to communicate, even supporting devices like smartwatches to best suit the preferences of all employees living in a digital world. The result? Enhanced internal communication, better job satisfaction, happier staff, and, as a result, a much happier guest who has all of their needs met in the fastest time possible.
Shared Responsibility For Guest Satisfaction
If there’s one thing that’s likely to break the team spirit in the workplace, it’s a dispute.
Nobody likes to take the blame for a mistake, and when staff are forced to manage their work with spreadsheets, post-its, and a game of telephone via walkie-talkies, it’s easy for information to get lost and for problems to quickly escalate.
With all staff using the same operations platform to log internal work orders and guest requests, there is now a centralized log that actively records all issues, irrespective of department, and stores them within a single location that can be accessed quickly and easily by all included parties.
This way, nobody has to waste time tracking people down for an answer to a question, nobody can lay the blame on another for not logging any issues correctly or claim they thought somebody else was handling the task, and everybody has the shared responsibility of securing guest satisfaction as a team.
- Self-Driving Hotel Rooms Are on the Way – Hotel Management
- How Hoteliers Can Vet Their Technology Vendors – Hotel News Now
- The Marriott Breach Reminds Us How Valuable Hotel Data Is to Spies – Forbes
- Exclusive: Airbnb Will Start Designing Houses in 219 – Fast Company
- HX: The Awards Gives Honors to Top Individuals in the Hospitality Industry – The Hotel Experience
- No Bed, No Breakfast, But 4-Star Gunfire. Welcome to a War Hostel – The New York Times
- LVMH Buys Belmond, Luxury Hotel Owner, as Rich Shoppers Spend More on Travel – The New York Times
ALICE has been nominated for the Hotel Tech Awards (the hotel technology Grammys)!
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