Written by Kristin Carville
FCS Director of Sales for Australia, New Zealand & Pacific Islands
In the past few years, the importance of technology in our daily lives has increased exponentially – and this is no exception when it comes to hotels. The growing need for connectivity in our world today demands that hotels provide guests with the ability to use multiple devices at high speed in their room. The guests intensified desire for a home away from home, or an experience that they can tailor to their own needs means that features such as the ability to stream own entertainment or personalize the ambience of their room are becoming the new norm.
However, are we being too short-sighted when it comes to deciding on the areas in a hotel that will benefit from the time and money spent on for a technology upgrade? Are we too obsessed with the guest-facing side of the business, believing that giving them all things bright and shiny is the only thing that is needed to give the guest a better experience? Is this the only way to make a hotel perform better?
What about the back-of-house areas? These areas are the most critical when it comes to delivering the high standards that the guests have come to expect; and that the hotel expects of themselves. These areas are also an important aspect of the hotel performance, especially at times like this when managing costs like wages are increasingly vital. Yet, these areas are still using either outdated technology or no technology at all.
When I first started working in hotels in 2000, housekeepers were given their list of rooms on a piece of paper, and rooms were highlighted in a certain color to indicate what cleaning would be done. Guest requests were written down, often passed over to someone else on a post-it note. Preventative maintenance programs were written on whiteboards. When there were large groups or big events, bags were stored in multiple rooms with the details often scribbled down somewhere.
Now just imagine this…
Fast forward to 2020. As I travel more frequently for work these days, I can see that the majority of hotels are still using this same method. In some cases, the reason is that hotels are unaware of the various technology available that can assist them in these areas. In other cases, it’s because the attitude towards spending money and/or time on technology is still rather reserved.
Now just imagine this. Imagine being able to get a live update of when a room status changes or when a guest extends or checks out early. Visualize supervisors finding out that a room is ready to be inspected the moment the housekeeper has finished cleaning it. Imagine being able to know exactly how long a housekeeper took to clean a room and whether the quality of work meets the hotel’s standards. Perhaps, you want to be able to know exactly who is fulfilling a guest request when it comes in, and the status of progress? Or you want to find a guest’s bags without having to visit all 5 rooms that are being used for storage? Or maybe you want to be able to track how your preventive maintenance is going.
The great news is that there are already technology solutions out there readily available to do these actions for hotels. An old boss of mine once said something that has resonated with me since – we need to manage hotels ‘a la minute’, and with so many moving parts this can prove quite challenging. However, these programs allow staff – from management to the room attendants – to know exactly what is happening in the hotel right at that exact moment, which is of vital importance.
The great news is that there are already technology solutions out there readily available to do these actions for hotels.
One of the other great challenges that these programs can address is the collection of data, and the ability to produce factual reports on areas that have historically been based purely on anecdotal evidence. Whereas before, there would be rough estimates on how long each room would take to be cleaned, this information is now collected from the software and can be tabulated and reported however the hotel needs it. It also eliminates the need to go trawling back through overflowing filing cabinets to find out the frequency and cost of previous repairs – everything is now all collated together and much more easily accessible.
And let’s not forget those mad-house-like times when you have large groups, or a big crowd for an event that stays at the hotel, all leaving their bags after not being able to check-in early or heading on a tour before leaving. These days with the use of apps, barcodes and QR codes, a simple luggage tag can be a valuable way to be able to record exactly where an item is and how it has moved around the hotel from storeroom to guest room.
There are many things in hotels that have not changed over the years. The expectations of guests and their desire for a memorable experience is one that will stand until the end of time. However, how hotels can deliver these experiences is changing, and hotels must move with the times and arm themselves with the tools of today to deliver this. It is now up to the hotels to join the technological revolution, to look for substance over style and incorporate the new technology that allows better and more efficient service.