Jeremy Gall, co-founder and CEO of Breezeway, outlines how operational technology will become an essential tool for hoteliers in 2021.
2021 will be the year in which operational tech and automation is no longer an ‘optional extra’, but instead, an essential part of how boutique hotels uphold standards and embody their brand values.
It’s a big and bold statement – but one in which I truly believe. The trend towards an increased guest demand for quality control (or what I prefer to call quality service), evident even before Covid-19 hit, will continue to accelerate. Hospitality providers, from all property sectors, who meet these higher traveller expectations will differentiate themselves and rise to the top, while those who can’t provide detailed service will struggle to grow. Additionally, the property care tools that come as part of PMS systems just won’t cut it in today’s climate. There is a growing need for purpose-built operational tools that support the automation of processes and tasks that are foundational to delivering quality and service.
So why is quality service so important? Why should boutique hoteliers pay attention to standards now more than ever before and how do they do it? Well firstly, quality equals safety. As travel continues to emerge from the black cloud of Covid-19 and people begin to book their stays and plan their trips, the hospitality industry is faced with a huge challenge. What does it need to do to keep staff and guests safe during each stay? Terms such as cleanliness and sanitation have been used ubiquitously in the last few months, but in practice this has meant that hotels, big and small, have needed to be extremely diligent in their operational procedures and make substantial changes.
Since Covid-19, almost without exception, we have seen hoteliers tweak their existing processes and policies to ensure that everything is functioning highly. This is of course inherently challenging – there is a very small margin for error in operations. Turning over rooms needs to be done precisely and efficiently, which puts immense pressure on businesses, staff, and their bottom lines. Additional time is now allocated to cleaning rooms to elevated standards (our customers at Breezeway now spend an additional 25 minutes cleaning each unit). It’s changes like these, led by traveller expectations, which are driving the hospitality industry as a whole to focus on quality standards. These standards, once important, are now critical.
Technology that is focused on operational solutions enables hoteliers to implement these exacting requirements without the need for high costs or a sacrifice to profit. For instance, operational tech can schedule tasks for housekeeping, maintenance and concierge teams, ensuring that time is maximized and processes are as efficient as possible. Technology can also be used to align protocols to ensure that no details are missed.
When hoteliers strive for quality service in everything they do, they ultimately enhance each guest’s experience. Automating manual efforts (such as scheduling housekeeping and maintenance tasks to staff, coordinating issues and status updates in real time, ensuring compliance with cleanliness and brand standards, and having confidence in room prep for last-minute reservations) can not only save time and headaches, but it affords more focus on brand experience.
When this sweet spot of continually meeting and exceeding the quality standards of guests is reached, it results in hospitality providers offering a ‘brand-like’ experience. A major element of a successfully implemented brand experience is consistency. With consistency comes repeat stays and brand affinity, which in turn translates to brand loyalty. Boutique condo-hotel companies that use Breezeway such as Casai and Jurny are winning at this right now. Even during the pandemic, these companies have continued to grow. They consider themselves technology-led hospitality providers, differentiating their brands in part through their back-end functions.
Smart operational technology also supports the delivery of proactive and personalised communication – again enhancing quality service. Customized SMS or in-app messages throughout the traveler journey (post-booking, pre-arrival, in-stay, and post-departure) can drive more value to guests, whilst also keeping them and staff safe by replacing face-to-face contact.
As margins become squeezed by increased competition, and booking volumes remain suppressed from the pandemic, hoteliers can also boost profits by increased service offerings and customer retention. Again, the right technology accommodates programs to offer departing and arriving guests the ability to lengthen their stay and fill gaps in reservations (this will become increasingly likely as travellers currently have more flexibility with respect to working remotely).
As we progress through this pandemic and look towards the future, it’s becoming clear that boutique hoteliers and other hospitality providers can no longer ignore the need to automate operations. Tech adoption is on the increase and one reason, aside from increased efficiency and cost savings, is that operational tech helps ensure a level of quality (this is true across all accommodation types). Hoteliers have a duty of care to uphold standards, cleaning and safety in particular, and operational tech delivers this assurance.