Seven reasons why budgeting for a hotel platform is a must this year

Making a hospitality solution a priority for 2018 will make profits soar in 2019 says Justin Effron of ALICE.

When it comes to hotel management, there are so many demands starving for a slice of your fiscal pie, it can become overwhelming to figure out where funds can be utilised most effectively. Obviously, there are things that just can’t be fixed-hotel location, street noise, and view for starters. But surprisingly, the most important concern of guests is something hotels can drastically improve upon. According to a survey of attendees at last year’s Revenue Strategy Summit (RSS), the top guest complaint found in online reviews was “staff service”, as mentioned by more than half of the respondents. While resolving that issue may seem like a daunting task, it is actually a simple solution, thanks to today’s technology.

As the prevalence of smart mobile devices and the demand for customisation continues to skyrocket, it’s just a matter of time before the hot trend of hospitality platforms becomes the norm. In the 2016 book, Platform Revolution, a platform is defined as a business model that “uses technology to connect people, organisations, and resources in an interactive ecosystem in which amazing amounts of value can be created and exchanged”.

With their many different interactions, players, and services, hotels already act as a platform in many ways. This makes them ideal candidates for platform technology that facilitates the exchange of information and services between these various players and future-proofs it, so it can all adapt with more functionality as more digital technologies arise (in-room tech, key cards, Alexas, etc.).

Hotels adopting unifying hospitality platforms into their operations can not only integrate the various systems already in use, but can also create a new master system that’s able to link with guests, vendors, and more. Those using such platforms quickly become more efficient at communicating between departments, getting data on services they’ve never had before, and connecting with guests, leaving them more satisfied and more likely to write positive reviews online.

In short, the impressive time-saving and revenue-generating benefits of platforms offer immediate value, making them the best use of budget funds. Here are seven reasons why it makes sense to make space for a hotel platform in your 2018 budget:

1. Businesses embracing platform strategies are thriving (and vice-versa)
From Airbnb and Uber to Amazon and Netflix, businesses utilising platforms to connect customers to their resources are shaking up industries, leaving those clinging to more traditional methods in the dust. While this new model can be seen as a threat to the hospitality industry, it also offers a very exciting opportunity – one that can finally solve issues that have been plaguing hotels for centuries. Namely, how to unify multiple departments that use various means of communication into an integrated system.

Finding a platform that allows hotels to consolidate their front desk, concierge, maintenance, housekeeping, and operations departments with guests and vendor relations has proved imperative in order for hotels to compete with lodging services already integrating this type of technology within their systems. Hotels that are still using pen and paper, and walkie-talkies are quickly becoming endangered species. Those evolving to platforms that offer seamless communication, accountability, and efficiency to connect all these moving parts are simply better equipped to adapt to the fast-changing demands of guests and the world in general.

2. Guests are getting the message
For today’s tech-savvy consumer, customisation and instant gratification aren’t an added perk – they’re a way of life. There was once a time when electric irons, key cards, and WiFi were all considered cutting-edge amenities. Today, they have become expected standards from guests booking a hotel room. For guests who are accustomed to completing tasks and requests through tablets and other smart devices, using in-room phone directories can feel as outdated as using a telegraph.

Text messaging, which has become the favoured means of communication due to its ease of use, convenience, and effectiveness, has exploded in recent years as the engagement channel of choice at hotels – and not just among Millennials. Pew Research shows SMS-messaging is a favoured means of communication for guests of all ages. With 99 per cent of text messages read by recipients and 90 per cent read within three minutes of delivery, it’s no wonder texting is replacing the traditional means of reaching out to guests.

The best hospitality platforms out there funnel text messages to the same integrated back-end which helps to simplify communication and create an organized text trail that neither phone nor in-person conversations provide. Texting also increases engagement by making it easier for guests to request services and drives loyalty by using guest activity to personalize messages.

3. Tech-savvy guests are more likely to leave online reviews
Keeping guests happy has always been important to ensure repeat customers and word of mouth referrals. The difference now is that today’s guests have easy and instant access to write about their experience in real-time across multiple digital platforms such as TripAdvisor, Google, Yelp, and online travel agencies (OTAs) like Expedia or Travelocity, which can have an immediate impact on revenue.

The challenge for most hotels is that there’s no system of accountability to find out how long it’s taking housekeeping to deliver pillows or for maintenance to fix a broken A/C. So many hotels are discovering their issues the worst way possible, by reading about them in online reviews. The right hotel platform offers a more proactive approach that fixes issues before they become widespread or even before they happen to begin with. It’s all thanks to a very important advantage that platforms offer – a simple way to collect and analyse data.

4. The best way to improve performance is to measure it
While most hotels rely on radios to communicate with staff, radios don’t offer systems to track fulfillment, make note of issues, or allow guests to voice a complaint if a service didn’t meet their expectations. These interactions have no traceability, using paper records are difficult to coordinate, and guest requests are not captured in a searchable place so hotels can’t learn about guest habits over time. Hotels using analog tools have no idea what their issues are, so they can’t fix them. Not only does a shared platform enable staff and guests to communicate together to know when things are going right or wrong, it also provides a trackable system of metrics for management to know how long services are taking and where things can be improved.

5. Easy set up and quick learning curve 
Most GMs are so consumed with putting out fires, they feel that they don’t have time to invest in long-term solutions that will prevent all those problems to begin with. Urgent issues continually pop up in any business and successful leaders are those that take measures to prevent them from returning. The reality is, not only is the pain of upgrading short, it’s not even as painful or time-consuming as most GMs assume. In fact, most hotels making the switch to hospitality solutions can start with a slow roll in a matter of weeks and are fully converted within a couple months or less.

After years of doing things the traditional way though, will consumers really be embracing this new technology so quickly to make the investment worthwhile? Executives at Blockbuster had asked the same question when they had an opportunity to buy Netflix for $50 million back in 2000. Sure, that’s a different industry, but ask yourself, where are all the hotels these days without irons, key cards, and WIFI? Hotels who adopt technology early and implement platforms to ease customer communication will come out on top with the new generation of travellers.

6. You can’t put a price tag on security
Whether caused by nature, machinery, or man, life-threatening emergencies do happen. When they do, it becomes extremely important to have the most streamlined method of communications available. A platform integrated with security systems can assess the situation and go on lock-down if necessary and can send an emergency message to all staff and guests immediately at the touch of a button. The right platform can not only offer data to help make security assessments, but can also help you manage them if they’re already in progress.

7. The right platform can work with other technologies
Being able to unify all departments of a hotel is a major benefit of having an integrated platform. But that’s only the beginning. Some of the better platforms have such an advanced Application Programming Interface (API), they allow hotels to connect with vendors, suppliers, other applications, and other systems that they may currently be using including PMS, POS, and all other third-party management systems. In other words, the right platform allows an entire hotel operation to be accessed and augmented from just one device. Having an open API allows a hotel to integrate more effectively with their surrounding area, connect with a local service provider such as for food delivery, tours, transportation, and more – all managed from one source. Combine that with the wealth of data stored on times, costs, and ratings, and a GM can see if setting guests up with Uber cars or a car service is more efficient than having an on-site house car. The right platform can not only set this up but also reveal valuable data on how much house cars are costing the hotel and what would be the most cost-effective options.

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