With the lack of knowledgeable staff, not to mention warm bodies that want to work, you might think that the solution is to build an app, and avatar or a kiosk that replaces the need for a human being. Before you spend capital expense on a new system, make sure your customers are ready for the change and that it works.
The Automation Goldrush
There are many systems out there right now. There are housekeeping and property maintenance programs offering the promise to make your team more efficient and allow the guest to be in control of their experiences. There are “push” applications that can send, track, and promise to bring the guest what they didn’t know they wanted, but do.
There are AI Robots that stroll through your property waiting to answer questions, give directions and offer the hotel another level of security through video recording of all events. They also become quite the photo selfie icon as well.
The latest trend is to attempt to have guests check in via their cell phone, streamlining the arrival process. Sounds simple enough. We trust our cell phones with all of our personal data, credit card information, pictures, and passwords for all of our mobile sites. “We like the idea of having the hotel arrival, opening of the door and departure process all through the device that never leaves us.” The technology is here … but that is not the problem.
If we move too quickly to make a change without understanding how the new technology works with your existing internal processes and the supporting departments, streamline will quickly shift to struggle as the team tries to catch up.
Before jumping on the newest, shiny promise of productivity, ask yourself, will this new system or app:
- Interface with the existing PMS and Reservation System smoothly?
- Have APIs that require additional interfaces to work?
- Allow for customer security of data, as well as the property?
- Have redundant back-ups and manual overlays when things go wrong?
- Come with 24/7 support from the vendor?
- WORK easily for your customers?
That last one is critically important. Before and while you have this new app, management must continually test it, communicate with other stakeholders, and train the staff on all the scenarios that may arise. However, this tool or automation should never completely replace the human aspect of our business.
Once You’ve Chosen – Test and Test Again!
Test your new tool often. Check for bugs or gaps in the process before someone brings them to your attention. Make a reservation. Check into your own property and go through the steps that your guests will. If it is frustrating to you – it will be infuriating to your guests. Where did it hang up and how do you ‘fix it’ in the moment when everyone else is trying to use the app at the same time.
Handing out champagne in the subsequent waiting line to speak to the manager is a nice touch, but it only solves a temporary system and does not address the underlying problem. That problem is a management problem. The GM, Ops Manager, Front Desk Manager and Director of Housekeeping are not working together for the betterment of the guest. Typically, the cause is that they don’t understand the customer. Whether they are arriving or departing, leadership may not know how to deploy their team to handle the ebb and flow of their guests.
The computer in reservations can ‘capture’ their arrival time, and the system knows when people have departed from their room, but all of this data is NOT being used to service the hotel. Housekeeping tends to be caught in an 8:30 AM – 4PM workday, instead of creating a flexible team who can clean rooms as they become available with some starts as early as 6AM. Some more important guests, or those with membership status earn the right to have late check out to suit their trip home best. Housekeeping in some properties did not change to adapt to this new level of service, only to frustrate the customer further.
One very large hotel company has an app that allows you to check in and check out on your phone, however, when you check out on the app, it automatically checks you out at 11AM (the official hotel check out time) NOT the time you left. If you leave at 6AM – housekeeping won’t go into that room for five hours – even though they could have taken advantage of the head-start on turning that room.
Setting the expectation for your guests is critically important. The arrival expectation, the stay expectation, and the departure expectation: these are often considered a promise by you to your guests that when broken, breaks your reputation in a dramatic way. Blogs and review sites will hear of your blunders before you do and, in some cases, they are irrevocable. Everyone must be on the same page and understand their role in the success of any new endeavor. Talk to your team before tackling a new tool! You’ll be glad you did.
Are your guests waiting in long lines at your hotel check in? Are you considering new technology for your resort? Contact Kristine Woods, firstname.lastname@example.org today to discuss a Hospitality or F&B Review that could save you thousands and protect your reputation for stellar service.