How Employee-Facing Social Technology Improves the Guest Experience

By Bernard Ellis Vice President of Industry Strategy, Infor Hospitality | August 31, 2014

In today’s world of 24/7 information access via smart phones and tablets, the next generation of hotel guests expects instant gratification and craves constant connection to the data and services they seek. According to Forrester, online and mobile consumption as a whole rose from 29 percent to 40 percent between 2009 and 2013. (1) This has significantly impacted the hospitality industry, as hoteliers are faced with the challenge of keeping pace with ever-increasing service expectations from guests through a growing number of outlets. In order to meet these expectations, hospitality organizations are examining internal processes and looking to new technology platforms to help boost efficiency and speed service to guests.

The use of social media for communication between properties and guests has already been established as an important outlet over the past several years. Creating a presence on social websites such as Facebook and Twitter is no longer optional, but rather something that hoteliers must participate in to be viewed as a viable travel option. Research confirms that hospitality organizations utilizing social media experience significantly more website visitors, which ultimately facilitates an increase in reservations and revenue. Social media channels have also become viable outlets for marketers to present real-time offers and promotions to potential guests based on the time and location from which they view the hotel’s profile. Additionally, as review websites such as Yelp and Trip Advisor have opened the door for guest discussions about hotels, social media outlets provide the most direct way to engage with customers. Many travel websites automatically link to Facebook profiles of members. Therefore if a hotel receives a negative review, they can instantly connect with the guest via social media to pinpoint the issue and potentially protect the relationship. As a whole, social media have forever altered marketing and customer service possibilities in the hospitality industry by creating an entirely new avenue for feedback and discussion.

While the impact of using social media externally is well recognized, the use of social collaboration tools for employee-to-employee communication is often overlooked. However, this has the potential to be equally, if not more, beneficial for hoteliers. Hospitality companies should focus efforts not only on building a social presence externally, but on improving internal productivity and guest services through the latest social platforms for business applications. Through the use of social collaboration tools, hotels can improve interactions between employees, gain operational efficiencies and enhance the overall guest experience.

The primary downfall in this era of never-ending accessibility is that consumers are now flooded with information. This is true within the workplace as well, as hotel staff members are constantly inundated with emails, phone calls, meetings, text messages, and often unorganized information updates passed along in person. These methods create silos of information – when something is communicated via one channel but not another – which produces a disconnect within the organization. For example, the revenue manager might be aware that the hotel’s forecasted demand has suddenly spiked for a particular week. However, this information may take several days to reach the marketing department through routine meetings and reports. Still thinking demand was soft for that week, marketing plans a high-cost campaign to generate bookings, unaware of the change in forecast. Because of a lack in communication, the hotel is wasting marketing funds that could have made a much larger impact at another point in time, and alienating potential new customers by offering promotions that will not actually be available when they try to book them.

Social collaboration tools that are embedded in core systems and processes can eliminate scenarios such as this one by providing a central location to share and organize information. Connectivity to critical property, financial and asset management applications helps to capture vital corporate knowledge that might otherwise be lost. In order for social collaboration platforms to be effective, they must be integrated across the hotel or hotel group’s properties and deliver advanced functionality that includes:

  • The ability to “follow” both people and objects, which enables updates not only on other user activities, but on the status of accounts, equipment and entire departments.
  • Contextual intelligence that displays real-time data on a single screen based on the employee’s current task. Information should also be easily searchable and shareable through the application.
  • The ability to drill back into this information to pinpoint sources of error and determine the “why” behind day-to-day operations.
  • Automated tasks and alerts that help to speed processes by delivering critical updates to the right stakeholders are the right time.

Simply tacking a social platform onto existing solutions will not provide significant gains in operational efficiency. Selecting a tool with the above functionality, integrating it with critical systems, and then providing access to employees across all areas of the hotel are essential steps to enable success. With this approach, users can share information such as credit alerts, maintenance requests and VIP check-ins, for easier, more efficient collaboration. When all users have access to the same real-time data, collaboration becomes assumed. The ability to cooperate across multiple departments becomes the rule, rather than the exception.

Coming up in January 2018...

Mobile Technology: Relentless Innovation

Technology has become a crucial component in attracting and retaining hotel guests, and the need to enhance a guest’s technology experience is driving a relentless pace of innovation. To meet and exceed guest expectations, 54% of hotels will spend more on technology in 2018, and mobile solutions in particular will top the list of capital investments. Many hotels are integrating mobile booking, mobile keys, mobile payments and mobile check-in into their operations. Other hotels are emphasizing the in-room experience, boosting bandwidth and upgrading flat screen TVs to more easily interface with guest mobile devices. And though not yet mainstream, there are many exciting technology developments on the near horizon. The Internet of Things (loT) is taking form in some places, and can be found in guest room control systems, voice activation systems, and in wearable sensors that can be used for access and payment options. Virtual reality headsets are available at some hotels so guests can enjoy virtual trips to exotic locations or if off-property, preview conference facilities and guest rooms. How long will it be before a hotel employs a fleet of robots for room service, or utilizes a hologram as a concierge, or installs gesture-controlled walls that feature interactive digital displays? Some hotels are already using augmented reality for translation services, or interactive wall maps, or even virtual décor. This pace of innovation is challenging property owners and brands to stay on top of the latest technology trends while still addressing current projects. The January Hotel Business Review will explore what some hotels are doing to maximize their opportunities in the mobile technology space.