Hey, You, Get Off of My Cloud!

Surviving the Transition to "Community Model" Software

By Bernard Ellis Vice President of Industry Strategy, Infor Hospitality | April 24, 2016

After cautiously testing the cloud computing waters for almost twenty years, the hospitality industry has been diving in head first lately, and for the most part, made nice, controlled entries with minimal splash. And for the majority, the dive was followed by a graceful, controlled float to the top. Others, however, found themselves disoriented, bumping into other swimmers, and gasping for breath. The cloud is indeed like a community pool in many ways, but after reading this article, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to quickly find your lane and swim faster laps than ever.

Quick Insight From the Path Not Taken

So why do I claim to have so many answers? Please allow me to share a little history that might explain why this issue is particularly near and dear to my heart. Not ready to commit to a career in the hotel industry at age 18, I opted for a liberal arts college and majored in sociology. I figured it wasn’t completely off track: after all, large hotels are one of the few places where under one roof you are likely to cross paths with people from all rungs of society, potentially from all corners of the globe, and even more interestingly today, to witness the unprecedented five generations currently sharing the hotel workplace. And my sociology degree did indeed train my mind to have an even more nuanced and inquisitive appreciation of the diversity around me. However, what it didn’t prepare me for was the beautifully dressed bride, red-faced with fury and screaming at full volume across the front desk, nor for her even more unpleasant mother, nor the panicked, disorganized meeting planner who generously distributed blame to everyone but herself, nor the beloved celebrities who weren’t nearly as friendly in person. In fact they were kind of a pain. Yes, what I came to realize was that I liked the systems a lot more than I liked the guests.

But not to worry, dear readers: the hospitality technology field has provided just as much if not more opportunity to exercise my sociology training. I’ve always been suspicious that the herky-jerky, often rhyme-less, reasonless way our industry adopts new technology might not be quite normal, and in fact, could even be considered deviant. Having now had three years at Infor to compare notes with my counterparts who serve other industries, such as healthcare, public sector, retail, and industrial manufacturing, I can now definitively confirm that, no, our industry is not normal—far from it in fact!

Was it All a Dream?

Conveniently, cloud computing offers a perfect example to illustrate my point. I have actually been evangelizing cloud since 1999, the year when I began a 12-year stretch of working for growing companies who each only offered one product, a web-native Software as a Service (SaaS) solution, the first being a CRS and the second being a revenue management system. So, why, even in print, is my tone coming across a little surly, if our industry began humming along on cloud computing more than 15 years ago? After all, some of my Infor colleagues are only just now managing to convince some of their manufacturing customers to dip their toe in the water. Well, what I didn’t fully appreciate at that time was just how much of a “cloud bubble” I was in. Viewed from more of a distance, it was easier to see that, as with so many other emerging technologies, hospitality hadn’t actually been all that heroic about early adoption. Instead, the industry was actually following its usual “slow-slow, quick-quick, slow-slow, quick-quick” dance rhythm of technology adoption, whose tempo is set by low tones of wary apprehension that are occasionally lured to the dance floor high noted promises of lower costs. There had not been nearly as much early adoption as I had thought.

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Coming up in April 2018...

Guest Service: Empowering People

Excellent customer service is vitally important in all businesses but it is especially important for hotels where customer service is the lifeblood of the business. Outstanding customer service is essential in creating new customers, retaining existing customers, and cultivating referrals for future customers. Employees who meet and exceed guest expectations are critical to a hotel's success, and it begins with the hiring process. It is imperative for HR personnel to screen for and hire people who inherently possess customer-friendly traits - empathy, warmth and conscientiousness - which allow them to serve guests naturally and authentically. Trait-based hiring means considering more than just a candidate's technical skills and background; it means looking for and selecting employees who naturally desire to take care of people, who derive satisfaction and pleasure from fulfilling guests' needs, and who don't consider customer service to be a chore. Without the presence of these specific traits and attributes, it is difficult for an employee to provide genuine hospitality. Once that kind of employee has been hired, it is necessary to empower them. Some forward-thinking hotels empower their employees to proactively fix customer problems without having to wait for management approval. This employee empowerment—the permission to be creative, and even having the authority to spend money on a customer's behalf - is a resourceful way to resolve guest problems quickly and efficiently. When management places their faith in an employee's good judgment, it inspires a sense of trust and provides a sense of higher purpose beyond a simple paycheck. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.