Guest Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA)

By Michael Waddell Managing Director, INTEGRITYOne Partners | September 02, 2010

Put yourself in your guest's shoes. You enter the lobby, approach the front desk, and state your reason for being there (you're checking in, requesting an early room cleaning, etc.). The staff member behind the desk acknowledges your request and immediately begins working on a computer terminal to address it. You, the guest, are not the least bit surprised that information technology (IT) is used to support guest service. Yet many hospitality companies insist on segregating their guest service and other business functions from their information technology initiatives. Any disconnect between a hotel's technology and its business processes is likely to create a gap between the level of guest service intended and the level actually provided.

Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) is a popular concept in IT today, and with good reason. The paradigm of SOA enables the intersection of technology and business processes: to ensure that IT directly supports the business's most vital functions. In the world of hospitality, this means connecting IT to guest service. We call it Guest Service-Oriented Architecture.

SOA and the Hospitality Business

In general, the landscape of IT and business is rapidly changing, and it's no different in the hospitality business. SOA is providing hospitality and other businesses with a conduit for exposing existing beneficial business processes and enabling rapid reuse of existing business services that can share IT infrastructure. For example, guest identification data must be collected, stored, and processed similarly whether the guest is requesting a sleeping room, coordinating a banquet event, scheduling a tee time, or arranging for spa services.

SOA is a conscious effort to develop reusable components that represent discrete business functions. These components are considered "services," which can be used with other services to make new complex business processes. So a guest identification service can be used by the front desk, but also by the banquet sales office, the golf course, and the spa manager.

This is a major shift in mindset from typical IT development projects because service development requires the development teams to consider future customers as well as existing customers. No longer is it acceptable to create "stovepipe" applications. Rather, service exposure should be considered during design to enable future growth to unknown processes and consumers.

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Coming up in April 2019...

Guest Service: A Culture of YES

In a recent global consumers report, 97% of the participants said that customer service is a major factor in their loyalty to a brand, and 76% said they view customer service as the true test of how much a company values them. And since there is no industry more reliant on customer satisfaction than the hotel industry, managers must be unrelenting in their determination to hire, train and empower the very best people, and to create a culture of exceptional customer service within their organization. Of course, this begins with hiring the right people. There are people who are naturally service-oriented; people who are warm, empathetic, enthusiastic, pleasant, thoughtful and optimistic; people who take pride in their ability to solve problems for the hotel guests they are serving. Then, those same employees must be empowered to solve problems using their own judgment, without having to track down a manager to do it. This is how seamless problem solving and conflict resolution are achieved in guest service. This willingness to empower employees is part of creating a Culture of Yes within an organization.  The goal is to create an environment in which everyone is striving to say “Yes”, rather than figuring out ways to say, “No”. It is essential that this attitude be instilled in all frontline, customer-facing, employees. Finally, in order to ensure that the hotel can generate a consistent level of performance across a wide variety of situations, management must also put in place well-defined systems and standards, and then educate their employees about them. Every employee must be aware of and responsible for every standard that applies in their department. 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.