The Impact of the Internet on Hotel Operations

By Connie Rheams Global Business Development, Altiuspar | January 27, 2012

The Internet has caused massive change in the hotel industry-new technologies, new competitors and newly-empowered customers have fundamentally altered the face of our business. But massive change can also bring opportunity.

Much has been written about how the Internet-and the rise of online travel sites-has been a boon to the consumer, but what about the impact to the hotelier?

It really boils down to two things: complexity and control.

Complexity

There is no question that the Internet has brought about incredible changes in the way we live our lives. Today we can buy a car, pay bills, listen to music-even find a spouse!-all using the Internet. This newfound power has dramatically changed the way we interact, both professionally and personally. And it's had a tremendous impact on the hotel industry.

Fifteen years ago it would have been unthinkable for a hotelier to ask the question "who is my customer?" or to consider that there was any question at all as to who "owns" that customer. But that is entirely different today. The rise of online travel sites, the sheer availability of information and the ubiquity of technology have given customers options they never had before, and, with those options, a whole new world of pressures for the hotelier. There are new players, new tools, new issues and, most importantly, new risks and opportunities.

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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.