The Mobile Device: How to Maximize It

By Drew Rosser VP of Business Development, Whiteboard Labs | February 27, 2011

As a hotelier, a hotel chain you need to be much more just an adopter of these new technologies. You truly need to be an innovator and explorer of these technologies. You need to be looking at how you can better target market via these devices, to better service your client base before they arrive, better service them once they do arrive and how to better service them once they leave. As well as from an operation stand point how to maximize this technology to better serve your operation on a local and global landscape.

Nobody truly wants to be restricted to sitting at a desk in order to receive, send or gather information. At least the PC gave us some freedom. Then the mobile era kicked in. Already the mobile device is so much more than just a cell phone. They really are hand held computers allowing us to talk, SMS, MMS, Video chat, surf the Web, organize, play and be entertained. Especially now with the iPad and soon to be released competitive devices the race to grab our always-connected mentality is firmly embedded into our DNA. The key now is how to best make use of these very intriguing gadgets and how to use them in tandem with more traditional marketing and operational strategies.

I think everyone understands the need to have a mobile version of your hotel Web site along with a mobile booking engine designed for the mobile device or tablet like device such as the iPad. However, what else can be done or should be explored as possible uses for these amazing devices?

The overall key is relevant convenience. As a hotelier you do not want to come across as an annoying SMS sender or technology over loader to your client base. If you give your clients the ability to chose their preferred communication method then please respect that. However, the use of SMS is a great way to allow your clients to communicate to the hotel to ask for additional towels, alert you of potential problems, even request a wake up call or turn down service. I'm of the opinion that someone is much more likely to alert the hotel of a potential issue if they can easily SMS the hotel than find a house phone or find a staffer face to face. Even comments from the guest after check out can easily be handled by SMS. There are a number of companies out there offering this technology. When you doing your due diligence make sure that the technology truly gives you and your clients what is needed. Do not get caught up in the glitzy wow factor. Make sure that there is a solid infrastructure to support it and the tools deliver what you want.

For more operational types of daily activity think about being able to control specific aspects of your hotel's operation via one of these hand held devices. Rate manipulation, availability controls, access to specific types of reports. More importantly, alerts via email or SMS then if the CRS or even PMS were accessible via a hand held one could react to the alert. Close out a specific channel, open something up or make rate changes.

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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.