Connecting Dots: Managed Network Services Enhance Guest Experience and Boost Bottom Line

By David Hogan Executive Director of Major Accounts, Heartland Payment Systems | May 05, 2013

It goes without saying that network connectivity is critically important for hotels. After all, your operations - and your guest experience - rely on it. Affecting everything from your property management system (PMS) and payments processing to high speed Internet access (HSIA) and cellular service, your network is the central nervous system of your property. But as advances in technology impose increasing demands on your infrastructure, managing your network and ensuring connectivity is more challenging than ever.

That's in large part because as a society, we are more connected than ever. Consumer adoption and use of Internet-ready devices like smartphones and tablets in recent years has been nothing less than explosive. At the same time, there has been a mass migration of business technologies from offline to online and cloud environments. As these environmental factors converge, I would venture to say that network congestion is significantly higher now than it was just one year ago.

There's no question that we have entered a new technological era. So why are so many hoteliers still using the same network platforms and service providers that they always have? It's a costly mistake that we see all too frequently in various industries, including hospitality. As we connect the dots between a hotel's network, guest experience and profitability, you'll see just how the benefits of managed network services far outweigh the capital investment.

Keeping Your Guests Connected

Think about it. After a long day of travelling, your guests settle into their rooms. What's the first thing they do? Before they unpack, or even sit down, they try to get online. Whether it's business travelers anxiously connecting their laptops to respond to the day's emails, or vacationers using their tablets to find information on nearby attractions, connecting to the Internet is top of mind.

Offering Wi-Fi is no longer a differentiator but an expectation. And if your guests are not able to connect seamlessly to your network, you'll know about it. While nine times out of 10 connectivity issues stem from user error, they're an inconvenience nonetheless. The front desk staff may have the Wi-Fi password but be limited in their troubleshooting capabilities. They don't necessarily know the ins and outs of your network, nor should they. After all, you have IT professionals or partners for that task. But if they're anything like the IT pros who work in hotels that I know, they're probably extremely busy all the time.

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Mobile Technology: The Future is Now

Mobile Technology continues to advance at a relentless pace and the hotel industry continues to adapt. Hotel guests have shown a strong preference for mobile self-service - from checking-in/out at a hotel kiosk, to ordering room service, making dinner reservations, booking spa treatments, and managing laundry/dry cleaning services. And they also enjoy the convenience of paying for these services with smart phone mobile payments. In addition, some hotels have adopted a “concierge in your pocket” concept. Through a proprietary hotel app, guests can access useful information such as local entertainment venues, tourist attractions, event calendars, and medical facilities and services. In-room entertainment continues to be a key factor, as guests insist on the capacity to plug in their own mobile devices to customize their entertainment choices. Mobile technology also allows for greater marketing opportunities. For example, many hotels have adopted the use of “push notifications” - sending promotions, discounts and special event messages to guests based on their property location, purchase history, profiles, etc. Near field communication (NFC) technology is also being utilized to support applications such as opening room doors, earning loyalty points, renting a bike, accessing a rental car, and more. Finally, some hotels have adopted more futuristic technology. Robots are in use that have the ability to move between floors to deliver room service requests for all kinds of items - food, beverages, towels, toothbrushes, chargers and snacks. And infrared scanners are being used by housekeeping staff that can detect body heat within a room, alerting staff that the room is occupied and they should come back at a later time. The January Hotel Business Review will report on what some hotels are doing to maximize their opportunities in this exciting mobile technology space.