Cloud Best Practices

11 Strategic Questions for Hoteliers Considering Moving to the Cloud

By Bernard Ellis President & Founder, Lodgital Insights LLC | May 25, 2014

The benefits for hoteliers of moving business applications to the cloud are numerous. Initial costs are lower because there is no need to purchase additional hardware or expand IT headcount. Systems can be deployed faster, changes can be easily made as business needs expand over time, and the long-term return on investment is higher because the technology vendor will handle potentially costly system upgrades and enhancements. Disaster recovery of data is also easier, as information is backed up in the cloud rather than on physical servers.

Additionally, selecting a solution that delivers the same robust, hospitality-specific functionality as an on premise system supports globalization for hotels, resorts and casinos. With access via the cloud, users, partners and suppliers at locations across multiple continents can share real-time data on everything from guests to revenue. Information flows more freely and managing daily operations becomes easier as teams are able to connect from different properties and departments. This also enables better-informed decision making, as hotel managers have visibility into comprehensive data and an enterprise-wide view of how their organization is performing and operating.

Many information-critical industries, including pharmaceuticals and manufacturing, must weigh the potential pros and cons associated with moving to the cloud. But hoteliers are in a unique position because guest satisfaction, not the delivery of a physical product to market, is the top priority. Compromised guest data including contact and credit card information would mean a serious blow to revenue for a hotel chain or casino, as guests would no longer feel that their identities were safe while staying at the property. With more ways than ever for customers to voice feedback, including social media and online rating sites, news of a security breach would travel faster than ever before.

Because of the guest's distinctive control over hoteliers' success, it is even more important for companies to vet a vendor's approach to cloud security before selecting a provider for their cloud technology. Hotels own and manage the data, but it is the technology vendor's job to protect that data. Technology providers should instill confidence in customers that best-practice protocols and a thorough, continuous improvement approach will be utilized for any cloud-related projects.

However, many hoteliers are hesitant about moving to the cloud because with 24/7 guest interaction, a back-end system glitch could have negative implications on customer satisfaction. Compromising guest profiles or credit card information could be disastrous, making many hospitality companies uncertain about cloud deployment. In order to ensure security when utilizing SaaS-based business applications, hoteliers should focus on vendor selection and best practices for network safety. Selecting the right technology provider who employs these practices and is transparent on how and where data will be stored is critical in minimizing any risks associated with utilizing cloud technology.

Ensuring security in the cloud is a two part endeavor. Hoteliers must take steps internally to safely store and transfer data, but software vendors must also take measures to assess potential threats and implement effective security controls. A detailed look at the vendor's security approach is essential to confirm that a company will be thorough and follow necessary protocols. Effective security also begins with development and the proper training of staff. It should include a multiple layer strategy, as well as physical and operational processes that support protection. Knowing what type of monitoring processes and infrastructure-related measures will be taken to minimize safety risks is essential to when running business applications in the cloud. Vendors are the direct source for each of these security measures. Hoteliers should view technology providers as a partner in facilitating data safety in the cloud, and as such should carefully examine answers to the questions above when moving to a SaaS-based system.

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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.