Hey, You, Get Off of My Cloud!

Surviving the Transition to "Community Model" Software

By Bernard Ellis President & Founder, Lodgital Insights LLC | April 24, 2016

After cautiously testing the cloud computing waters for almost twenty years, the hospitality industry has been diving in head first lately, and for the most part, made nice, controlled entries with minimal splash. And for the majority, the dive was followed by a graceful, controlled float to the top. Others, however, found themselves disoriented, bumping into other swimmers, and gasping for breath. The cloud is indeed like a community pool in many ways, but after reading this article, there's no reason why you shouldn't be able to quickly find your lane and swim faster laps than ever.

Quick Insight From the Path Not Taken

So why do I claim to have so many answers? Please allow me to share a little history that might explain why this issue is particularly near and dear to my heart. Not ready to commit to a career in the hotel industry at age 18, I opted for a liberal arts college and majored in sociology. I figured it wasn't completely off track: after all, large hotels are one of the few places where under one roof you are likely to cross paths with people from all rungs of society, potentially from all corners of the globe, and even more interestingly today, to witness the unprecedented five generations currently sharing the hotel workplace. And my sociology degree did indeed train my mind to have an even more nuanced and inquisitive appreciation of the diversity around me. However, what it didn't prepare me for was the beautifully dressed bride, red-faced with fury and screaming at full volume across the front desk, nor for her even more unpleasant mother, nor the panicked, disorganized meeting planner who generously distributed blame to everyone but herself, nor the beloved celebrities who weren't nearly as friendly in person. In fact they were kind of a pain. Yes, what I came to realize was that I liked the systems a lot more than I liked the guests.

But not to worry, dear readers: the hospitality technology field has provided just as much if not more opportunity to exercise my sociology training. I've always been suspicious that the herky-jerky, often rhyme-less, reasonless way our industry adopts new technology might not be quite normal, and in fact, could even be considered deviant. Having now had three years at Infor to compare notes with my counterparts who serve other industries, such as healthcare, public sector, retail, and industrial manufacturing, I can now definitively confirm that, no, our industry is not normal-far from it in fact!

Was it All a Dream?

Conveniently, cloud computing offers a perfect example to illustrate my point. I have actually been evangelizing cloud since 1999, the year when I began a 12-year stretch of working for growing companies who each only offered one product, a web-native Software as a Service (SaaS) solution, the first being a CRS and the second being a revenue management system. So, why, even in print, is my tone coming across a little surly, if our industry began humming along on cloud computing more than 15 years ago? After all, some of my Infor colleagues are only just now managing to convince some of their manufacturing customers to dip their toe in the water. Well, what I didn't fully appreciate at that time was just how much of a "cloud bubble" I was in. Viewed from more of a distance, it was easier to see that, as with so many other emerging technologies, hospitality hadn't actually been all that heroic about early adoption. Instead, the industry was actually following its usual "slow-slow, quick-quick, slow-slow, quick-quick" dance rhythm of technology adoption, whose tempo is set by low tones of wary apprehension that are occasionally lured to the dance floor high noted promises of lower costs. There had not been nearly as much early adoption as I had thought.

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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.