Going Mobile - Cultivating Your Hotel's Digital Ecosystem

By Scott Watson Executive Vice President of Sales & Marketing, M3 Accounting + Analytics | December 27, 2015

For over 20 years, hoteliers have practiced the leadership technique of MBWA (Management by Walking Around) to facilitate open, timely communication with associates and guests. With the advent of mobile technology and a flood of new ways to communicate, leadership becomes more challenging than ever in an always-on, always-connected workplace. How does a hospitality professional lead a team in a digital world while holding true to the core competencies that make for a great hotelier? It's a challenge that must be met with balance, but there are many distinct advantages to leveraging mobile technology to make running a hotel easier.

More than 20 years ago, management consultants Tom Peters and Robert Waterman coined the acronym MBWA [Management by Wandering (or Walking) Around] in their book, In Search of Excellence: Lessons from America's Best-Run Companies. Today, the daily practice of MBWA is alive and well for most hotel managers, greeting guests and dealing with service challenges, while mentoring associates and maintaining a positive front-of-house presence to facilitate open, timely communication. It's a system that has served the industry well.

With the advent of the Digital Age and mobile technology, the tradition of MBWA has seen a shift to managing on mobile by walking, standing or even sleeping (as overly connected general managers can attest!). The pressure and expectation of immediate access to operational data in real-time causes many hoteliers to keep their fingers on the keys, no matter where they go. Being tied to a mobile device has become as normal as keeping a pen and notepad in your pocket years ago. In many instances, face-to-face contact with employees has been replaced by emails, conference calls and text messages, while end-of-day reporting has been supplanted by tidy flash reports that are instantly available via email after rolling out of bed in the morning. The new world of business is constantly connected and often overwhelming.

So how does a hospitality professional lead a team in a digital world while still holding true to the core competencies that make for a great hotelier? While the pressure of being "always on" is a new work challenge that must be met with deliberate balance, there are many distinct advantages to leveraging mobile technology in order to improve operating efficiencies, enhance workplace communications and make running a hotel easier. Here are some points to consider as you cultivate your hotel's digital ecosystem:

It Starts From the Ground Up – Building a Strong Foundation

Mobile technology, when combined with the power of data aggregation and cloud storage, is revolutionizing the workplace and bringing historic changes to the way businesses are run. Back in the early 90's, when hospitality accounting cloud pioneer M3 Accounting + Analytics began talking with hotel managers about the prospect of running their entire accounting process from "the cloud", there was a lot of uncertainty and education required to convince customers of the reliability and security of cloud technology. Today, cloud-based platforms are the most cost-effective and reliable form of storing and sharing data, and tools are plentiful in nearly every aspect of business, including accounting, customer relationship management, operations management and business intelligence.

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Social Media: Getting Personal

There Social media platforms have revolutionized the hotel industry. Popular sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and Tumblr now account for 2.3 billion active users, and this phenomenon has forever transformed how businesses interact with consumers. Given that social media allows for two-way communication between businesses and consumers, the emphasis of any marketing strategy must be to positively and personally engage the customer, and there are innumerable ways to accomplish that goal. One popular strategy is to encourage hotel guests to create their own personal content - typically videos and photos -which can be shared via their personal social media networks, reaching a sizeable audience. In addition, geo-locational tags and brand hashtags can be embedded in such posts which allow them to be found via metadata searches, substantially enlarging their scope. Influencer marketing is another prevalent social media strategy. Some hotels are paying popular social media stars and bloggers to endorse their brand on social media platforms. These kinds of endorsements generally elicit a strong response because the influencers are perceived as being trustworthy by their followers, and because an influencer's followers are likely to share similar psychographic and demographic traits. Travel review sites have also become vitally important in reputation management. Travelers consistently use social media to express pleasure or frustration about their guest experiences, so it is essential that every review be attended to personally. Assuming the responsibility to address and correct customer service concerns quickly is a way to mitigate complaints and to build brand loyalty. Plus, whether reviews are favorable or unfavorable, they are a vital source of information to managers about a hotel's operational performance.  The February Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to effectively incorporate social media strategies into their businesses.