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 In many instances, face-to-face contact with employees has been replaced by emails, conference calls and text messages, while end-of-day reporting has been supplanted by tidy flash reports that are instantly available via email after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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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.