INNOVATE: Keep up with guests’ ever-changing IT expectations

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Purple Sage Consultancy’s Martin Wilks says when it comes to technology, hotels must “adapt or die”, but don’t give up yet — you haven’t read his eight steps to surviving guests’ ever-changing IT expectations

In this fast-changing, technology-hungry world, there is a growing pressure on hotels to keep up with guest IT expectations.

The challenge
From hardware requirements such as electronic door-key systems to handheld order pads within an EPoS system, or software demands such as revenue-management systems and social-media marketing, the range of IT applications for a hotel grows constantly.

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The pace of change can be quite frightening. No longer is it enough for the guest to be able to book online through your website, now the guest wants to book through Facebook, online travel agents, on their mobile phone, through voucher offers and the list goes on.

This trend is not going away and is likely to continue to diversify as the latest technological advances throw up new opportunities for people to communicate and purchase. The hotelier has to manage such change and be able to deliver the calibre of IT that meets customers’ needs.

For smaller, independent hotels, this can pose quite a challenge as — unlike a larger property or chain-owned hotel — there is no cost-saving economy of scale to be enjoyed here.

However, failure to combat this challenge will risk customer dissatisfaction and competitive advantage, which could lead to lower revenue returns, reduced cost control, and ultimately the need for major capital investment in IT, which in the current climate may be unaffordable and even difficult to obtain.

The solution
To be able to manage this critical area effectively, the hotelier must:

1. Be receptive to technological change and understand the value of IT to their business. Having a positive mindset is vital and an improved knowledge will deliver personal confidence and improved business performance.

2. Take a personal interest in IT, embrace the change, learn new skills and don’t be scared of it. Receive training or visit other hotels to see industry examples and best practice.

3. Understand the applications that must be delivered to meet your market needs and ensure cost-effective management and guest satisfaction.

4. Understand the need for different systems to be compatible and achieve easy interfaces between them. You must aim for an integrated IT approach for the systems to be effective.

5. Get professional IT advice from an independent provider that will advise you on best system and practice without the hard sell of an IT supplier.

6. Train all your team regularly to operate and manage IT effectively. Conduct six-monthly reviews of IT within your property to identify any further training needs and review all systems regularly for updates and upgrades.

7. Create an annual budget for IT within your business plan and allocate funds to provide for these ongoing costs.

8. Incorporate IT into any future capital project and forecast cost and choice of system against project timescale.

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