James Surridge, senior product manager, Guestline says that to drive adoption of hotel technology, IT vendors need to understand how hoteliers think.
Working with thousands of hotels every year, at Guestline we know that most hoteliers – and particularly in independent hotels and small chains – are keen to introduce technology to their business if they believe it will improve the guest experience. However, despite this enthusiasm, it seems some hoteliers struggle to get the most from their IT.
To complement our day-to-day experience of working with hotels, we partnered with hospitality research specialists h2c to develop a global study on hotelier attitudes to technology and their plans for the future. According to the results of the study, hoteliers are only using 60 per cent of the functionality of their PMS (Property Management System) and just over a third of hoteliers have deployed guest-facing technology.
So, what’s holding them back? We know hoteliers can be wary about technology, and are concerned that it can come between them and the guest. This makes perfect sense to us, as we’ve got the same instinct for the guest and the guest experience in our bones.
Lack of unity on tech holds hotels back
The same h2c research suggests that more fundamental factors might be preventing hoteliers from optimising their technology. It appears hotels are not taking a unified approach to technology. Respondents told researchers that there were conflicts between internal PMS stakeholders, including disagreements about what role the PMS should play in stakeholders’ operations.
These figures tally with our experience working with hotels on technology projects. The human factor is critical – particularly in the hotel environment, where there is a need to achieve change quickly and with minimal disruption to hotel operations. The marketing department wants to analyse data and drive traffic online and reservations just want to get bookings into the system as quickly and efficiently as possible. Each department expects something different from a solution, which can be difficult to balance.
Define the vision
The first step to a successful hotel IT installation is to reconcile individuals and departments with differing views about what they want to achieve from new technology. This means bringing together stakeholders to discuss their requirements and gain an understanding of their colleagues’ needs. Housekeeping could have concerns about room statuses; the restaurant manager might have questions about cross-charging, and management and owners need data from every department to make decisions for the business as a whole.
Even in a smaller property or chain, where one individual may wear several hats, different processes or functions will have their own requirements. The key thing is to gain insights into these various requirements as soon as possible and use them to help the hotel define a coherent vision for technology.
A hotel is a busy environment and everybody’s got a job to do so getting everyone together in one room can be a challenge. It’s probably most practical to carry out a series of one-to-one conversations with different stakeholders: once you’ve gathered the requirements and joined the dots, you can hold larger meetings where you share your findings and finalise the installation programme.
Hoteliers will welcome your advice – but know when to step back
For many hotels, a technology installation brings a rare opportunity to think about operations and see where improvements can be made. Be prepared to find yourself in conversations that may stray beyond the original technology brief and into strategy.
The h2c research confirms that hoteliers value support, with advice on the options available to them and guidance through implementation. Indeed, consultancy and support are the hotelier’s number one requirement from a PMS technology vendor. The data also suggests hoteliers want vendors to bring them innovations. This certainly rings true for our experience: we have encountered a real appetite in the profession to learn about emerging technologies such as AI and e-learning platforms.
Clearly, there are opportunities for IT vendors who are ready to work with the hotelier to define their vision, and can offer advice and support to deliver solutions that enable the business. Two-way dialogue is critical: hoteliers get very frustrated with IT vendors who won’t listen. But it’s also important to understand when it’s time to step back and allow the hotelier to make decisions about the future of their business.