Can Your Technology Change
Your Business Process?
By Luis DeSouza, October 2004

As a hospitality technology provider, all too often I receive a phone call from someone interested in purchasing stock control technology for their company who asks the wrong questions and views their technology as a band aid rather than a long term solution.

Right away, it becomes apparent that these IT buyers are not planning in a solution-oriented way, but are going through a pre-determined checklist without actually considering what would be best for the individual operation first. Rather than simply checking off boxes and buying into technology that may soon be outdated, IT buyers should use their IT dollars to take advantage of new technology and make a radical change in terms of business process and, ultimately, profitability.

When buyers view new technology as a substitute for the old manual systems, rather than as part of a new process it becomes likely that they will make the mistake that many IT buyers have made before - purchasing a well-intentioned and probably expensive piece of software that cannot be easily integrated with other technology already in place at their operation to make a significant difference to the business.

What question should this buyer be asking? I suggest: "What solution can you offer me to change my business process so that I can get my supplies online and reduce my manual input?"

Think ticketless

One example of a dramatic change in business processes has been in the airline industry with the advent of "ticketless" travel. In the past, it was believed that passengers could not be persuaded to accept e-ticketing, when in fact, there's been remarkably little resistance. Anxious passengers soon realized that there was no downside - they could check in more quickly than with traditional multi-layered paper tickets - and no longer needed to worry about losing their tickets!

So the airlines that have adopted this method have seen two benefits from their IT investment: Significant efficiency savings and improved customer service quality. Ground staff is freed up to deal with complicated travel arrangements or other exceptions.

Amazon, the online bookseller, provides another example. Many observers thought that prospective customers would be reluctant to buy books online - that they would miss the touch and feel of the books found only by browsing through the bookshops. Of course, some still prefer bookshops, but the success of Amazon is indisputable. The business process changed and customers rushed to their computers to get lower prices and faster delivery.

Grasp the opportunity

Similarly, there are great opportunities (service, cost, profits) for hotel, restaurant and conference venues to grasp if they give a high priority to radical business process re-design. Instead of regarding IT as an expensive burden, which is often the case, they should look to the benefits they can gain.

Faced with competitive pressure on rates, many hospitality managers are being forced to cut costs and reduce labor turnover. These human resource issues are one place where IT buyers can find many benefits in redesigned business processes.

The usual scenario: At a certain point in volume growth, the hotel manager will recognize that a manual system just cannot cope and a booking system will be selected. Their hope is to increase efficiency and therefore save on labor, but there is usually no wider vision of the possibilities of the new functionality - or of the customer benefits. There are several reasons for this, including perceived value, budget restraints, long-standing vendor relationships and technophobia. Ideally, the buyer should accept that this task, which has a high value to the business, also has a significant cost and that radical change may be best for long-term business goals. This is critical if technology projects are to deliver real business benefits.

Consider your staff

Bringing in new IT does not mean that you can rely on a less skilled, lower-cost workforce. On the contrary, if you want a more efficient booking operation, you will need high-quality people who can use the technology to seek high-value opportunities and a range of new connections. A new system can capture much more information about clients, but it requires good skills to address marketing opportunities. Web technology is essentially a medium for connecting people. The buyer can be more closely connected with the seller and the back office team will be closer to the credit card issuer. This means that financial transactions can be sped up and accuracy greatly boosted.

The human factor

Always try to think from the customer's point of view. If you offer online check-in at a kiosk, your customer does not have to talk with anyone. Fine - except that hospitality is a people business. So before you start cutting the front office workforce, consider redeploying staff to improve customer service. For example, your staff member may now have time to walk the guest to the room and show off the facilities. If the agent has a wireless device linked to the front office, sports facilities or health club, sessions can be instantly booked.

Some key questions to consider:

  1. Where are the bottlenecks in your current operation?
  2. How much time is given to dealing with "exceptional cases"? Are these cases potentially more profitable? How can you serve them better?
  3. What are you doing with your captured data? Can you sharpen up your customer targeting?
  4. What are the implications of real-time information? How can you use it to improve service?
  5. How can you best use wireless technology to change your business process?
  6. If you have a multi-property operation, what can a centralized database do for you?
  7. Can you segment room availability for higher returns?
  8. Have you linked your front office to your accounting system?
  9. Have you linked your front office to your food and beverage system? If you're using an EPOS system, does it stop at the register?
  10. Is your events business as good as it could be? How can you use captured data to expand it?
  11. If you have a conference center, what services are you providing? Can you book in audio-visual, car parking, etc., as well as foodservice?
  12. Have you considered a loyalty program?
Once you start thinking about your operation from the point of view of the Web-using public, and factor in your Web-enabled suppliers, you will be on the way to changing your business processes - for the better!

Luis DeSouza is CEO of NFS Hospitality, an international provider of hospitality solutions. Web: www.nfs-hospitality.com, Phone: (917) 210-8205, email: luis@nfs-hospitality.com

(This article first appeared in Hospitality Tech Advisor, September 29, 2004, Accuvia Publishing)


 NFS Hospitality Corporation
Luis DeSouza, CEO
Phone: (917) 210-8205

Also See: Booking Engines Are Like A Box of Chocolates...You Never Know What You’re Gonna Get! / Neil Salerno / October 2003
Understanding the Power of Customer Relationship Management / Neil Holm / Hospitality Upgrade Magazine / November 2003
Leading Extended Stay Management Company Creatively Uses Business Intelligence to Direct 85% Growth / January 2004
HSMAI Hotel Internet Marketing Strategy Conference Report; Keyword Bidding, Pop Ups, Pop Unders, Domain Name Piracy / January 2004

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