By Paul Barron
Take a second and think back to 2019. After everything, it feels more like 30 years ago, never mind three years ago. Some studies even go so far as to say that foggy memories are an expected byproduct of the pandemic, thanks to monotonous days, surroundings, and even conversations.
Many of us can’t remember aimlessly wandering the supermarket, favoring now the quick process of ordering our everyday essentials in just a few clicks. Why rush from the office to the gym for your favorite class, when now everything is available on-demand from the comfort of your own home?
Some changes are likely here to stay but there’s no crystal ball that can tell us for sure. Because of this uncertainty, businesses across the globe have relied on the latest technology to meet the rapidly evolving needs of today’s consumer. The hospitality industry is no different, with over 80% of hoteliers reporting that they have already invested, or are planning to invest, in at least one new hotel technology.
But now, as the world feels the impact of labor shortages and rising costs, the question we should all be asking ourselves is: how much should we rely on what worked before COVID-19, and how much should be informed by the new and unknown?
For many, recent technology investments have been about how to improve the on-property experience for today’s more hygiene conscious, tech-savvy consumer. Automation, contactless check-ins, in-room ordering, and messaging apps are just some examples of this.
But before hotels rush to invest in the latest trend, it’s essential to stop and consider what’s actually important to today’s guest. Two out of three travelers in an Amadeus survey say COVID-19 prevention measures are very important to know before they book, while only 25% say price is the key driver behind selecting their next destination. While we know that the travel industry has historically been more focused on the human connection than the tech experience, hospitality professionals today need to consider how to take advantage of new trends without sacrificing guest satisfaction.
When investing in technology, it’s important to consider both the cost and benefits. Be mindful that cost is more than dollar value. There’s the cost of time, effort, and with many employees currently wearing several hats, it’s even more critical to make the right decisions for your business.
To support this process, we’ve created a handbook to help you identify the needs and priorities of your organization. What you won’t get from this handbook are suggestions of what technology you need. What you will get is an interactive do-it-yourself asset to help understand your current stressors, which ones you have control over, and how to use this to make informed investment decisions.
Before you get started, here’s a few tips to keep in mind:
1. Consider your teams first
Technology is an increasingly important asset for workers and may be more important than ever as you look to attract new talent or optimize current staffing. Half of workers have even said they’d consider quitting their jobs for better workplace communication technology.
Research has also found that teams who are further along in their digital transformation are more high-performing and find it easier to attract staff than those with lower digital adoption. Therefore, the right technology could be the bridge between on-target and above-target as you seek to recover from the pandemic.
It’s important to consider though how any investment could impact your staff. Think beyond any initial training and plan for how this technology will become engrained in your team’s daily work. Prior to launching into any technology research, spend time with your teams – the end users – and understand what their challenges are. By getting their buy-in on how technology could support them, you will increase the likelihood of adoption and the overall return on investment.
2. Data is your best friend and ally
Throughout this pandemic, we’ve repeatedly stressed the importance of not relying on historical data alone. While it can help track team performance and uncover areas of opportunity to improve operations, it should be used alongside forward-looking market insights to understand what’s happening now.
Use data to understand how guests are shopping, booking, and interacting with your property. Then analyze key performance indicators, response times, and anything else that can give you a complete picture of your property. Combine this with the insights you received first-hand from your staff to identify trends and areas for improvement or optimization. With this complete picture, you’re already one step closer to making informed, justified business decisions.
Using this data, you can set quantitative goals for your team in the near-term and for any technology you are considering in the future. Remember that technology is largely intended to amplify the skills and experiences that your people deliver, such as giving them more time and insight. Understanding where your team currently excels and can further differentiate is just as valuable as understanding your challenges.
3. Understand what can be done now and for the future
Depending on the type of technology you invest in, it’s often the case that there is a time gap between identifying a need and actually reaping the benefits of that technology. As you work through the guide, you will likely identify both short-term and long-term technology needs. If this is the case, try to think beyond the pandemic fog, and focus on what will set your property up for success in the long run.
Examine the variety of solutions available on the market – product features, integrations, and provider history and reputation. Don’t just look for a technology vendor, but a partner with deep industry knowledge, security protocols, and dedicated customer service.
That’s not to say there aren’t solutions that can be implemented in the short-term. For instance, if driving demand to your property is a problem, you could invest in a marketing campaign in the short-term (check out some tips for this here), while you figure out what a longer promotional plan could look like.
Download the complimentary Technology Investment Handbook and spend some time evaluating what investments could have the most impact on your business as it’s shaping up today, and not your business as it was before COVID-19.