By Michael Heflin, Chief Revenue Officer at Stayntouch
Despite continued gains in occupancy and revenue in the past 18 months, the hospitality industry still struggles with persistent and sometimes critical labor shortages. A newly released study by the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) surveyed over 500 hoteliers in May 2022 and found that nearly all of the survey respondents (97%) experienced staffing shortages, while almost half (49%) experienced severe staffing shortages. These shortages were most pronounced in housekeeping, where 58% of respondents listed it as their biggest challenge. Across America, there still remain over 130,000 unfilled hospitality positions.
Boosting Wages and Job Flexibility is a Start, but a New Hotel Labor Market Requires Tech-Driven Operating Efficiencies
According to the AHLA, hotels responded to the labor shortage by increasing wages (90%), offering greater work flexibility (71%), and expanding employee benefits (43%). While these reforms were necessary 一 and at least partially successful 一 after three months, respondents still needed to fill an average of 12 additional positions. Hotels cannot simply pay their way out of a labor shortage that is as much about improving work-life balance, training, and career development as it is about increased wages and benefits. Additionally, as labor becomes more expensive, it will begin to cut into a hotel’s revenue streams and its ability to compete with more flexible, technology-driven alternatives such as Airbnb.
Although once a heavily labor-intensive industry, hospitality is increasingly leveraging mobile and SaaS-based technology to simplify operations and enhance guest experiences. Mobile technology can play a critical role in helping the hotel industry manage 一 and ultimately transcend 一 this current labor shortage. Specifically, intuitive mobile technology can empower hotels to streamline their operations to get the most out of small teams, broaden their hiring base to appeal to as many diverse sources of talent as possible and boost revenues to sustain their business.
Empowering Small Teams Through Mobile Automation & Communication
A mobile tech stack focused around a cloud-native PMS can do much to empower small teams and streamline hotel operations. Automating repetitive administrative tasks like room assignments, bulk check-in, and report scheduling can free up employee bandwidth while allowing them to focus more on interacting and communicating with their guests. Integrating a mobile PMS that features instant room status updates can enhance communication between the back and front of the house by allowing staff to react as soon as a room becomes available or goes out of order. Integrating with a mobile guest messaging system can streamline communication even more by allowing guests to instantly submit questions or requests using the messaging app of their choice (e.g. SMS, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, etc). Unlike traditional landline calls to the front desk, guest messaging platforms allow a single employee to manage multiple messenger windows at once while leveraging natural-language chatbots to handle more simple or common requests.
Mobile platforms can be a game-changer when managing housekeeping teams, compared with traditional methods that use walkie-talkies and paper clipboards. A robust mobile PMS can automatically delegate work assignments according to team member availability and hotel section to maximize employee efficiency. Hotels with larger teams can integrate with an operations manager to further save time and improve communication while increasing transparency and productivity.
Streamline the Front of the House with Contactless Check-in
Hotels can also dramatically reimagine the guest welcome experience while reducing the workload of front desk staff by delivering the option for mobile- or kiosk-based contactless self-check-in. By integrating a mobile PMS with contactless check-in, a digital payment system, and a keyless entry system, hotels can allow guests to get into their rooms in under a minute without creating long lines at an imposing front desk. And because employees can access a mobile PMS from a tablet, they are free to meet guests wherever they are in the lobby and initiate more organic interactions than the scripted “check-in dialogue” traditionally exchanged a the front desk.
Easy-to-Use Platforms Expand Your Hiring Base
In a tight labor market, hoteliers should be able to hire who they want, train and get them on the job quickly, and empower them with technology that will facilitate 一 and not burden 一 their interactions with guests. Mobile technology is known for employing colorful and intuitive user interfaces (UI) and leveraging advanced interactions such as ‘drag-and-drop’ and ‘select-and-click’ technology. Mobile UIs are aesthetically pleasing, dramatically reduce employee training time, and allow hoteliers to hire candidates without a background in technology. No hotel should turn a capable, enthusiastic, and service-oriented candidate away because they couldn’t operate a clunky and outdated on-site platform.
Maximize the Revenue Potential of Every Guest to Better Attract High Performers to Your Team
Wages and benefits in the hospitality industry are going up, meaning hotels will have to increase revenue if they want to hire exceptional talent who can facilitate memorable experiences for their guests. Hoteliers should take a holistic approach to revenue generation: A good start is to invest in a mobile PMS that allows revenue managers to respond to market conditions quickly by adjusting rates and restrictions from anywhere with an internet connection. Adopting more flexible asset classes such as extended stay, hourly or day-use booking, or emerging attribute-based shopping (ABS) strategies can help them regain some of the market share lost to competitors like Airbnb. Mobile check-in can also automatically send targeted offers for room upgrades, amenities, loyalty benefits, and monetized early check-in/ late check-out directly to their guests’ mobile devices, allowing them to increase their ROI by as much as 240% per quarter. These gains can only be enhanced by integrating with a customer relationship manager (CRM), which augments a PMS’s existing guest profile to create highly targeted offers, messaging, and marketing campaigns to boost guest revenue.
Technology Should Empower Your Staff to Focus on Delivering Exceptional Service
People ultimately choose a career in hospitality because they genuinely enjoy serving others. They love interacting with guests and making a positive impact on their trip. A big part of attracting and retaining talented hospitality professionals is creating an environment where they can deliver exceptional service to the best of their ability. To put it simply, hotel technology should never burden hospitality. A hotel’s PMS and related platforms should be easy to use, feature mobile communication and accessibility, and automate much of hospitality’s busy work out of the employee’s workflow. By facilitating exceptional service and warm organic hospitality, mobile technology can empower hotels to become a destination for both guests and potential employees.