By Larry and Adam Mogelonsky
Consider the long-term impact of COVID-19 on hospitality and you’ll see that many of the rapid pivots to protect guests and staff were actually bound to happen, just over the course of a decade rather than ten months. With a keener eye on platform integrations, we see the increasing overlap of capabilities from various tech vendors enabling hotels to further break down siloed departments so that productivity can be increased and labor costs can be decreased.
The current labor shortage may be temporary but even if the market improves in 2022, the need to drive more operating efficiency will persist. With this as a catalyst for further department mergers, we see the dawn of what we call ‘utility players’, embodying staffers, supervisors and managers who can bounce between a multitude of tasks across several key disciplines. In other words, to reduce costs, hotels will strive for generalists over specialists, and this all hinges on the tech stack.
The first layer of the tech stack is, of course, the PMS, for which vendors have already rolled out features to assist with mobile bookings (for guests) and mobile management (for team members on the go). The best PMS suppliers are aiding on the staffing front by enhancing the prearrival experience – either natively or through better integrations to bolt-on platforms – to both present customers with better upsell opportunities (room upgrades or attribute-based sales) and to secure as much ancillary revenue on the books as possible (dining reservations, spa appointments, golf rounds and so on).
Besides revenue optimization, what’s critical in a labor-deprived world is to have a crystal-clear picture of what service your guests will want to utilize prior to their arrival. That way, you can plan accordingly and don’t end up in a situation where you can’t provide, with money is inevitably left on the table.
One recent firsthand experience illustrating this was while traveling to a Californian resort where, due to staffing shortages, the signature restaurant had to close at 10pm even though there was a rush of late dinner walk-ins from in-house guests who were more than keen on drinking well past the midnight hour. The eatery was kept lightly staffed due to various forces and the manager, in the hours or days prior, had to make a judgment call on overtime allotment based upon the information they had at the time – that this particular evening would likely peter out by 10 pm as it had in the near past when reviewing historical data.
In this instance, though, over two hours of bar tabs were lost due to a probabilistic shift scheduling snafu. Whether it was actually the property’s ‘fault’ or simply a fallout from macroeconomic forces is beyond any single manager’s control.
But had the hotel worked to secure those seating times in the weeks before the evening in question – via strong booking engine software, prearrival emails or proper voice channel follow-up – then the restaurant director would’ve anticipated this late-hour need and likely reacted by finding the necessary staff to keep the drinks (and revenues) flowing.
This example brings us forward to the second layer of the tech stack, which is the hotel operations platform, giving managers an intuitive and tabulated interface through which to oversee key tasks like housekeeping, maintenance work orders and guest requests – to be true utility players. Unionized hotels aside, we initially borrowed this baseball terminology to describe how hotels were keeping the lights on during the worst days of the pandemic with each remaining member of the skeleton crew performing a variety of previously siloed duties. With the pandemic waning and demand sputtering back to 2019 levels, the need for labor is back but the silos should decidedly not return.
The hotels poised for success over the coming decades are those that start to blend departments (and their supportive technologies), both to save costs on labor inefficiencies and to heighten service through better, more integrated communications channels. The hotel operations platform is the enabler for this generalist evolution because most are equipped with specific features to shuffle tasks around amongst employees as well as establish escalation criteria, tracking metrics and gamification.
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