Jos Schaap, CEO and Founder StayNTouch
It is not very often that I write a self-serving article but I think it is important to note that, as a hotel technology company, service excellence is a key element within our DNA. It helps us deliver great technology to our hotel clients and the industry at large.
Technology, at its foundation, is developed either to make one’s life easier or to enable people to communicate more effectively. The problem with developing technology for technology’s sake is that companies become too highly focused on the development of the technology, forgetting to understand its full impact on their end users and audience. There can also be a huge void between the development of technology for specific industry vertical if the founders and developers do not have a thorough understanding and knowledge of the targeted industry.
The hotel industry in incredibly unique. There is a myriad of different styles of hotels with diverse priorities. There are the smaller properties or those more transactional in nature and on the other end of the spectrum, there are large properties that offer every type of service and amenity available. When we look at today’s guest, they are far more complex than they were twenty years ago. There are those looking for that transactional environment while others crave being fawned over. Some are traveling on business, and others are on vacation. Mix the guest requirements or expectations with the different type of property, and now you have an extremely intricate industry. Fairmont Hotels Heritage Place even has a page on its website to educate the traveler on how it differentiates their brand versus others.
Service has always been the glue that holds the hospitality industry together. The service experience starts at the beginning of the guests’ journey. They start looking at locations and their associated hotels. Their immediate reaction can be based upon the visual and textural content to help them make a decision. Conversely, if they place a call to a reservations center, they have now connected with a person who must exude service at the initial contact phase. When arriving at the property, the service element is heightened. First step is checking in at the front desk and here, they are met again, with someone who must focus on developing a relationship with the guest and providing exemplary service. The guest may wish to forgo the formalities of checking in at a front desk, so the hotel must offer the self-serve options for the guest to go directly to their room. This is an example of a fundamental use of technology as a service. The service element and technology requirement continues as the guest dines at the property restaurant, lounges by the pool or orders room service. It is always there and always expected.
When hotels and hoteliers are under such scrutiny related to ensuring that they deliver the service that today’s demanding guest expects, they should not have to worry about the technology that supports their operations.
The technology provider needs to recognize the hotel landscape and how it has changed over the years – along with guest expectations. The technology partner must have some of the same priorities and objectives as the hotelier and what is needed to optimize efficiently and profitably. The technology partner actually needs to serve as a technological extension of the hotel itself. The relationship is truly a bond.
When your technology partner has effectively the same DNA within their team as the hotelier has within their operations, the service element is at the forefront. A hotelier needs to feel confident that their tech partner has’ got their back’ at all times – whether there is an issue with the platform or there is a front desk person who just needs a little help. If the technology partner has a knowledgeable support team with the same passion for service that hoteliers have for their brand promise to their guest, then this is truly a win-win scenario.
When deciding on a new technology platform a large number of hoteliers will look at features, functions and how well the platform will integrate with their other systems. These are all very valid areas of concern that need to be addressed to determine the right fit, however hoteliers need to spend more time reviewing the support and service that they will be receiving from their technology partner. A good place to start is asking for references, talking to their peers and researching the support operations center performance. If the level of service is not there, then the implementation will not be a success, and there will likely be long term negative consequences.
Service excellence and the hotel industry DNA need to infiltrate every department within your technology partners’ business. If it isn’t there, maybe you need to take a look somewhere else.