By Michael Heflin, Chief Revenue Officer at StayNTouch
Hotel technology exists to amplify, not burden, a hotel’s guest experience. Truly guest-centric technology should empower hoteliers to deliver their unique and ideal version of the guest experience. But great hotel technology should not only be guest-focused, it must also be management-focused, by helping hotels scale their business, and staff focused by facilitating operations, streamlining communications, and promoting employee productivity. In the face of a post-pandemic labor crunch, hotels need a mobile and guest-centric PMS to support a lean staff as they look to meet an uptick in travel demand.
2021 Will See the Hospitality Industry Roaring Back… But Hiring Still Lags Behind
The COVID-19 pandemic was devastating for hospitality, setting the industry back over 10 years in terms of occupancy and job losses. According to the ALHA, the pandemic cost the U.S. hospitality industry over 50% occupancy, and over 3.1 million jobs. The good news, however, is that the industry is on the verge of a major recovery. Rising vaccination rates, coupled with rapidly falling case numbers have led to an increase in confidence with the traveling public. According to Destination Analysts,confidence in travel safety is increasing, with over 61.8% of American respondents confident that the pandemic situation will continue to improve, and over 72% of the respondents making travel plans in the previous week. This rising optimism is being seen in job reports indicating that the hospitality sector gained over 331,000 jobs in April 2021 一 the sixth largest gain in the past 50 years.
Unfortunately, these gains may not be enough. U.S. hotels are still 600,000 workers short of pre-pandemic levels, but workers don’t seem to be filling the vacancies. This can be attributed to a number of factors, including widespread health concerns, difficulty obtaining childcare, and the recent rise in federal unemployment benefits. The question for hotels is how can they leverage technology to support a lean staff, get new staff up to speed quickly, and help their current employees better engage with and serve their guests, without the burden of physical or technological constraints.
PMS Technology Should be Intuitive, Mobile, and Unburden Staff
Hoteliers joined the hospitality industry because they delight in serving their guests 一 not because they wanted to fight with outdated technology. If hotels want to retain high-performing employees, they should invest in technology that actively empowers them to deliver an exceptional guest experience. What does it mean to have a staff-focused PMS?
On the most basic level, PMS platforms should be intuitive and easy to use, and never burden employees when serving their guests. When technology is delivered through an intuitive user interface, hoteliers can spend less time buried in their screens, and more time actively engaging with their guests. Additionally, mobile & guest-centric PMS technology should promote maximum ease of access. Hoteliers should be able to manage their property from any location and device, giving them the freedom to move about the hotel and meet guests wherever they are. This allows staff to have more natural and personalized interactions with their guests, while also freeing any staff member, no matter their specific job title, to help any guest in any section of the hotel.
Easy-to-Train On Systems Enable Hotels to Expand their Talent Pool
PMS platforms should be easy to train on and easy to master. When technology is easier to understand, hotels can hire staff based on how they actually interact with guests 一 not how well they “get” outdated technology. When a new staff member is hired, it should be easier to train and onboard them to the new technology, thereby increasing adoption throughout your team.
When investing in new PMS technology, hoteliers should also explore what resources the vendor offers in terms of staff training and support. The right PMS technology vendor will view its relationship with its clients as a long-term strategic partnership, and will make sure its clients’ staff have the resources they need to get the most out of their product. Look for a dedicated implementation team, with the option for either in-person or remote implementation, as well as a dedicated client success manager (CSM), who can act as the customer’s voice within the organization. The right PMS vendor will provide robust self-training resources, including a comprehensive product knowledge base, on-demand e-learning courses, and best practice materials which demonstrate how to use the product to enhance the guest journey and operational efficiencies.
Mobile Communication Can Streamline Operations and Improve Staff Morale
Breakdowns in team communication can easily lead to breakdowns in team morale. When hoteliers communicate with walkie-talkies and landline telephones, critical information can get lost in the shuffle, resulting in dissatisfied guests and frayed team dynamics. A mobile, guest-centric PMS can streamline staff and guest communications in a number of ways: Instant room updates automatically notify front desk staff when a room is ready or out of order, while analytic dashboards can keep your entire staff updated on key performance metrics. For more sophisticated forms of communication, native-cloud PMS systems can integrate with third-party guest messenger platforms. Guest messaging delivers seamless communication throughout the guest journey using common messaging platforms such as SMS, Facebook Messenger or WeChat. This allows guests to communicate instantly with staff through their mobile device, while also allowing staff members to serve multiple guests through multiple chat windows.
Use Advanced Automation to Get the Most Out of a Limited Staff
The hospitality industry is facing increased travel demand and heightened expectations for cleanliness and service, as it moves into the peak 2021 summer travel season. Unfortunately, they are still hampered by limitations in resources and staff size. By incorporating robust automation, a mobile PMS can help hotels get the most out of limited staff, while also freeing hoteliers from many of the mundane, repetitive tasks that take them away from their guests.
A native-cloud PMS can automate simple but repetitive tasks such as room assignment, bulk check-in, and housekeeping task management. But it can also automate more advanced processes 一 like the entire check-in experience. Guests can have the option of checking in through their mobile device or a guest-facing smart kiosk. Mobile self check-in can not only streamline and personalize the check-in experience for guests, it can free hotel staff from engaging in repetitive and scripted dialogues during the check-in process.
This self check-in option can also include automated targeted offers for amenities and room upgrades, giving the hotel an additional stream of ancillary revenue. Instead, they can focus on more natural and personalized interactions, like answering questions about dining options, or greeting guests with tea or champagne in the lobby.
Great Technology Should Empower Great Hoteliers
In order to succeed in the post-pandemic hospitality market, hotels have to deliver exceptional and personalized service on a limited staff. Therefore, it’s crucial that they invest in technology which is not only guest-centric but staff-centric as well. A mobile, guest-centric PMS delivers on both of these goals, by leveraging a system that is easy to use and easy to learn, while facilitating both staff communication and streamlined operations. Great technology should empower both hoteliers and their employees to deliver the best guest experience possible. And a guest-centric PMS can help them do just that.