Op-Ed: Technology at the front, nothing at the back?

We are increasingly seeing technology playing an important role in our day to day lives – and this is no exception when it comes to hotels.

The increased connectivity of our world today demands that hotels provide the ability for guests to use multiple devices at high speed in their room. The guests increased desire for a home away from home, or an experience that they can tailor to their own needs means that things like the ability to stream their own entertainment, or personalise the ambience of their room.

However, are we being too short sighted when it comes to which areas of the hotel we are spending our time and money on technology wise? Are we too obsessed with the guest-facing side of the business, thinking that giving them all things bright and shiny is the only thing that is needed to give the guest a better experience and for the hotel to perform better?

What about the back of house areas? These areas are the most critical when it comes to delivering the quality of product that the guests expect, and that the hotel expects of themselves. They are also an important aspect of the hotel performance, especially at times like this where managing costs like wages is increasingly vital. Yet we are still seeing these areas using either outdated technology, or no technology at all.

When I started working in hotels in 2000, housekeepers were given their list of rooms on a piece of paper with rooms highlighted a certain colour to indicated what clean would be done. Guest requests were written down, often passed over to someone else on a post-it note. Preventative maintenance programs were written on to whiteboards. When we had large groups or big events, bags were stored in multiple rooms with the details often scribbled down somewhere.

Fast forward to 2020 – and as I travel more frequently for work I am seeing that the majority of hotels are still using this same methodology. In some cases, its because hotels are unaware of the various technology that is available to assist in these areas. In other cases, its because the attitudes towards spending on technology is still rather reserved.

Now just imagine – being able to get a live update of when a room status changes, when a guest extends or checks out early, or supervisors being able to know when a room is ready to inspect the moment it had been cleaned. Imagine being able to know exactly how long the room took to clean and what the quality of the clean was. Perhaps, you want to be able to know exactly when a guest request came in, who is actioning it and how its progressing? Want to find that guest’s bags without having to visit all 5 rooms that are being used for storage? Or maybe you’re wanting to be able to track how your preventative maintenance is going.

The great news is that there is technology and programs already out there and readily available that can do this for hotels. An old boss of mine once said that has resonated with me since – we need to manage hotels ‘a la minute’, and with so many moving parts this can prove quite challenging. However these programs allow staff all the way from management to the room attendants to know exactly what is happening in the hotel right at that moment of time, which is of vital importance.

One of the other great challenges that these programs can address is the collection of data, and the ability to produce factual reports on areas that have historically been based purely on anecdotal evidence. Where as before there would be rough estimates on how long each room would take to be cleaned, the information from the technology is now collected and can be tabulated and reported however the hotel needs it. It also eliminates the need to go trawling back through overflowing filing cabinets to find out the frequency and cost of previous repairs – its now all collated together and much more easily accessible.

And let’s not forget those mad-house like times when you have large groups, or a big crowd for an event that stay at the hotel, all leaving their bags after not being able to check in early or heading on a tour before leaving. These days with the use of apps, barcodes and QR code, the simple luggage tag can be a valuable way to be able to record exactly where an item is and how it has moved around the hotel from store room to guest room.

There are many things in hotels that have not changed over the years. The expectations of guests and their desire for a memorable experience is one that will stand until the end of time. However, how hotels are able to deliver these experiences is changing, and its important that hotels move with the times and arm themselves with the tools of today in order to deliver this. It is now up to the hotels to join the technological revolution, to look for substance over style and incorporate the new technology that allows better and more efficient service.

Kristin Carville

Kristin Carville is the Director of Sales & Channels – Australia, New Zealand and Pacific Islands for FCS Computer Systems. Founded in 1982 and trusted by more than 2000 hotels in 32 countries, FCS is the leading technology solutions provider of the hospitality industry.

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