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Six Best Practices to Improve Your Hotels Internal Communication

In the digital age, hospitality-focused communication platforms can radically improve a hotel’s internal operations. Using industry-leading tools such as Beekeeper, hotels can easily share information about best practices, announce property updates, and coordinate tasks in the most efficient way possible.

However, in order to reap the benefits from this kind of technology, it’s vital to put the building blocks in place to ensure information is shared freely and easily among hotel management and employees.

With that in mind, here are six best practices for hotels to create a winning internal communication strategy.

1. Plan for Success

When you’re addressing your internal communication strategy, you need to start with clearly defined goals. First, address the key areas within your organisation that require attention. Perhaps guest requests don’t always get passed on when staff swap shifts. Maybe rooms aren’t turned over quickly enough because of delays in notifying housekeeping.

Next, ask yourself what steps need to be taken to solve these issues. What metric will you use to measure when improvements have been made? Once you have answers to these questions, use them to produce a detailed communication strategy. This will let you monitor progress and stay focused on making sure those improvements happen.

You may need to fine-tune your communication plan as time goes by, but the central goals should remain clear and consistent.

2. Ask for Contributions

For any new communication strategy to be a success, having buy-in from your whole team is essential. That’s why it pays to ask your staff for input on how they think communication could be improved.

You could gather information during brainstorms in company-wide meetings. However, you might prefer to get feedback using a staff survey or poll. Most communication platforms offer the ability to create your own polls and surveys, which can then be sent digitally to your team to gain invaluable feedback within minutes.

Whatever approach you take, having an environment of collaboration will demonstrate that you value your employee’s opinions. According to research by Salesforce, employees who feel their voice is heard at work are nearly five times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work.

The takeaway message here is that when company goals are created together, rather than dictated solely by management, teams become more invested and committed to the outcome. In addition, seeking feedback from your frontline staff will likely provide you with new perspectives and insights that might not have been considered.

3. Create a Culture of Sharing

To encourage hotel departments to communicate more freely, management also need to be open in the way they share information. That means letting employees know about things such as the company vision, latest booking figures, or any plans for any future expansions.
This transparent approach will set the standard for an open way of working and sharing information. In turn, employees may be more willing to express concerns over problems that need solving, feel confident enough to offer their own solutions, and admit to mistakes that reveal a weakness in the communication process.
The impact of this behavioural change will lead to greater efficiency, increased motivation, and almost certainly have a direct impact on the quality of the guest experience your hotel offers.

4. Regular Training

Another way to enhance team communication is through dedicated training. To get the most out of training, short but regular workshops that focus on a specific area can be especially helpful. For instance, you might want to concentrate on handling a weather crisis, dealing with tricky guest complaints, or coordinating daily tasks when you’re short staffed.

 

If your hotel has already invested in a communication platform, use it during training sessions to help everyone get better acquainted with the technology.
Not only will regular training let you fine-tune your whole business, staff will also have another forum to voice concerns, ask for help, or share ideas that they believe will improve internal processes.

While hosting face-to-face workshops won’t always be possible, you can always distribute training material electronically. Many communication platforms let you upload files, links, images, and video content — all of which can be used to provide full-scale presentations, or quick reminders that keep your team on track.

5. Use Data to Improve Decision-Making

Knowing when to communicate with your team is often just as important as how you communicate. Advanced communication platforms let you optimise when messages are sent to different staff members to ensure they get read.
For instance, by reviewing your data you might discover that your restaurant staff are quieter on Tuesday mornings. You can then schedule announcements in advance to be sent at this time. By tracking engagement with read receipts, you’ll know if your staff have more time to review messages. If they do, make that the day you send your most important announcements.

The Power of Great Communication

By investing time on your internal communication strategy, you’ll create a workforce that’s more efficient, engaged, and motivated to share ideas. As a result, this happier and more streamlined team will be able to offer an enhanced experience to your guests.

The addition of a hospitality-focused communication platform lets you improve things even further. With a centralised communication tool at your fingertips, you can reach and engage every employee in an instant, giving you the ability to easily distribute company news, gauge employee sentiment, seek feedback, and coordinate your entire operation.

 

How a Digital Communication Platform can Transform How Your Hotel Operates

Digital age technology has revolutionised the way we talk to each other. Messaging apps and social media give us the ability to chat, make plans and organize our lives in a fast and effortless way. Yet for some reason, much of the hotel industry continues to use outdated tools and methods to communicate.

Handwritten notes are often used to pass on important guest information, and the latest staff arrivals, promotions and internal events are announced via cluttered notice boards.

These inefficient systems set the scene for confusion, and rely on staff going out of their way to keep informed. Management also has no way of accurately tracking when, or if, messages have been read and understood.

A New Era in Seamless Communication

To become more effective at communicating, information sharing needs to be digitized. Hotels need to use the kind of technology that replicates our mobile, socially connected lifestyles. In the hospitality industry, digital communication tools such as Beekeeper can provide this platform.

Beekeeper allows information to be shared via a team app, employee portal, group messaging app, and workforce platform. Everything can be accessed via desktop and mobile, so all staff at the hotel are connected and in the loop at all times.

Beekeeper is used to exchanging information, share property updates, and communicate best practices within or across departments at the property.

In the following post, we’ll look at some of the specific benefits these kinds of digital platforms offer, and how they can transform the way hotels communicate with their staff.

 

Seamless Sharing of Information

The beauty of platforms such as Beekeeper is that information can be shared instantly and with everyone. For example, at the start of the day, your team can look at the most important information for the day via an app on their smartphone. This lets them look at things such as daily events, numbers in and out, and any VIPs that are arriving that require special attention.

Because this real-time information can be accessed 24/7, a new team starting the night shift can instantly be brought up to speed on the day’s activity.

A streamline digital communication tool also acts as a great time-saving device. Instant messages can be sent to an individual or groups in real time, reducing the need for unnecessary face-to-face meetings.

Engagement and Recognition

One of the less obvious benefits of communication platforms is they can be used to engage and motivate staff. Achievements, work anniversaries and personal celebrations can all be announced to the whole team. This form of public recognition helps to make employees feel connected and valued, builds esteem, and can ultimately help with retention.

New employees can also be announced to everyone via social media-style posts. These posts can include the employee’s name, photograph, profile and any hobbies or interests they have. This fun and informal introduction means that new starters are immediately made to feel welcome and part of a wider team.

Gauge Staff Sentiment in a Flash

Tools such as Beekeeper allow you to send out polls and surveys to get quick feedback from your team. Managers can quickly poll their team on a host of issues, such as getting their reaction to a recent event, or asking for ideas on a future team-building activity.

Because they’re easy to complete, staff are far more likely to reply without needing to be chased up for a response, or consulted individually. In addition, the act of regularly seeking opinions from everyone within the business shows respect for their ideas, creates stronger teams, and helps to build a culture of inclusivity.

Increased Employee Productivity

Through mobile communication, working together is so much easier and time saving. Employees can instantly share thoughts and flashes of inspiration to solve problems and generate ideas within a team. It’s a far more efficient way of working than arranging formal meetings to overcome every new issue or challenge.

Files, links, videos and images can also be shared to add information, context and creativity to on-the-go conversations and brainstorms. When collaborating is made simple, the entire hotel operation stands to benefit. Employees are encouraged to work as a team, and creative solutions to problems are more likely to happen as a direct result.

The Power of Mobile Communication

Internal mobile communication platforms are transforming how hotels and their staff interact. Bulletin boards and post-it notes are being replaced by digital technology that meets the communication demands of 21st-century hospitality.

In next month’s post, we’ll look at actionable ways you can use the latest tools to transform the way you talk, including how to keep your staff happy and engaged, increase productivity, and improve the guest experience.

 

How Hotel Guest Services Systems Can Enhance the Guest Experience

All hotels know the importance of delivering a great guest experience. Yet the explosion in digital communication makes it a huge challenge to do this on a consistent basis.

Hotels are bombarded with requests from countless channels as guests get in touch via phone, email, messaging platforms, mobile apps and social media. Staying on top of this (and trying to offer great face-to-face service at the same time), means it’s easy to get overwhelmed.

Outdated Systems and Technology

The reason it’s overwhelming is that some hotels still rely on old-fashioned manual processes to track service requests and assign tasks. A 2015 survey from Software Advice found that 25% of U.S. hoteliers still rely on pen and paper to manage their properties. A further 16% admitted they had no system in place at all.

Unsurprisingly, this paves the way for mistakes and inefficiency.

Relying on fragmented technology creates similar headaches for hoteliers. If staff are using different systems to track progress on tasks and guest requests, it’s easy to see how errors can be made.

Management are also left with a limited overview of operations, and lots of unanswered questions. Are staff being as efficient as they can be? Are guests receiving the high level of service they expect? Is the brand promise being delivered consistently? It’s incredibly hard to know these things when information exists on paper, or lives on multiple systems.

The key to success, then, is automation. It requires an industry-specific tool that acts as a central resource for all departments. Request management technology such as, “One Stop Solution” make this possible. This kind of technology can carry out a number of roles, including tracking requests from guests, automating and streamlining hotel employee workflow to increase efficiencies, reducing costs and personalising the guest experience.

Let’s take a more detailed look at five of the benefits they offer.

1. Never Miss a Request

A big benefit of a guest management system is that all staff can communicate, track and update requests in one place. Jobs can be scheduled for immediate or future action, which makes for a more streamlined and intelligent way to handle requests based on their urgency.

This can be especially helpful during a shift change — a key time when information can slip through the net. When a new staff member starts their shift, they can easily check any outstanding requests that need to be actioned. That might involve a room change, delivery additional towels or confirming a guest’s dinner reservation.

Then there are times when ensuring requests are passed on becomes especially important. For instance, a family arriving with a baby might have asked for a cot to be placed in their room. The last thing you want is for that family to arrive at 10pm with a screaming infant, only to find their request hasn’t been fulfilled.

2. The Right Person on the Job

Guest request management software also allows requests to be automatically distributed to the department or staff member most suited to the specific task at hand. That might be based on their location in the hotel (allowing them to react quickly), or their particular skill set.

An employee can then accept a request and mark it as closed once it’s been handled. This allows for total transparency, so everyone in the team is updated in real time.

The benefit of this is that the right person is assigned without delay. This means a guest isn’t left waiting unnecessarily, and receives help from the most appropriate staff member. When requests are assigned automatically, your team also no longer have to waste valuable time manually coordinating and routing tasks.

3. Resolve Issues Swiftly

A major focus for any hotel is complaint management. A negative guest experience can translate into a negative Tripadvisor post within seconds. So when it comes to resolving issues, delay is a dirty word. Furthermore, 52% of consumers say the most important attribute of an exceptional experience is a fast response time to their needs and issues.

Of course in the digital age, seamless one-to-one communication raises guest expectations further. We live in a word where email now is considered too slow, so we text or use messaging apps. So if a guest alerts the hotel front desk to an issue with their room via a messaging app, you can be sure they expect a fast response.

This is where guest request management software really comes into its own. Whether it’s alerting maintenance to a faulty in-room air-con system, or housekeeping to an understocked minibar— small issues or potentially major complaints are instantly routed for swift resolution.

4. More Focus on the Guest

In the hotel industry, attention is a finite yet invaluable resource. Guests expect to have their needs attended too quickly. But when hotel staff are dealing with multiple requests split across multiple systems, their attention is taken away. As a consequence, they simply can’t devote the same attention to the guests in front of them.

A centralised guest management system helps by removing the need for hotel staff to monitor different channels, freeing them up to spend more time on what really matters — providing a great guest experience.

 

 

5. Personalising the Guest Experience

Personalisation is very much the industry buzzword right now. The modern day hotel guest arrives expecting their unique needs and preferences to be catered for. Especially if they’ve stayed with the hotel many times before.

If a guest previously requested extra pillows or a specific beer in their mini-bar, it’s very likely they’ll expect the same again. In order to meet this expectation, hotels need to understand their guests like never before.

Whether it’s captured via digital communication (e.g. social media, email, messaging app) or through a verbal request on-property, which is logged in the guest request management software, it needs to be recorded in a central system.

Any member of staff can then access this data (and add to it over time) to help pre-empt needs and deliver exceptional service — personalising the guest experience in the most meaningful way possible.

 

The Best Service Possible

In the digital age, hotels are bombarded with a huge volume of data from an array of sources. The post-it note culture of yesteryear just doesn’t cut it anymore. In order to quickly assign tasks to staff, handle guest requests, and much more besides — a centralised guest request management tool is essential.

This automated, 21st-century solution is the key to the ultimate guest experience. It allows a hotel to run more smoothly — optimal efficiency to provide optimal service! The end result is happier guests who are much more likely to return time and time again.

 

 

The Future of Mobile Payment in Travel

Mobile technology is fast becoming central to the entire travel experience. Consumers are increasingly using their smartphones to research trips, book accommodation, check in at the airport, and access their hotel room.

 

 

 

But one of the next big roles mobile has to play in the travel process is mobile payment.  The idea of an entirely cashless society might still seem some way off, but mobile payment is gaining popularity. As it becomes more widely used, its fast and frictionless nature will bring benefits before, during and after a trip.

With that in mind, how is mobile payment being used right now, and what specific benefits can it offer to travellers and travel brands alike?

Mobile Payment in China is Booming

It’s impossible to start this topic without first discussing China — a nation where mobile payment has seen incredible growth. Much of this is being driven by WeChat — a unique social platform that also allows users to make payments to both individuals and businesses.

 

With one billion monthly active users, WeChat is China’s most popular app, and its all-in-one social platform/payment system makes it a great tool for travellers. In a recent white paper, over 90% of Chinese tourists said they would use mobile payment overseas if they had the option — giving travel companies a compelling reason to offer them the means to do so.

Mobile payment has seen more of a stuttering start elsewhere, and US consumers still seem to be wary. However, adoption is growing — especially among younger generations.

Figures from Apple Pay also indicate strong growth. In the first quarter of 2017,  Apple Pay transactions grew by 450% year-on-year. While it’s worth noting that this figure is partly down to increased iPhone sales (which include built-in mobile payment apps), these numbers certainly tell a story.

As similar payment systems such as Samsung Pay and Android Pay are preloaded into other devices, mobile payment (driven by Millennials and Gen X) looks set to become more prevalent, leading to greater integration across the industry.

With all that in mind, what specific benefits will this bring to travel brands and their  customers?

More Effective Marketing

When payment is instant and effortless, consumers are more inclined to buy. Consider how in just a couple of clicks, having an Amazon account lets you buy a book or movie that it just recommended. Zero hassle involved.

Mobile payment operates on the same premise, and its benefits to travel brands are substantial. It’s easier to tempt a customer to buy ancillary products and services when, instead of handing over a credit card or cash, they can make payment with a quick tap of their smartphone.

In practice, travellers at the airport could use their smartphone to pay for a flight upgrade, club lounge access, or duty free goods. To take advantage of this fact, international brands, retailers and airports are now partnering with Chinese mobile payment systems WeChat Pay and Alipay to tap into the lucrative Chinese tourist market.

 

There are also clear opportunities for hotels. By accepting mobile payment, a property could upsell guests on arrival with the option of a room upgrade. Or push offers during their stay on additional amenities, trips and on-property experiences.

Streamlined Travel

One of the major issues travel brands face is high online booking abandonment rates. A well-cited SaleCycle study found that 81% of shoppers abandon their booking. More recently, a travel study of Asia Pacific found 92% of consumers in the region abandon their bookings at checkout.

In part, transactions are abandoned because of overly complicated checkout processes, which involve lengthy forms and having to enter credit card details. Again, the simplicity of mobile wallet can remove this sales friction when people book a flight or accommodation.

 

 

By offering a point-of-sale device for mobile payment, hotels would also be able to offer a smoother check-in process. A quick payment with a smartphone, instead of using cards and cash, could significantly reduce queues at the front desk, allowing guests to reach their room more swiftly on arrival.

Increasing Loyalty

Engagement with loyalty programs is often lacklustre. Part of the issue is their unwieldy nature. Consumers often have loyalty programs with numerous companies, which can only be accessed by visiting each company’s own website or app. This fragmentation quickly discourages active loyalty participation.

 

The beauty with the mobile wallet is complete integration. All loyalty programs can be accessed from the same place. Brands can now integrate their existing loyalty programs into the mobile wallet, which represents a huge opportunity to engage guests with easy-to-access rewards.

There’s reason to believe travellers would be highly receptive to this. According to the 2016 Points’ The State of Mobile Wallet Loyalty and Engagement report, 94% of consumer would more frequently use a mobile wallet if they could earn and/or redeem loyalty points and miles with each transaction.

 

As an example, a hotel could quickly notify a guest about any outstanding loyalty points they have, with a prompt about the benefits and rewards available to them for making a purchase. This additional touchpoint also offers a natural way to stay in contact with guests throughout the year, keeping a hotel top of mind and strengthening relationships.

The Future of Travel Payment?

As the move towards a cashless society grows, mobile payment represents a way to speed up almost every stage of the travel journey.

Instead of using cards and cash for transactions, the likes of Alipay and WeChat Pay in China are now becoming the new way consumers make purchases. As China’s burgeoning middle class continue to travel and spend billions, overseas travel brands have an enormous opportunity to cash in by catering to their preferred payment method.

Overall, travel marketers need to consider how they can partner with wallet players as consumers become more comfortable with mobile payment. Increased familiarity among younger generations will almost certainly drive future growth, and the opportunities for smoother travel, enhanced marketing, mobile-based loyalty and enhanced engagement are significant.

 

Why Reputation Management for Hotels is Critical

In the digital age, your hotel’s online reputation is everything. Combined, social media channels, travel review websites and OTAs feature millions of customer reviews that have the power to heavily influence the decisions of your guests.

Today, great reviews on TripAdvisor and glowing recommendations on Facebook are the currency of success. Before making a booking, 95% of people say they read a review, with leisure travellers looking at an average of 6-7 reviews and business travellers consulting around 4.

As such, hotels need to do everything possible to build a strong online reputation. The following post outlines just some of the key ways this can be achieved.

The Importance of Responding to Reviews

Responding to reviews shows you’re highly engaged with your guests and care about their experience. And it can also have a direct impact on booking decisions. In late 2013, a study by TripAdvisor and PhoCusWright discovered that 62% of travellers were more likely to book if they saw that hotel management responded to feedback.

More recently, a 2015 study by Medallia found that accommodation providers that responded to over 50% of social media reviews grew occupancy rates at over double the rates of those that tended to ignore reviews.

Speed of response was also found to be a key factor: properties that replied to feedback in less than a day increased occupancy rates by 12.8% compared to properties that took two days.

Of course, most hotels simply haven’t the time to respond to all feedback. But it’s important to at least personalize the replies you do send.

For instance, thank a guest by name, acknowledge how grateful you are for their review, and address any specific comments they leave. As well as demonstrating that you’ve taken the time to show your appreciation, it’ll hint at the personal level of attention your hotel offers – a great advert to others reading your reply.

While the majority of reviews you receive will be good ones, every hotel inevitably receives criticism.

The ability to handle a negative review is especially crucial to a hotel’s reputation. It’s an opportunity to show you value feedback, and that you’re prepared to take active steps to resolve a problem.

To protect your brand reputation (and give a positive impression to potential guests), you should respond to 100% of the negative reviews you receive – ideally after no longer than 48 hours.

It’s also essential not to appear defensive. Thank the guest for their stay and express regret about their experience. Apologise for any inconvenience caused and offer a solution or describe the steps your hotel is taking as a result of their comments. Being seen as sincere, professional and willing to take action will all stand you in good stead.

Being Proactive with Reputation Management

While responding to reviews is vital, a great online reputation also involves actively encouraging them in the first place. The more reviews you have, the greater confidence you’ll build among potential new guests. In addition, a higher number of ratings will increase your search engine and review site ranking positions.

First, try to get feedback from guests while they’re still at the hotel – they’ll be more likely to do this then, than after they’ve checked out. Use a guest messaging solution that asks the guest for feedback during their stay. Getting feedback during the stay would allow you to address any issue a guest may bring up and resolve them whilst they are still in your hotel. This is an opportunity to put things right.

During the check-out process, enquire about the guest’s stay and check they were happy with the service you provided. If they’ve had a positive time with you, ask them to post an online review or have a sign on the front desk encouraging guests to share any great experiences they’ve had with you on your chains review site or TripAdvisor etc.

Post-stay emails provide another opportunity to seek reviews once a guest has checked out. To heighten the chances of a response, send the email within 2-3 days when their experience is still fresh in the mind.

Personalise emails by addressing the person by name, thank them for their business, and adopt a friendly tone over anything too formal or corporate. Also, offer a point of contact if they wish to raise any problems experienced during their stay – this can ward off any potential negative online feedback they might otherwise have left.

Finally, ask if they can share a review on TripAdvisor or social media and include relevant links to make doing this as simple as possible.

The Additional Benefits of Reviews

Beyond those mentioned, there are a number of less obvious benefits to gaining reviews that are worthy of mention:

Reviews Boost Direct Bookings

The vast majority of people visiting your website will want to see some form of social proof before they book. If your website doesn’t feature any guest reviews or testimonials, the chances are most people will head to TripAdvisor or an OTA to see what other travellers are saying about your property.

When they happens, you risk losing the booking.

A potential customer will suddenly be exposed to your competitors. Or they might end up booking your hotel with an OTA instead. To boost the chance of a direct booking, make sure you feature reviews throughout your website – from the homepage right the way through to the checkout.

Reviews Boost SEO

Google’s algorithm is designed to serve up the most helpful options for its users, and having a lot of reviews is a key ranking factor. In particular, having a large number of reviews is especially helpful to achieve a prominent position during local search results.

Adding weight to this, the latest figures show that review signals now account for 13% in terms of ranking factors (the 5th most influential factor). This goes to show just how important nurturing feedback is in terms of boosting your hotel’s online visibility.

 

Reviews Help with Marketing

It’s clear that the content of reviews can be hugely helpful to improve service levels and guest satisfaction. But the language people use to describe your hotel also has unique benefits.

For instance, using specific phrases or benefits that frequently get mentioned in reviews about your hotel can help you write more effective copy for your website and marketing. You might notice recurring phrases such as “gorgeous hotel in the country”, or “dream destination for families.”

These nuggets can provide the inspiration (or even be used verbatim) within your copy. Compared to a slick marketing message, using the language of your guests will instantly feel more natural. And it’ll help you focus your messaging on the features that people find most attractive about your property.

Building a Great Reputation: Offline

While online reputation management gets discussed a lot, managing your reputation offline also warrants significant attention. The key to this involves super-serving guests long before they arrive.

For instance, handling a reservation query over the phone in the right way can set the whole tone for the hotel stay. Providing helpful advice, asking questions, and offering personalised suggestions on room types, trips or the wider location will set the foundations for a great guest experience and instantly enhance your reputation.

The check-in process also provides an opportunity to enquire about special requirements and offer additional assistance such as advice on the local neighbourhood, hotel amenities, or activities happening during the stay.

The last impression you make is also crucial. At checkout, showing a genuine interest in a guest’s experience will leave them with a positive final memory. It’s also a vital point to try and correct any service failures that might have been made, potentially influencing their final TripAdvisor feedback.

Conclusion

The value of your hotel’s reputation can’t be overstated. In the digital age, the vast majority of your guests are checking multiple reviews before they even book with you. Making sure your hotel is promoted in the best possible light has become more important than ever.

While time-consuming, consider each and every interaction as an opportunity to enhance your reputation – from handling the initial booking to actively seeking feedback from each guest. Given that your online reputation has a direct impact on everything from direct bookings to occupancy rates, it’s unquestionably time well spent.

 

In-Room Entertainment – Catering to the 21st-century Hotel Guest

The expectations of hotel guests has changed radically in recent years. Having a comfortable place to stay is no longer enough. Today, the digitally-connected traveller wants a hotel room that lets them stay connected from the moment they arrive, while also enjoying the same technology they use at home.

Even if your guests are just using your hotel room as a base to lay their head, the time they spend relaxing will invariably involve watching TV, listening to music, or browsing the net.

This reliance on personal technology and a surge in the popularity of on-demand entertainment are both transforming what guests want and expect from a hotel room.

With that in mind, let’s explore where in-room hotel technology is going, and how it needs to evolve to meet changing expectations.

The Boom in On-demand Entertainment

A lot of guests arrive at a hotel with their own entertainment, often bringing multiple devices with them. These days, they’re more likely to watch a Netflix show on their tablet than pay to watch a movie on the hotel TV.

This trend is simply a sign of the times. A recent report by Nielsen found that nearly two-thirds of people around the globe watch some form of on-demand content.  On-demand content allows you to watch what you like, when you like over the internet.  It’s worth stating that people are still watching traditional TV and cable services, but there’s a clear shift towards on-demand content and streaming services.

This means that today’s hotel guest has more content than ever at their fingertips.

So while a large flat screen TV is still a nice perk, it isn’t the be-all and end-all of in-room entertainment. Just as crucial, hotels need to provide support to allow guests to use the devices they bring with them.

Easy Access to Personal Devices

Seamless connectivity and a frictionless online experience are key to guest satisfaction. The modern day traveller wants to stay connected at all times, and most now expect a hotel to offer free, high-speed Wi-Fi.

 

Equally, guests don’t want the hassle of complicated log-in procedures, or have their internet sessions time-out. These seemingly minor frustrations are a sure-fire way to aggravate your guests and send them straight to TripAdvisor to air their grievances.

Beyond free and fast internet access, it’s crucial that your hotel rooms have plenty of easy-to-access power outlets – especially since most people bring multiple devices with them. Even better, equip your hotel rooms with USB ports. This will also save your overseas guests the inconvenience of needing a travel adaptor.

Personal Content and Streaming Services

In the survey by Nielson, over two-thirds of respondents said that watching video-on-demand on an online or mobile device is not as good as watching on a bigger screen.

Moving forward, it seems in-room entertainment is almost certainly going to revolve around the hotel TV. As internet-enabled Smart TVs become prevalent in the home, guests will arrive expecting to stream their favourite Netflix, Stan or Amazon Prime show on the hotel room TV.

The way people listen to music has changed radically too. The boom in internet-based music platforms like Spotify mean that guests will appreciate the ability to play their music via Bluetooth thru the in-room TV speakers or clock with Bluetooth and speaker.

As discussed in a previous article, casting services are set to play a leading role in this development.  Services such as Roomcast (powered by Google’s Chromecast) now enable guests to easily and securely ‘cast’ their own content on the in-room TV.

Of course, personal devices aren’t just used for entertainment. Travellers rely on them for a host of reasons, from checking the latest weather and researching trips, to checking out the local dining scene and uploading holiday photos to Facebook.

Again, this is where streaming services can offer huge value.  Rather than being restricted to a small screen, giving guests the ability to cast content from a personal device to the in-room TV makes for a far less restricted and much more enjoyable online experience.

Yet despite these benefits, the current generation of streaming services still have some limitations. Namely, the lack of a universal system that works across all platforms.

Limitations of Streaming

At present, consumers can stream and mirror content on Android devices, such as Samsung and LG. Apple TV offers streaming and mirroring for iOS and Mac OS. But neither solution works with the other.

Chromecast bridges the gap (because it works on both Android and iOS), but you can’t play content from iTunes via Chromecast.

As a possible solution, the future might involve a next-generation solution that combines streaming with app-based technology.

How Streaming Services could Evolve

So what might a new generation of app-based solution look like? Having the apps on the TV itself wouldn’t be ideal.  Guests would have to use the hotel remote to enter their login details which is fiddly.  Also, many guests would worry about entering their personal details into the TV to access these apps because the TV will store them unless it is able to be reset or wiped once the guest checks-out.

But here’s how it could work.  Imagine a device (like an Apple TV) that lets you upload your own apps (such as Netflix, Stan or Amazon Prime, etc.) and profile to it at the push of a button via your smartphone.  The apps then displayed on the TV would be yours with your credentials, reflecting the same kind of experience you have at home.

Voice control technology would make this interaction even easier.  Products like Apple TV already have voice control built in.  So this next-generation experience would allow guests to navigate and play personal content without touching a button.  Instead, they would simply ‘ask’ the TV to play (say) the latest Stranger Things episode.

What about security concerns? The device would automatically clear itself of personal credentials, settings, content and any downloaded apps when a guest checks out.  That is the device would be restored to a standardised per-property configuration – ready and waiting for the next guest to make it their own.

Redefining the In-room Experience

As access and dependence on personal devices grows, the future of in-room entertainment will be defined by what your guests bring with them – and how well you can enhance the experience of them using these devices whilst staying with you.

Super-fast Wi-Fi, casting services, and voice-activated devices will no longer be an appreciated luxury.  They’ll become a hardwired expectation.  This isn’t far off, either.  These technologies are already here – moving into the domestic setting and becoming seamlessly integrated into everyday life.

Entertainment autonomy and an office-away-from-the-office are what your future guests are going to be looking for.  Understanding these changing expectations and investing in the right technology is going to be crucial to remain relevant and gain a competitive edge in the coming years.

 

 

The Future of Hotel Energy Efficiency: Save Money with Automated Management

Energy efficiency should be a key concern for all hotels. Spiralling electricity prices have started to cost the industry more and more over the years. As hotels continue to find profit margins squeezed, looking for ways to reduce unnecessary wastage is paramount.

On average, guestrooms account for 90% of wasted electricity usage. Of this, the biggest drain by far comes from the Heating, Ventilation & Air Conditioning (HVAC) system, which typically uses between 70% – 90% of the energy consumption.

If this system isn’t managed effectively, it can play a huge part in soaring energy bills.

How Do Guest Rooms “Waste” Energy?

Electricity is most commonly wasted when the HVAC is left on when a guest isn’t in the room.

“What about the keycard?”  I hear you ask.  Typically most guests know how to cheat the key card system and either ask for or get offered two keycards when they check in to a hotel. When they decide to leave their room, they often leave one of the cards connected so the HVAC system remains in use while they’re out — needlessly using electricity and costing the hotel money. Even the newer RFID cards don’t help with this problem.

If your guests are heading out for a day of sightseeing, that’s a whole day’s worth of wasted energy. Consider how many guests are doing this and the annual costs can quickly add up to thousands of dollars.

Much of this wastage and expenditure is needless, but also preventable.

 

Energy Efficiency: an Intelligent Solution

To save energy hotels could remind guests to remove their keycard every time they leave their room, but this isn’t exactly an ideal option. Many people might simply forget and, in any case, the burden of energy efficiency really rests with the hotel, not the guest.

The answer to saving energy requires a technological solution. One that’s built on intelligent automation and doesn’t rely on the guest having to do anything.

That’s where automated solutions like the ECOSYSTEM can help. It can be programmed to “turn off” or “set back” the HVAC system when the room is unoccupied.  As a result, hotels can expect to save anywhere between 25% and 40% on their HVAC costs. Automated solutions also increase the HVAC lifespan by reducing its overall usage.

Crucially, none of this impacts the comfort of guests because the system only kicks in when they aren’t in their room.  In fact, the system enhances the guest experience, because when they open the door the lights and the HVAC turn on automatically. Much more elegant than having to put a key card in the slot to enable power!

How Does an Automated Solution Work?

Guests remain in full control of the HVAC system when they’re in their room. However, as soon as they leave, a micro door sensor tells the system that someone may have left.

At this point, an infrared motion detector sweeps the room for the next 20 mins (duration set by property) to check it has definitely been vacated. If no movement is detected, the system switches to “unoccupied” mode. It then either turns off the HVAC system or adjusts it to a temperature pre-set by the hotel.

These systems also come with a range of other intelligent modes. These include a Housekeeping Mode that can be set to automatically turn off the HVAC operation if the main guest room door is left open while Housekeeping are cleaning the room.

When the room is unoccupied, the system can also turn on the HVAC for 15 minutes every two hours so the air is circulated. This keeps the room feeling fresh and well-ventilated for the guest, and it also prolongs the life of the room furniture by preventing the build-up of mildew.

In addition, a dedicated ‘Balcony Door Control’ can be added. This allows for the aircon to be automatically turned off when the balcony door is opened or left open for 2 minutes or more.

Cut Costs with In-room Energy Management

The guest room may be your property’s most unmanaged energy resource and can lead to a serious drain on your profits.

As costs rise, an automated solution such as ECOSYSTEM can offset a big chunk of this energy waste. It effectively puts you in control by automatically turning off or setting back the HVAC system when the guest isn’t in their room.

Over the months and years, an automated solution can save you thousands of dollars — as well as preserving the life of your HVAC. In addition, it can add to your brand perception. By promoting your energy efficient credentials, you’ll be appealing to the growing numbers of socially conscious guests.

Footnote:

With regards to keycards, it’s still early days but as more and more hotels move to mobile keys, where the guest smartphone acts as a virtual key, a guest won’t have a physical key card to insert in the keycard slot.

 

Why Hotels Should Embrace Digital Key Technology

Self-service is becoming increasingly valued by a generation of travellers seeking greater convenience and flexibility. At many global airports, self-service check-in and automated passport control kiosks are commonplace. Technology is now helping to reduce queues and speed up transit, removing the need for a once long-winded administrative process.

Yet for some reason, the technology hasn’t been widely rolled out in the hotel industry, despite the fact that demand is there. Research by Hotels.com revealed that 44% of US travellers would be happy using a mobile for hotel self-check-in.

 

The desire for self-service was found to be even greater in a study of business travellers in North America and Europe. The study found that travellers in the US (78%), Italy (77%), Canada (74%), Spain (73%), the Nordic countries (60%) and Germany (56%) preferred self-service technology to manage their travel.

As the demand for self-service grows, it’s worth looking at the considerable benefits that digital keys offer both guests and hotels.

Benefits to Guests

Using just their smartphone, guests can use a digital key to skip the check-in procedure and gain instant access to their room. Offering this hassle-free alternative is something that can have a direct impact on levels of customer satisfaction.

Since Hilton launched their own Digital Key, Hilton guests using the technology are more likely to rate their “efficiency of arrival” nearly 10 percentage points higher than those using traditional check-in.

A mobile key also allows guests to access other areas of a hotel, such as the car park, elevator, or fitness centre. Additionally, a whole host of service requests can be made from anywhere in the hotel.

 

For instance, a digital key can be used to ask for housekeeping, issue a ‘do not disturb request’, or reserve a parking space at the hotel before arrival.

Activities and amenities no longer need to be booked through the front desk, either. A smartphone with a digital key can be used to book everything from a massage or spa treatment to a session on the hotel tennis court.

With this kind of technology at their fingertips, the whole guest experience is elevated to another level of freedom and convenience.

Benefits to Hotels

The demands on a front desk are considerable during busy check-in periods. But with more guests checking in themselves, this burden is relieved.

It’s fair to say the check-in process represents an important opportunity for building guest rapport. For that reason, diminishing its role might seem counterproductive. But in reality, the administrative process of form filling and fact checking doesn’t really lend itself to moments of genuine interaction.  If we are honest, front desk staff generally spend most of the check-in procedure looking at their computer screen rather than the guests.

However, freed up from the formalities of the check-in procedure, a front desk can spend more quality time on the moments that really matter.

This might involve offering helpful recommendations to guests as they head out for the day. It could mean having the chance to handle customer queries over the phone with greater care and attention, creating more opportunities to influence booking decisions and provide an all-round better service.

Self-service also provides greater upsell opportunities. A hectic front desk might not have the time to tempt a guest with room upgrades or promote in-house amenities and services. In contrast, digital keys can be used as powerful marketing tools to increase sales.

Hotel services and special offers can be promoted via an app, with customised offers targeting specific customer segments. In turn, hotels can track uptake rates to see which deals and amenities guests are really interested in, further helping to refine the amenities and offers they deliver to match personal preferences and buying habits.

From an operational perspective, life becomes easier too. For instance, a hotel can check when a room has been vacated and carry out cleaning to ensure a quicker turnaround time. The hotel restaurant can also be notified about the number of current and future guests to help better plan in advance.

Ultimately, digital keys provide hotels with the ability to improve efficiency, push relevant deals, market more effectively, and provide an all-round better experience to guests.

In conclusion

Self check-in services are now becoming highly valued by a generation that craves flexibility and freedom when they travel. While increasingly expected, this certainly doesn’t mean that hotels should do away with the traditional check-in process. Plenty of travellers still value a formal greeting on arrival.

However, by not offering a self check-in option, it restricts those who do want to bypass the front desk in order to reach their room more quickly. It also limits the wealth of other benefits they can receive beyond a streamlined arrival.

The ultimate goal for any hotel is to leave every guest feeling completely satisfied with the service they’ve received. By complementing the front desk with self-service technology, hotels can strike a balance and ensure the preferences of all are met.

 

 

The Rise of On-demand Streaming Services And How Hotels Can Profit

It’s no secret that scheduled TV programming is in sharp decline. Viewers no longer want to wait a week to catch their favourite TV show. They want to watch it at a time and place that suits them.

The rise of streaming services such as Netflix and Stan highlight just how fast this shift is happening. Despite only launching in March 2015, over 1 in 3 Australians now has a Netflix subscription, which includes a huge surge in subscriptions during the first quarter of last year.

This change in viewing consumption is reflected in the typical hotel guest who frequently arrives with their own entertainment on personal devices. Rather than relying on whatever in-room content happens to be available, they want the flexibility to watch their own movies and TV shows.

To cater to this trend, a growing number of hotels are offering streaming services to enable guests to watch their own content on the in-room TV. But not all streaming services are made equal. While still in its infancy, the current technology being used by some hotels already looks like it could soon be replaced.

The changing face of hotel streaming services

Back in 2015, Marriott lead the way by becoming the first hotel to introduce Netflix into their hotel rooms, allowing guests to access their own Netflix accounts on the in-room TV. Guests were also able to access other services including Stan and Pandora.

This move represented an important shift away from offering increasingly less popular pay-per-view content. Yet despite the demand for more personalised in-room entertainment options, this particular form of streaming comes with some drawbacks.

For instance, guests must either have a pre-existing Netflix account or set up a new trial. They also need to enter their personal Netflix account details using the TV remote and on-screen keyboard. Not only is this a cumbersome process, it involves sharing personal data in a public environment — something that many guests are likely to feel quite uncomfortable with.

However, a new form of streaming technology known as “casting” eliminates these issues, and arguably represents the way in which all hotel streaming services will go.

 

 

Casting technology: the future of hotel streaming

In contrast to traditional streaming, casting provides a simplified and secure alternative. Users can stream content by accessing the cast-enabled apps already on their own devices.

Not only does this eliminate the clunky user interface of inputting details into the hotel TV, it resolves potential concerns over data protection.

In terms of an industry standard, services such as RoomCast (powered by Google’s Chromecast) represent a likely contender. To date Chromecast supports over 1,000 apps, 200,000 TV shows and movies, and 30 million songs — so the breadth of content guests can stream is already pretty vast.

In addition, RoomCast enables users to carry on using their phone for other tasks without interrupting the content happening on the big screen.

Hotels embracing casting

Last year, Aloft was the first hotel to trial RoomCast at its 188-room New Orleans Downtown property. As an industry innovator, this move by Aloft represented an awareness that the nature of in-room entertainment could soon be entering a new era.

Just recently, Hyatt became the latest hotel brand to offer in-room casting. Hyatt has begun working with Sonifi Solutions to utilise its Staycast technology – another Google Chromecast-powered platform for the hospitality industry. The service is currently available in 14 Hyatt properties and integrates with the World of Hyatt mobile app.

Wingate by Wyndham has also begun running a pilot with Sonifi. This followed a test that showed on average, Wingate by Wyndham’s guests cast 12 times from their devices to the in-room TV over an average two-night stay.

According to Sonifi CEO Ahmad Ouri, one of the other major benefits of this form of streaming is data collection: hotels can look at streaming habits across the board to help them better identify how guests are using the technology.

From the guest perspective, the beauty of casting compared to earlier streaming services is about simplicity and security. They aren’t required to input a code or hand over personal details through the hotel TV. Instead, everything can be done through their own mobile devices using the apps they already have.

The future of in-room entertainment

We live in an era defined by instant access. Services such as Netflix, Amazon and Uber have habituated consumers into expecting immediacy and flexibility. In terms of in-room hotel entertainment, this is redefining the behaviour and preferences of the modern day hotel guest.

 

As streaming gains popularity in the home, guests will increasingly want and expect to access their accounts from the comfort of their hotel room. Moving forward, casting will become integral to this process, representing the ultimate way for guests to enjoy their favorite content through a simplified, secure and seamless form of connectivity.

 

Are You Taking Full Advantage of Your Guest Room Speed Dials?

Taking full advantage of your guest room speed dials can not only increase guest satisfaction but also contribute to hotel revenue. Travelers these days are looking for an “experience”, not just a place to stay. Many guests still prefer the simplicity of one-touch speed dials quickly connecting them to hotel and emergency services if needed. This could be the difference in them using the hotel Spa versus the other 10 spas right down the street. Even hotels that do not provide premium services have been able to generate recurring revenue by leasing speed dial keys to local companies.

Room Service – Two words that Make your Phone Generate Revenue

By providing your guests convenient one-button access to food and drink, hotels gain thousands of dollars in premium-priced sales.

 

 

Those with iPads and laptop computers can even bypass the phone and order online. But searching the Web does take more time than pushing a single button. Frankly, the convenience and simplicity of picking up the hotel guest phone, pushing just one clearly-marked button, and getting food and drink ordered from a handy menu that is already available in the hotel room is just perfect.

Think of it this way: If customers have to use their mobile phones to call for room service – with the hassle of having to find and then punch in a complete phone number– what’s to stop them from calling out for delivery? After all, it’s no more work to punch in one full phone number than it is to type in another.

 

But what does Room Service actually contribute to a hotel’s bottom line?

Quite simply, a single push of a button equates to about $30 high margin incremental revenue.

Hotel Phones = Happy Guests

If hotel guests need a wake-up call, advice on getting clothes cleaned, or fresh towels, they pick up the hotel guestroom phone, push a single button and get what they want. This is a guest convenience that is simple, fast, and — most of all – expected.  In an age where consumers are already cranky about service cutbacks in airlines and other travel-related products, taking away this expected convenience would be commercial suicide.

Lawsuit, Anybody?

Imagine that your hotel has a fire or other calamity. Now imagine that the hotel guestroom phones have been removed. Can you imagine what a field day some enterprising class action lawyer can have at your Hotel’s expense

You got it: By removing hotel guestroom phones, a hotel is exposing itself to millions’ of dollars in potential liability suits.  Even if disaster doesn’t strike? Have fun convincing your insurance company that removing guestroom phones doesn’t open your hotel up to such lawsuits. Unfortunately, your insurance company knows better. Chances are the increase in insurance premiums will eat up any perceived savings realised by removing guestroom phones – and then some.

The Bad News AND The Good News

The bad news; removing hotel guestroom phones is an effective way to slash revenue, alienate customers, and open yourself up to lawsuits and increased insurance premiums, The Good News; Preserving and growing your Room Service, and delighting your customers with hotel guest room phones helps ensure that these revenue centres remain alive and contributing to your hotel’s bottom line.