One Network to Bind Them All
Unified communications and cloud-based systems help hotel owners stay ahead of the competition by enhancing guest experience and improving employee productivity
How often has one seen fatigued guests impatiently waiting at the hotelâ€™s front desk while the hospitality staff is searching for their reservations or taking time to assign a room to them? This is hardly the kind of experience that will make guests return, even if the stay is otherwise comfortable. Sometimes, the first impression can be abiding, especially in a world where the guest is spoilt for choice. The problem here does not necessarily lie with the hotel or the staff but with the traditional communication systems that are often unable to cope with the level of customer service that guests now demand. Here is where hoteliers can leverage Unified communications (UC) to offer superior guest engagement services. Some hotels have already employed it and have been able to provide innovative services for their guest but coud also improve the productivity of their employees. A good example of this is keyless check-ins, a concept that was introduced by Starwood in 2014 under its SPG Keyless mobile technology, which was later adopted by other brands, including Hilton. Hyatt and InterContinental Hotels Group, too, tested this concept. Today, it is quite common to see hotels use WiFi-enabled tablets for check-ins.
Such technologies can be best deployed on UC. This is because cloud-based platforms not only offer better guest experience, as compared to legacy systems, but also have the ability to create content across diverse platforms, including mobile, voice, video, and instant messaging, and present a lower cost of ownership and management.
While conventional technologies are still used in most hotels in the country for guest and employee communication, companies are gradually considering a shift to UC and mobile-based solutions. Some industry people believe these solutions will gain mainstream acceptance in the near future as brands see the operational efficiency and cost savings they bring to the table.
Ryan Dsilva, rooms division manager at Park Hyatt (Hyderabad), is one such believer after witnessing the hotelâ€™s upgrade to the technology. Dsilva says that Hyattâ€™s cloud-based system captures as many inputs, such as requests for a hard bed made at the time of reservation, as possible at various customer touch-points. â€śThis data feeds a hub and a data warehouse for real-time integration so that every Hyatt hotel globally has a consistent outlook of the guest, along with their preferences.â€ť
S Srinivasan, who is Ascottâ€™s manager of group technology (client services) for India, added, â€śCollaboration has become challenging for us, especially when it comes to handling guests and hotel operations wherein two or more associates are involved. Sometimes, we need to work with associates located in different parts of the country or abroad. The advantage of UC is that it enables staff members to manage their availability and make appropriate decisions in handling guest expectations.â€ť
Given that the hotel workforce is often mobile, a propertyâ€™s technocrat is often keen to deploy solutions that will be cost-effective and will give the associates constant information while they are on the go in a secure manner. Moreover, the network can be extended to offer guest contact and communication services throughout the premises as well.
â€śUC solutions can integrate with business applications to deliver business process improvement in guest management as well as the backend client systems. For instance, integration with customer relationship management (CRM) solutions will provide a pop-up of guest information when they call, so our staff is equipped with information about the guest, enabling them to provide personalised service,â€ť Srinivasan added.
SEEING POSITIVE CHANGES
The deployment of UC also helps associates to evolve from employees to hotel consultants. Dsilva drives home his point with an interesting example. â€śLast year, a housekeeping attendant at Park Hyatt Hyderabad noticed that a guest who frequently stayed at the hotel routinely kept a tissue box by his bedside. The staffer added this detail to Hyattâ€™s cloud-based systems to ensure that this need was fulfilled not just at Park Hyatt Hyderabad but across all Hyatt hotels globally during his next visit. A few months later, when the guest checked into a Hyatt hotel in Singapore, the housekeeper there was able to see his preferences and placed the tissue box in advance by the bed-side in his room.â€ť By securely sharing guest preference data through the cloud-based system, the Hyatt team takes guest experience up a notch, adds Dsilva.
Srinivasan agrees that while it is difficult to measure the returns from UC deployment, there is no doubt that hotels will be able to significantly enhance guest experience and increase the productivity of their staff. â€śMany brands have begun UC implementations with staff productivity elements and then moved to UC, which provides greater RoI to the company. Itâ€™s obvious to any company that has used UC that the RoI is measurably greater when integrating UC with business applications, resulting in communications-enabled business processes.â€ť
It is clear that in the world of connected communications, UC is here to stay. On the one hand, it can take guest experience to the next level by providing the latest programmes for in-room viewing or through seamless connectivity for the guestsâ€™ mobile devices throughout the property. On the other hand, it can improve employee productivity by giving the reservation team real-time details about inventory through their mobile phones to manage check-ins effectively.