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Hotel Concierge Software Software Articles

Here’s Why Hotel Operations Software is Exploding in the Pandemic

by
Hotel Tech Report
1 month ago

It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has devastated the hotel industry with flights grounded, global travel restrictions, and high unemployment.  Once in a century crises like this often bring about long term societal and behavioral change.  Those who are able to identify these tectonic shifts and adapt their businesses are most likely to succeed in the years ahead. Capital markets often act as a canary in the coal mine to help identify these shifts as they’re unfolding.  Massively popular video communications firm Zoom has seen its stock grow more than 6-fold during the pandemic as all meetings have moved to virtual.  In-person conferences and office meetings have been put on furlough enabling video meetings to jump years ahead of where they would have been without the pandemic.  Hotel groups that are able to successfully leverage video in their sales process are setting themselves up for outsized returns in the months and years ahead. You’re probably thinking “yeah, everybody knows about Zoom”, right? While Zoom is obvious, there has been an explosion of operations software that has been far less publicized.   Collaboration Tools Are Exploding Right Now Project management, team communications, and collaboration software have absolutely exploded during the pandemic.  Here’s are some of the biggest success stories: Airtable is now valued at $2.6B Monday.com is now valued at $2.9B Slack is now valued at $14.5B in IPO Atlassian is now valued at $41.7B Task and project management tools enable teams to collaborate with each other cross-functionally and remotely.  These tools help workers do their jobs - so why are their valuations exploding while unemployment is reaching all-time highs?  Shouldn’t fewer workers mean fewer users and lower revenue for these businesses? In reality, a smaller hospitality workforce has meant each worker needs to be more efficient with time which has led to the rapid adoption of platforms like those we mentioned above.  As companies across the globe have gone fully remote, collaboration tools have become more important than ever to ensure that these businesses can deliver consistent service to their customers.  Signing up for software like Airtable brings productivity equivalent to hiring new team members at a fraction of the cost.  As workforces shrink, managers use these tools to augment productivity.   Hotels Look to Software to Do More With Less Remote work has been a huge driver of the collaboration tool revolution because workers have needed to organize themselves and communicate around specific projects without face to face interaction like never before. Hotels historically already had this need.  Hotel teams have always possessed characteristics of remote work that demand efficient collaboration.  Housekeepers, for example, often work on completely different floors yet need to stay in sync around room turns and assignments.  Concierge and engineering teams often work different shifts without setting foot on property at the same time, yet need to manage requests and projects across shifts without face-to-face interaction.  Adding to this complexity, hotel teams have needed to work cross-functionally without direct interaction. Think about the case of  VIP guests arriving early.  Their room cleaning needs to be prioritized, rushed, assigned to a housekeeper, and then communicated back to the front desk. Without software, these kinds of service optimizations are nearly impossible.  Great operations software like ALICE has kept these teams in sync for years and now, like the collaboration tools mentioned above, is more important than ever. Global furloughs and layoffs in the hotel industry have meant that the fortunate workers who retained their jobs have needed to wear multiple hats and perform tasks they’ve never done before.  Here at Hotel Tech Report, we’ve heard stories of IT Directors helping out with housekeeping and Sales Managers running shifts at the front desk.  It’s been beautiful to see everyone come together and hotels without the right software were caught flat-footed when evolving their staffing and operations models. Despite tightened budgets, the smartest hotels and hotel groups have used downtime as an opportunity to dial their operating models, increasing chances of survival in the short term, and maximizing profit potential in the long run.  These businesses have learned to embrace collaboration software to bring their businesses into the 21st century.  Instead of seeing a cost center, they view tools like ALICE as a source of strategic value and savings making each worker more efficient and effective.     How Oslo’s Clarion Hotel The Hub Leveraged ALICE to Maximize Efficiency During the Pandemic Marianne Høybakk has been a Hotel Manager at Oslo’s beautiful 810 room Clarion Hotel The Hub for more than 2 years and ALICE has completely transformed the way her team operates connecting departments like front desk, housekeeping, maintenance, and concierge in a single platform that is also used to communicate with guests via messaging functionality and request ticketing.  At a massive property like The Hub - operations software was a must-have according to Høybakk long before COVID-19.  After implementing ALICE’s guest messaging functionality, The Hub experienced a 126% improvement in guest satisfaction scores. Prior to the pandemic, ALICE was already the key hotel software keeping Marianne’s team and guests in sync.  When the property ran a fire drill before using ALICE’s guest messaging software, hundreds of frantic guests would flood the front desk asking questions.  During COVID-19 a situation like this would be untenable.  Using ALICE, Marianne’s team now instantly messages all guests prior to fire-drills to warn and inform them which helps keep everybody calm and improves their stay.  Housekeeping managers no longer need to take long trips across the property to find out new room assignments have been distributed and every maintenance issue can now be tracked in real-time to ensure the property is running smoothly. ALICE’s messaging functionality has also grown even more critical during the COVID-19 pandemic at The Hub with constantly changing local regulations.  The Hub has been using ALICE to distribute updates around property rules and restrictions mandated by the government in order to keep guests safe and informed in a rapidly changing environment.  ALICE has also helped The Hub reduce checkout lines by offering an app-based checkout option for guests who don’t require additional service.  This allows the hotel’s team to deliver impeccable service even when they’re short-staffed since they can focus on the guests who have more specific needs. Hotel management is incredibly complex. Within every hotel, there are literally thousands of daily tasks.   Now that hotels have cut staffing levels while also dealing with ever-changing regulations and health conditions, it’s more important to invest in operational tools like ALICE that can make every single team member on the property more productive and efficient.   This content was created collaboratively by ALICE and Hotel Tech Report.  

35 Things a Hotel Concierge Can Do for Your Guests

by
Hotel Tech Report
3 months ago

When you think of a hotel concierge, perhaps you imagine a stylish, suit-clad professional in a glamorous New York boutique hotel somehow scoring tickets for a sold-out Broadway show. The ticket-seeking guests, of course, become guests for life and write rave reviews for your hotel across the web to improve your hotel star ratings.  But how exactly did the concierge pull it off while juggling dozens of requests? The concierge's job doesn't stop at making dinner reservations and restaurant recommendations.  Anyone who's worked in the hospitality industry and especially within guest service has gotten requests that shock them from bold hotel guests looking for a unique experience.  The best hotels prep their concierges to bring wacky ideas to the table and to develop a knack for understanding what guests want even before they ask for it.  The concierge is like the hotel's personal assistant ready to make every journey seamless and delightful.  This is the gold standard of hospitality which is why the best concierges receive golden keys called le clefs d'or which is only available to this hotel staff in this hospitality career path. Whether you're in your room right now ready to make a phone call to the concierge desk or a hotel manager looking to recruit a top notch concierge team - this article will be your guide. With technology, incredible guest experiences are accessible to any hotel who seeks to improve review scores, increase incremental revenue, and build guest loyalty. In this article, we’ll review a concierge job description, share some tasks a concierge might handle, and uncover the secrets of that little golden lapel pin on the best concierges’ jackets.   What is a Hotel Concierge Exactly? Before we dive into the concierge job description, you may be wondering how to pronounce “concierge.” Coming from the French comte des cierges, meaning “keeper of the candles,” old-school concierges assisted the medieval upper-class as they traveled from castle to castle in Europe. Phonetically, the word is pronounced “kaan-see-ehrzh.” Want to perfect your pronunciation? This video can help you say “concierge” like a pro. Now that you know how to say it, what does a concierge do? A concierge is responsible for providing local information and helping guests organize any activities they wish to do during their stay. Sometimes the concierge builds a detailed itinerary for a guest, while other times he or she simply answers questions or points guests in the right direction. Like front desk staff, the concierge acts as a face of the hotel, so they should have a friendly, welcoming personality. Communication skills and attention to detail are important traits in a concierge, since they will be responsible for the intricacies of a guest’s itinerary. If the hotel attracts a lot of international guests, then foreign language skills can help a concierge succeed. A concierge should also have extensive knowledge about the local area, perhaps even building relationships with managers at top restaurants so they can secure hard-to-get reservations.   35 Things a Hotel Concierge Can Do For You No two days are the same for a concierge, and they often receive requests for unique, one-of-a-kind experiences. Here are just a few things that the concierge role will be expected to cover. Promote your loyalty program. Guests often ask concierges for discounts and perks, so if your hotel has a loyalty program, the concierge can be a great spokesperson. Teach guests the local lingo. Concierges want to help guests enjoy their city to the fullest, and one of the easiest ways to do that is to eliminate confusion about local words. Before you taste Miami’s best cafecito or ride the L in Chicago, you need to know what a cafecito and the L are.     Track down forgotten or lost items. Have a guest who forgot to pack toothpaste or misplaced their passport? Leave it to the concierge to find a solution. Find kid-friendly play areas. Concierges are the go-to area experts, and their knowledge isn’t limited to nightlife. They can share recommendations for playgrounds, parks, and even babysitting services. Arrange a room upgrade. Concierges aren’t just knowledgeable about the area – they’re also treasure troves of information about the hotel itself. Want a room with a landmark view or furthest from the elevator? Guests can get the room of their dreams – and your hotel can earn some incremental revenue.   Book spa or beauty services. Need a bit of R&R or a glamorous look for an event? Let the concierge help your guests find the perfect massage, hairdresser, make-up artist, nail studio, and more. Help with medical needs. Forgot a prescription or need a last-minute dentist appointment? A concierge can assist out-of-town guests with health needs too. Share tips on avoiding traffic. Google Maps can only tell you so much; a concierge knows the busiest times on the road from their own experience and can recommend alternate routes, public transit, or ridesharing. Plan activities or book restaurants before arrival. You might think your relationship with the concierge only begins when you arrive on property, but concierges can help you plan your trip as soon as you book your room.     Make arrangements for furry friends. Pets are guests too! Besides arranging for a pet bowl and a pet bed in a guest’s room, concierges can recommend pet-friendly restaurants, dog parks, and activities for four-legged companions. Get you a ride during peak hours. When Uber, Lyft, or the local ride-sharing service is experiencing price surges, the concierge can call up a car for you at a lower rate. They have contacts standing by waiting to pick up passengers at a moment’s notice. Celebrate an occasion. Planning an engagement? Celebrating a birthday? A concierge can help you make the moment special by sourcing balloons or flower petals for your room, and work with housekeeping to get everything set up.     Run your business. If you’re in town for a conference or work meeting, you may need to print materials or find a place to design signage for your event. A concierge can help you with courier service, sign for packages, find a printer, and more.  Keep you safe. Going for a jog? Exploring a new neighborhood? Check with the concierge first to make sure you don’t run into any bad areas.  Help avoid lines. Concierge staff know the most popular attractions in the area, as well as some tricks to avoid waiting in ticket and entrance lines. They can point you to the right sites to buy tickets ahead of time or print out your ticket for you so you can fast-track your site seeing.  Make you an influencer. The advent of influencer travel has encouraged concierges to map out some of the most Instagram-worthy spots nearby. Some concierges will also provide photography tips, such as when to get the best light and how to find the best angle at different destinations.  Take you surfing. Business Insider reports that Some hotels throughout California have special “surf concierges” who lead guided surf trips out on the water. They can also organize surf lessons and board rentals.      Arrange for tailoring and dry cleaning. Especially if you’re visiting a hotel for a wedding or other formal event, a concierge will be able to connect you with a dry cleaner or tailor to make sure everything is perfect for the big day. Help you work out. Westin Hotels and Resorts hired “run-concierge leaders”, concierge staff who run with travelers past notable landmarks for a 3-mile or 5-mile excursion. Other hotel concierges can connect you to nearby gyms if there’s no fitness center on-site.  Teach guitar lessons. The concierge at the Four Seasons Hotel in Austin offers guitar rental services and can connect guests with guitar or songwriting lessons with local musicians.  Guide you to the best watering holes. Whether you’re seeking a great night out, going on a wine-tasting excursion, or interested in discovering a speakeasy, the concierge should be your first port of call. The Hotel Vermont, for instance, has a beer concierge who can pair beer with food and give guests an itinerary to the area’s best breweries.      Show you the area’s best art. The Silo Hotel in Cape Town, South Africa hosts an art concierge who can give guests guided tours of the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art. Other concierges can direct you to the best local galleries, outdoor installations, and lesser-known museums. Tell you how to arrive. Even before you check-in, a concierge will make your life easier. Get step by step directions for how to arrive to the property, as well as insider knowledge for arriving rush hour, skipping around construction delays, and parking tips Connect your gaming console to hotel WiFi. Traveling with a PS4? Sometimes it can be tricky to login to the hotel’s WiFi network. A concierge can give you step-by-step directions, and sometimes even recommend a selection of games to try.   Book a rental car. Again, if you are able to interact with the concierge before your stay, they can arrange to have a rental car dropped off and waiting for you.  Recommend a pet or babysitter. Some hotels have in-house pet sitting or daycare, but if not, a concierge can recommend a vetted, trusted professional to watch your family while you go to dinner for the evening.     Coordinate a business retreat. If you’re hosting a retreat with attendees arriving from all over, a concierge can be standing by to greet people as they arrive, provide the schedule, and hand out gift bags to kick things off.  Navigate dietary and allergy restrictions. Traveling while vegan? Have a child with a down allergy? Concierges can help you navigate those preferences by recommending restaurants and coordinating with housekeeping accordingly.  Get you a table at a restaurant. Obviously, a concierge can make a reservation for you when given enough time. But sometimes, a concierge can also bump you to the front of the waiting list if the reservations are all booked up.  Handle out-of-the-box requests. There’s very little the best concierges can’t do. From hosting an impromptu dog wedding to hosting actual breakfast at Tiffany’s, great concierges know how to get stuff done.    The World’s Best Concierges Belong to Les Clefs d’Or If concierges are athletes, then Les Clefs d’Or is the Olympic team. This exclusive organization has about 4,500 members worldwide, which is just a tiny percentage of the world’s concierges, and chapters in dozens of countries. These concierges are the ones who can make any guest’s request become reality, “so long as it is morally, legally, and humanly possible.” Luxury hotels often include the number of Les Clefs d’Or concierges that they have on staff (usually it’s not more than 1 or 2) in marketing materials - it’s that big of a big deal. Becoming a member of Les Clefs d’Or is no easy feat. In addition to several years of hotel work experience, prospective members must submit letters of recommendation and may need to pass a written examination. If accepted, then the concierge earns his or her badge of honor: a small golden lapel pin with two crossed keys, representing that they now hold the keys to the city. These concierges are expected to make the impossible happen. Want a driver in a red Corvette to pick you up at the airport in Paris? How about a photoshoot with Persian kittens in the hotel’s penthouse? Or a midnight shopping spree at a mall in Hong Kong? A Clefs d’Or concierge will work their magic and make it happen.   Behind the Scenes: How the Best Concierges Use Tech to Surprise and Delight Concierges - even those wearing the golden keys - are only human, so they can’t deliver these amazing experiences entirely on their own. Technology is a concierge’s secret weapon, which helps them communicate with guests, analyze trends, and organize guest requests so nothing slips through the cracks. Concierge systems can even offer insights into a guest’s likes and dislikes so a concierge’s recommendations are extra-personalized. Great concierges, like the ones in Les Clefs d’Or, use platforms like Alliants Concierge as an all-in-one technology solution to manage & fulfil guest requests. The system doesn’t just manage requests, but it also tracks guests’ preferences and stores information about nearby vendors so concierges have everything they need at their fingertips. By providing data-driven recommendations based on guest trends and preferences, concierges can offer more relevant suggestions and increase conversion - the percentage of guests who accept their suggestions - to drive incremental revenue to the hotel’s outlets. To make operations seamless, platforms like Alliants Concierge even integrate with complementary systems like HotSOS and Oracle Opera PMS. Eager to learn more about technology solutions for concierges? Check out our concierge software buyers guide to find the system that works best for your hotel. Although technology will allow a concierge to provide better recommendations and ensure every request is actioned, he or she must still boast an impressive network of contacts and local insider knowledge. We’re still wondering how this concierge was able to arrange a private visit to Buckingham Palace for an art-loving guest! Looking to recruit a top notch hotel concierge? Check out our guide on how to use the Hcareers platform.  

Space Tourism: Lessons from Companies on the Next Frontier

by
Hotel Tech Report
4 months ago

Today’s traveler preferences are changing. Millennials are seeking unique, authentic travel experiences which has led to everything from underwater hotels to the rise of space tourism. Travelers want to fully immerse themselves in new environments whether that’s at the bottom of the sea, in destination or even in space. Take, for example, SeaDream’s 88-day cruise from Antarctica to the Arctic. The ultra-luxury vessel starts in Ushuaia and travels to stops in South America and Europe before touring the fjords of Norway and heading to the Arctic Circle. It’s just one of the many experiences the travel industry is offering to help people see more of the planet. For those who have seen all Earth has to offer, the next level of experiential travel is space tourism. It’s a sector of travel and hospitality that’s historically been restricted to the world’s multimillionaires and billionaires. However, we are at “the culmination of two decades of development work that have gone into space tourism,” reported one analyst in Wired Magazine. “And if we’re lucky, we’ll see the birth of an entirely new industry.” As we close out the decade, here’s what you need to know about space tourism and what can hotels learn from the growth of this galactic industry. This article is a primer for professionals who want to learn about the booming sector.  In it, we’ll cover key concepts of space tourism and then dive into what hoteliers can learn from this innovative new market segment.   What is Space Tourism? Space tourism is the travel of humans to space for recreational purposes. To date, space tourism has been restricted to the billionaires among us. Only seven people have paid to go to space before, starting with the multimillionaire Dennis Tito in 2001. Nevertheless, Wired Magazine declared 2019 the year space tourism became a “reality,” citing several private companies – including SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, Boeing, and Blue Origin – as leaders in the space tourism industry.  When we talk about space tourism, where specifically do people travel? Space starts at something called the Karman line, a line 100km above Earth’s sea level. This is the commonly accepted boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and outer space. That said, the Space Shuttle, the International Space Station and some satellites orbit within Earth’s atmosphere (specifically, the thermosphere) – causing some to argue that these objects aren’t truly in “space.” It’s more useful to think of space as a gradient, the same way the ocean “ends”  at the beach. Tides, waves, and weather all influence where the ocean ends.    Top Space Tourism Companies Companies in space tourism have largely divided their attention between two regions of space. Some space tourism is sub-orbital, meaning the spacecraft goes into space but not at an altitude at which it can orbit Earth. Sub-orbital flights go up to the Karman line at 100km above sea level. Low Earth Orbit refers to an area between 500km and 2,000km above the Earth’s surface. Where companies focus their investment depends largely on their goals. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ company, Blue Origin, was founded in 2000 as a sub-orbital spaceflight company. Blue Origin focuses on space tourism and has developed a reusable rocket, New Shepard, which has made the trip to space ten times. Virgin Galactic, founded by Richard Branson, began selling tickets on their space plane this year. More than 700 people have paid between $200,000 and $250,000 for a seat on a six-person flight. Virgin Galactic intends to test flights in 2020. Comparatively, Elon Musk’s company SpaceX “launched the first 60 of a planned 12,000 satellites into low-Earth orbit” earlier this year. The vision for these satellites is to create a network providing high-speed internet where laying fiber-optic cables would not be economical. SpaceX, along with Boeing, work closely with NASA to take astronauts to and from the International Space Station. Both companies have a separate division exploring space tourism.    What Space Tourism Has to Teach the Hotel Industry With heavyweights like Elon Musk and Richard Branson investing in space tourism, there are a lot of cues the hotel industry can take from this growing field. Travelers want increasingly unique experiences Tourists are literally willing to shoot themselves into the atmosphere to have an extraordinary travel adventure. But, unique experiences aren’t only limited to space exploration. “Travelers in this seamlessly connected era, from backpackers to billionaires, want to feel inspired by the places they visit and the people they meet, while pushing past preconceived notions of different cultures, both near and far, to become more dynamic and informed citizens,” describes Skift in an industry report on experiential travel. Hotels can help travelers on this mission by “acting like community portals by introducing guests to popular local experiences,” the report continues. Concierge software like Alliants can help hotels offer their guests one-of-a-kind tours and authentic travel experiences at a fraction of the price of space travel. Software for hotel concierge staff segments guest patterns and behavior, feeding that data into smart algorithms to provide unique recommendations. For instance, Alliants will discover kid-friendly tours for family travelers, or relaxing couples spa services for a honeymooning couple. Use the software’s messaging tool to send restaurant reservations, tour confirmations, spa bookings, and respond to guest requests seamlessly. Look to luxury to see where the market is going “Unique experiences” are often synonymous with “luxury experiences.” Premium travel adventures, like Virgin Galactic and the SeaDream cruise, signal a growing appetite for luxury in the travel sector. The fact that more than 700 people are willing to pay six figures for a seat on Virgin Galactic is telling. Space tourism companies aren’t just sending travelers into the atmosphere in some old space junk. Virgin Galactic’s space mission includes limited-edition space suits designed and crafted by Under Armor. Experiential innovation usually starts in the luxury sector and moves downstream.  While space travel may not be accessible to the masses anytime soon midscale and economy hotels are able to leverage technology to deliver many of the amenities that were once reserved for luxury properties.  A concierge tool, for example, gives your property the ability to deliver a touch of luxury with minimum extra effort from your on-site staff. Today’s concierge software is so intuitive that you may not even need a dedicated concierge to operate it. “Luxury customers are paying for that recognition. Messaging is a simple method of creating a more inclusive, less formal communication structure where you can capture that information more easily,” notes Alliants co-founder Nick Daniels. Collaboration is key Lastly, space tourism proves that collaboration is key. Without a concerted effort across organizations, pushing to new frontiers is impossible. Boeing’s investment in Virgin Galactic, as well as SpaceX’s partnership with NASA, proves that supporting this level of travel exploration is only possible with industry-wide teamwork. The hotel industry is no different. A cost-effective hotel concierge tool delivers personalization without needing a dedicated team spending 100% of their time catering to guests. Your property’s different tools and systems – from marketing to sales to revenue management – must work together to provide a seamless guest experience. Get the most benefit with concierge software that integrates, like the way Alliants connects with Hapi, Oracle and Knowcross. Messaging also must sync with apps that travelers are already using, including WeChat, WhatsApp, FB Messenger, LINE, SMS or a hotel’s native app.    The Future of Travel It’s unlikely that you will be going to space next year – unless you’re a billionaire or NASA astronaut. However, the prospect that many of us will experience accessible space tourism in our lifetime is exciting. Ultimately, space tourism shares many characteristics of regular tourism. Space tourism centers around exploration, curiosity, understanding different worlds, and the drive of today’s travelers to have a unique experience. At its core, space tourism is going to live or die by hospitality. Many hospitality professionals will be amongst the first to blast off into space. A great messaging platform like Alliants may not bring your hotel to Mars; but it is likely to deliver an out-of-this-world guest experience that’s lightyears ahead of the competition.  

Hotel Checklists: How They Train Your Staff To Be More Productive

by
Hotel Tech Report
2 months ago

In some industries, checklists are the difference between life and death. During the Apollo 11 mission to the moon in 1969, the team of astronauts considered their extensive collection of detailed checklists – covering everything from flight plans to data cards – their “fourth crewmember.” In Scotland, the 2008 requirement that hospitals complete a Surgical Safety Checklist during high-risk surgeries led to a 36.6% drop in the post-op mortality rate. Science has proven time and time again that checklists have a direct impact on productivity, time management, memory, and focus. While hotel checklists don’t have the same life-or-death implications as these other examples, they are a vital tool for improving staff performance and overall hotel operations. Hotel operations software like HotSOS has evolved from old-school paper checklists (put your hotel sustainability hat on!) to be more transparent, efficient, and organized for hotel teams working around the property. What’s the psychology behind hotel checklists that makes them so powerful? How should your hotel be using checklists to motivate your team and improve operations?    The Psychology of Hotel Checklists There are a few reasons why hotel checklists are powerful motivators for your team. First and foremost, checklists define goals in strategic, manageable steps. Anyone who’s ever attended a business seminar knows the importance of setting SMART goals – that is, outcomes defined as Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound. Software organizes your checklists within SMART parameters to show your team that these bigger goals are achievable through small, manageable steps. “Breaking down your projects into smaller, bite-sized pieces helps you stay motivated and positive throughout the process,” writes one expert. Why are smaller tasks more motivating than big-picture goals? When we experience a feeling of achievement, no matter how small, the brain releases a chemical called dopamine. Dopamine is connected to the feeling of pleasure, learning, and motivation. Checking a task off a list is all it takes for the brain to release a small amount of dopamine – which in turn motivates us to check more items off the list. Not all items on a checklist are created equal, however. Psychologists have found that tasks must be challenging in order to trigger the dopamine response. Small goals must be meaningful not only to work toward your SMART goal, but also to generate a sense of satisfaction that keeps your team motivated. If you consider checklists in your personal life, for example, taking out the trash each week doesn’t lead to the same feeling of accomplishment as hanging a new frame or building a backyard swing set. Keep this in mind while designing your hotel checklists.    What Hotel Checklists Does Your Staff Need? Running a hotel’s daily operations means keeping tabs on lots of moving parts at once. Today’s cloud-based hotel checklist software aligns your team no matter where they are on the property. These checklist tools are a way to improve every guest touchpoint, from housekeeping to restaurant inventory. Checklists standardize the guest experience and build loyalty by establishing a level of trust between the guest and the brand. Over time, the aid of hotel checklists can increase positive reviews. There are a number of different types of checklists in hotels, such as:  General property checklist: to assess if the staff has all been trained, all hotel areas are up to brand standards and to evaluate guest rooms for comfort and cleanliness.  Room checklist: to assess that rooms are clean, damage-free, and that furniture and decor are all in good condition. This checklist should be used before check-in and after check-out.  Housekeeping checklist: to assess if the housekeeping team is in uniform, and to assess if all areas of the hotel are clean, sanitized, and presentable to guests.  Bathroom checklist: to assess that bathrooms are cleaned, and to assign which items and fixtures need to be scrubbed. Also, include inventory for things like shampoo and conditioner.  Inventory checklist: to assess whether your property is fully stocked with hotel supplies, food and beverage for the on-site restaurant, and complimentary items. Hotel Maintenance checklist: to keep track of ongoing and occasional maintenance such as power washing, plumbing, electrical work, fire protection, security systems, and deep cleaning. These are just a few examples of the checklists hotels can use to improve their service and organize their teams to run a tight ship. Other checklists, like a spa and health club safety checklist, hotel concierge checklist or restaurant health inspection checklist, should be added depending on what your specific property has to offer. How detailed should your checklists be? It’s a balance between meeting the demands of your customers and keeping your team motivated. Remember the psychology behind checking off tasks: items should be meaningful to trigger a feeling of accomplishment but not too large that they require significant thought.    How to Facilitate Hotel Checklists  The Apollo 11 team filled their spacecraft with wall-to-wall written checklists; but, that probably won’t work for your hotel team. Hotel operations software facilitates checklists with teams at work on different parts of your property, keeping everyone aligned and making sure no task falls through the cracks.  Tools like HotSOS connect employees through a single platform to manage tasks and delegate throughout the day. Individual checklists can be set up for room inspections, daily to-do lists, and more; managers can delegate clearly, adding transparency to the hotel’s operations. One hotel’s Director of Operations reports, “The information flows very easily between the departments in a quick view; everyone knows what is happening in the hotel.”  When you set up a hotel checklist, make sure the tool or platform you use is set up to reflect the guest experience. Walk through each step in the customer journey and design your checklist accordingly: what does the check-in process look like? What does the guest see when they first enter their room? When can they expect room service to arrive? The best hotel checklists will anticipate a guest’s needs and categorize services to align with customer touchpoints as a way to clearly assign tasks to different team members. Bottom line: make sure the tasks on your checklist are achievable, but still provide the feeling of a job well done to keep your team motivated, productive, and goal-oriented. Use hotel operations software that has integrated checklist functionality to keep your team constantly in sync no matter where they are on property.  Checklists with small measurable goals and software that helps your staff easily track their progress inevitably helps improve guest satisfaction scores by ensuring nothing falls through the cracks between shifts or gets lost in communication.

How GoConcierge's Adam Isrow Built a Global Empire Without Venture Funding or a Marketing Budget

by
Hotel Tech Report
1 year ago

What do you think of when asked to picture the founder of a dot com era startup founded in the year 2000?  I picture an arrogant and sharp elbowed hype man with an inflated ego who’s selling the dream of world domination and hockey stick growth.   Adam Isrow founded GoConcierge in the year 2000 during the heyday of epic dot com busts like Pets.com and Webvan but his story couldn’t be more different from his infamous peers.  If you got to trade your boss in for a new one - Adam is the kind of guy that everyone wants to work for. He’s humble and soft spoken yet firm and disciplined. While tech founders were out chasing exponential user growth in the early 2000s Adam was focused on the fundamentals.   Webvan stock chart from 1999-2001 shows the quintessential dot com bust   The GoConcierge story sits in stark contrast of companies like Webvan that were founded around the same time.  While his peers were busy seducing investors and big media with glitz - Adam focused on moderate, consistent and steady growth.  His character attracted a strong and loyal team solely focused on the elevated customer service that helped him build the GoConcierge business almost exclusively through word of mouth.   “Everyone wants some magic pill—some life hack—that eliminates the need to do the work. But that does not exist.” – Jocko Willink   Adam is not the kind of leader who looks for a magic pill.  His favorite book, Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink is a navy seal commander’s tale of humility, loyalty and discipline - three qualities that deeply characterize Adam’s leadership style. So how did Adam grow GoConcierge to more than 1,000 hotels globally without traditional venture funding? His background in the hotel industry is a huge piece of the puzzle.  While working in hotels Adam learned humility through dedicating himself to service.  The hospitality industry also taught him a deep sense of empathy that enabled him to develop technology that would become loved by even the least digitally savvy concierges. The teamwork he learned in the front office enabled him to attract and retain a team of loyal high performance contributors.  Adam’s story embodies the true spirit of hospitality in every way. While he personally considers work and service to be rewards in themselves, Adam’s years of dedication were recently validated when ALICE bought his firm GoConcierge for millions in 2017. What was your background prior to starting GoConcierge? Coming out of undergrad, I wanted both sales and management experience as a foundation to begin my career. Prior to starting GoConcierge, I had worked in hotel operations for a hotel in Los Angeles.  The goal was to turn around each department in the hotel and prepare the hotel for being sold. While overseeing guest services and ultimately the rooms division, I saw how much work the team was doing manually with logbooks and binders.  I thought if we could create a tool with a database of vendors and directions (this was pre Mapquest and Google Maps) and the ability to track activities, that it would enable our team to spend more time and attention on the guests. Just prior to launching GoConcierge, I worked for another technology startup focused on disseminating digital assets in the entertainment industry.   Once that company was sold, I was still intrigued by the Concierge tracking idea and while going back to earn my MBA during the dot com era, decided to launch GoConcierge.  Hard to believe that was back in 2000 and here we are today. What made you decide to jump in and start GoConcierge? After spending several years in hotel operations, I saw first-hand the importance of adding efficiencies where possible.  So much of the day-to-day operation in a hotel is manually driven and at the time, there were very few systems outside of the property management system.  We had created our own tools using Microsoft Access for yield management and also tracking any challenges throughout the operation. One night while talking with my partner, we discussed creating a database for vendors so that we could have a knowledge base of everything our guests were asking.  This way, no matter who was working, we could help the guest right away. I spent the evenings typing directions into each location since there was no Mapquest or Google Maps at the time. I felt it had to be extremely user-friendly and I remember having an amazing gentleman in guest services named, Frank, and he was in his 70’s and was not comfortable using a computer.  I remember thinking that if we could get Frank comfortable using this, we were onto something. Fortunately, Frank was able to use it and the team noticed that they were able to do their job better by having more information at their fingertips vs. having to look in logbooks and binders. Plus, I have terrible handwriting and if I wrote something in the logbook, there was a good chance others would not be able to read it.   Adam Isrow sold his business GoConcierge to ALICE in 2017 Who was GoConcierge’s first customer? Our first Customer was a Hyatt Hotel in Los Angeles.  I called several times and spoke to the Rooms Executive at the time and she was intrigued enough to allow me to present to her.  Fortunately for me, she understood the vision and she and her team believed that GoConcierge could enhance their day-to-day operation and ultimately the guest experience.  In addition to providing the application, I also guaranteed that I would provide exceptional support and would exceed expectations. I worked hard to earn trust and have her provide me with an opportunity. I felt if I could just get into a hotel like that, it would add credibility and help me gain additional hotels.     GoConcierge was acquired by ALICE in 2017 - how do the businesses work together today? We have created the first operations platform with a goal of going to our customers with a suite of services.  So often in hotels each department purchases their own applications. Therefore they operate as silos and most of the time and don’t communicate with each other.  We believe that there is significant value in providing one solution that can add value to multiple departments. The ALICE Platform has various modules including Concierge, Service Delivery, Messaging, Preventative Maintenance and Housekeeping.  Customers can pick and choose what is best for their property and because we have an open API, we can also facilitate integration between various systems.  Having one platform can provide cost savings to the hotel instead of paying setup fees and multiple subscriptions fees for multiple systems.  ALICE Concierge has a customizable database powered by Google Places and tracks all activities arranged for guests, creates personalized confirmation letters, itineraries, communicates with guest and team members via SMS and other platforms.  Using ALICE for service delivery, the property can dispatch requests such as towel delivery, challenges in the room and even manage preventative maintenance. ALICE provides a complete operational solution that will allow your team to provide a very personalized and exceptional guest experience. ALICE’s modern dashboard connects departments seamlessly   What's the biggest misconception that hoteliers have about technology? Perhaps the most common belief I used to hear was that the Concierge didn’t need an application because they could use Excel or their logbooks.  We obviously felt differently especially after spending time behind the desk and seeing the amount of work done manually and the importance of providing a tool to enable the team to be more efficient.  We believe the role of the Concierge should be in the center of the hotel operation since their work touches so many departments and has such a significant impact on the overall guest experience. A good Concierge team does the job so well that they make it look easy.  What is often not recognized or seen is the volume of work being done behind the scenes to deliver such a great guest experience. Investing in a tool allows the team to be more efficient and spend more time and attention on the guests. I believe the reason guests come back now is mostly because of the way the Concierge and other team members make the guests feel when they leave, more so than just having a beautiful hotel.  Without a tool such as ALICE, it is very difficult to be efficient and create that great guest experience. What's the most surprising thing you've learned about scaling technology into hotels since founding the business? In hospitality, we are a 24/7 operation and since we have customers around the world, there really is no downtime.  As we have scaled the company, in addition to our application, we remain keenly focused on our environment and optimizing the performance of the application for our users.  This is a major effort and something that requires focus for achieving results today and in the future, domestically and internationally. If you could partner with any vendor in hotel tech, who would it be and why? With respect to vendors to partner with, we believe the PMS provides a mutually beneficial opportunity.  The more integration we provide, the better we serve our customers. We are interested in speaking with any PMS that believes there is value in integrating ALICE to enhance its offering Where do you see ALICE in 5-years? We envision ALICE being the operations hub for the hotel. We are striving for that now and in the next 5 years, we want to realize our ambition of allowing all hotel staff to work effectively together and while enabling innovation around us. Ultimately, we want to provide a platform that is so widespread and so open that all innovation in the guest space can connect into it and hotel companies can deliver hospitality through it. We believe there should be full transparency where the guests can realize the same type of control and experience they love from other industries. How will the concierge software space change in the next 5-years? We believe that that Concierge will need to be connected to all departments throughout the hotel- like the hub of the operation.  Our customers will need as many efficiencies as possible to provide a high-level of service to the guest. We envision the Concierge department will have to be equipped to easily initiate requests for any department on behalf of guests. Do you have any new products or feature launches of late (or coming soon) that you'd like us to promote to our users? We are very excited to be developing our Room Assignment feature as part of our Housekeeping module.  We have gained first-hand knowledge from our customers and our team of hospitality experts about what the ideal solution would be and we are actively working on this right now.  Adding this functionality to our platform will allow us to achieve our vision of providing our customers with a complete solution for their operation and specifically, their largest department, Housekeeping. Is there anything that the community can do to be helpful for you? We are focused on interacting with other thought leaders to gain insight, share notes and collaborate together. We welcome the opportunity to connect with leaders that have grown and/or are building emerging technology.  We have a speaker series where we bring in leaders with various backgrounds from various industries to speak about successes and failures and learnings along the way. It would be great to have more thought leaders from the community share their experiences with our team. ALICE won Hotel Tech Report’s ‘2019 Best Places to Work’ in Hotel Tech competition   What's one piece of advice that you have for any entrepreneurs looking to get into hotel software? In any space it’s critical to surround yourself with the best possible team.  Specifically within this niche of hospitality technology be sure you fully understand how you can add value and be willing to adjust along the way.  The vision you start with may not be what you finish with. Be agile enough to shift when needed. What is the best book you've read lately and why? I really enjoyed reading Extreme Ownership: How Navy Seals Lead and Win by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin.  This is a story about taking ownership and leading by example.  The story is told by two Navy SEALS and their life altering experiences in battle and how those lessons can be applied to both business world and your personal life. What is your favorite podcast? I like listening to The Tim Ferris Show and hearing his interviews with both business leaders and athletes. What is one thing that most people don't know about you? I did sports broadcasting in college and also am passionate about speaking to groups about my experience of working with the world’s finest hotels and Concierges and the impact of consistently delivering exceptional service.

Hotel Operations Software: How to Streamline Your Tech Stack

by
Hotel Tech Report
2 weeks ago

As any hotelier can attest, a modern hotel management operation is a tangle of software systems and technologies. Navigating the options can be overwhelming and frustrating, mainly because it's impossible to know how reliable the technology is -- or how responsive customer service will be during the inevitable outage. With such high-stakes, it's easy to get caught up in the details or to delay making a final decision. “For an industry that’s fundamentally about human interaction, it’s ironic that technology has come to be such a big deal. But in today’s and tomorrow’s world, being strategic about how you allocate your tech investment resources is critical to the hospitality mission.” -Mark Van Amerongen, COO, Prism Hotels & Resorts To get to the nirvana of seamless hotel operations, it takes the best technology, customized according to each property’s needs. Irrespective of how long it takes to identify these solutions, the result should be a technology suite that works well together and is adaptable to ever-evolving guest expectations. Security and data protection should also be a priority as a hotel builds out its modern hotel operations tech stack. While your hotel may not need technology from all of these categories, each category has its own merits to carefully consider. Ask tough questions, request introductions to existing customers to prove further, and don’t rush into a decision on your hotel’s operating systems.   Property management systems (PMS) The broadest category of software for hotel operations is the property management system. It structures the entire hotel operation, acting as the centralized resource across the property. From housekeeping to reservation management, everything flows through the PMS. Without a PMS, a modern hotel would struggle to thrive. Yet many hotels remain constrained by a legacy system that doesn't offer some of the most important features for a hotel to remain competitive in today's environment. So what makes a great hotel property management system? Paraphrasing an old idiom in business, the best PMS is the one you use. You want to provide the most intuitive and reliable system to empower your staff. You don't want to implement a system that frustrates and confuses. Inevitably, turnover increases and the guest experience suffers.     When evaluating potential solutions, consider the interplay between the PMS and the rest of your technology. Given the centralized role of the PMS, it's important that all software in a hotel’s tech stack integrate seamlessly. Knowing that a new PMS sits seamlessly within an existing tech stack is vital. You also want the flexibility to grow with your PMS is good peace-of-mind for hotel GMs. Module add-ons, such as for spa, revenue management, guest CRM, group functionality, and channel management, can boost the utility of the PMS without having to evaluate and onboard another vendor. Ideally, each tool has a real-time connection with the PMS to avoid latency and inaccurate data. In addition to integrations and connectivity, here are three other important features when evaluating a PMS vendor: Approach to customer service. Many features in hospitality technology are commodified, but customer service isn’t one. Helpful, responsive, consultative, always available -- these are all words you want to hear from existing customers as you evaluate your options. Automation. Automation is beautiful. It helps reduce errors from manual data entry, which in turn reduces labor cost associated with manual inputs. The labor can then be allocated to something The greater impact. The consistency of both staff and guest experience is also improved, which makes everyone happier. Real-time dashboard.  A centralized source of real-time information about your hotel proves invaluable over time. At a glance, everything is laid out for action. With this real-time view, issues can be handled quickly and efficiently before they escalate, and data can be deployed to rally staff around performance targets. The PMS is one of the most mission-critical software, so be thorough in your questioning of potential solutions. The most pressing question is how a company approaches customer support. Features can be copied; customer service can’t. When there's an issue with the PMS, you absolutely need the peace-of-mind that someone will be there to take your call and fix the problem.   Staff collaboration In an intensive operation such as a hotel, keeping the staff organized and on track is a challenge. Reliance on paper checklists, manual work assignments, and paper logbooks can lead to inefficiencies, double-work, and communication miscues. Upgrading to modern staff collaboration software automates processes to ensure more consistency across the various departments, increases transparency as far as performance, and unites communications into a centralized hub for easy management. When the team is on the same page, the hotel operates more smoothly and provides an enhanced guest experience. Another benefit of this technology is that it expands the role of the front desk into sales. By empowering the front desk team to enter leads and collaborate with sales, more revenue is achievable. These are the most impactful features to look for in staff collaboration tools for hotels: Intelligent routing. The technology should help teams work together more effectively to improve the guest experience. Guest want consistent responses, whether they communicate via email, text, or face-to-face. Software that intelligently routes guest request to the correct department means that there's less time spent directing traffic and more time spent on the task itself. Automations. Even the most well-trained staff makes mistakes. Staff management and collaboration software can automate away some of these mistakes by providing a consistent operational checklist. For example, upon completing one task, the system can assign another task based on that completion. Schedule task can also keep properties maintained overtime, without having to remember critical tasks or assign them manually. Reports, analytics, and audits. One of the benefits of using staff management technology is increased productivity. This is not conceptual: analytics and reports chart progress and identify areas for improvement with particular departments or team members. Auditing a task’s history also boosts visibility into potential bottlenecks.  After finding the vendors that have the desired features, the first question to ask them is how easy the software is to learn. Not every team member is tech-savvy, so the training and onboarding process is critical for successful adoption of a staff management tool.   Concierge software Guest-facing functions have the potential to make or break a guest experience. The importance of the concierge varies, depending on hotel category. For those hotels that haven’t traditionally deployed a hotel concierge, technology can actually make this a cost-efficient perk to offer. For hotels with an existing concierge, concierge software makes the team more efficient and accurate with their guest recommendations. In the order of importance, look for hotel concierge software that provides: Cross-channel communications. Portability across channels is important to guests. They may go to the desk, and then want the concierge’s recommendations via mobile. The software should make this easy to do for concierges, and easy to access for guests. The ultimate win is to make a seamless experience no matter who is staffing the desk. PMS/CRM integration. Guest profiles shouldn't live independently of other systems. The richness of a guest profile Defines how successful Hotel can be in properly personalizing the experience. Data should flow across these systems to enhance the guest experience, reduce double-work, and make the concierge more impactful. Knowledge base. It should be simple to add knowledge to a repository to pull from. Concierge recommendations should be prompt and accurate; a knowledge base that collects important information makes for stronger curation skills. When discussing your needs with a potential vendor, start by asking about the typical implementation timeline and process. There may be factors that delay implementation, such as integrating with other systems, so you want to be clear what’s expected on your end -- and how long it will take on their end.   Housekeeping management software As guests check in and check out of the hotel each day, housekeeping has a lot to keep track of. In addition to making sure that rooms are available for incoming guests, each room turn must meet service specifications. Housekeeping processes and communications must be on-point to make this all happen smoothly. Housekeeping management technology eliminates uncertainty and helps each housekeeper manage daily workflow without sacrificing quality. The software also allows reliable tracking of performance across the entire department. To achieve these productivity gains, here are some of the most critical features of housekeeping management software: A focus on productivity. The right housekeeping management software helps your staff to be more productive through greater transparency and accountability. Look for software that provides detailed reports and helps you motivate your staff to improve performance over time. Mobile. This is obvious but often overlooked. Your stuff is going to be moving about the property and the tools need to move with them. It doesn't make much sense to have a digital system that requires a paper printout. Another key point: The best technology timestamps key events, delivering reliable data essential for accurate reporting. Real-time notifications. On-the-fly changes to room availability happen; For example, a priority guest requests early check-in for a suite that still needs cleaning. The system should ping the housekeeping staff in real-time to adjust priorities in real time. When it comes to housekeeping management, the most pressing question is usually how the solution integrates with existing systems, especially the PMS. Direct integration eliminates duplicate data entry, supports data integrity, and allows you to use the best systems for each department.   Guest feedback software Gathering guest feedback, and using that data to benchmark progress against performance targets, is a critical part of a hotel’s operations. Guest feedback gives the GM a near-real-time view of the guest experience, helping to identify areas for improvement and immediate attention. As a hotel incorporates guest feedback, it improves. A responsive management team can transform negative feedback into a positive experience that builds goodwill. As more sites pop-up with reviews, from Facebook to Google to lesser-known brands, a hotel’s reputation demands a modern solution that starts with guest feedback. If you can catch the bad feedback before it's posted in a review, and encourage the best experiences to be shared, then you’ve set your hotel’s reputation on track. This drives more new business, alongside encouraging more repeat business from guests that feel heard. When you're looking to manage your reputation with software for guest feedback, you’ll want the following: Guest history. It should be clear how many times a guest has provided feedback so that your team can communicate in a more personal and relevant way with the guest. These attributes are visible pieces of a guest’s profile. Responsive design. Guests will likely complete surveys or provide feedback via a mobile device. All surveys and forms should look just as good on mobile as on desktop. Integration. If the feedback loop lives only in the guest feedback system, it may prevent that feedback from being acted upon quickly. PMS metadata can provide that context right in the feedback tool, allowing a potential issue (such as a broken HVAC system) to be routed instantly to the right department. For a detailed insight into a vendor’s approach to guest feedback, ask them for references. This is the most important questions for such a critical guest-facing tool. You'll learn more from the implementation experiences of other hotels than from the vendor itself. Of course, this advice extends to all vendors; however, with guest-facing solutions, it’s especially useful to know how (and if) a vendor has delivered on its promises to other hotels.  

Why your concierge should be featured in your digital communication

by
Lisa Apolinski
4 months ago

I recently had an experience with a hotel concierge where some family members were staying. I have never been to that property, yet the concierge went out of his way to assist me in getting flowers to their room. Not only that, he stayed in touch with me at each step, including letting me know when the flowers were in the room. I has such a positive experience from this, and I have yet to set foot in the hotel. If your property offers concierge service, here are some key reasons to make sure it is highlighted in your broader digital communication. Capturing loyalty from those who could be future guests: Again, my loyalty is towards this abovementioned hotel and I have not even been there. But when I am in the area, this will be where I stay. If you have a concierge, be sure to highlight that service on your website and email communication. Also, encourage guests who use the concierge services to share their experience on your social channels to showcase what additional services you offer through the concierge. Showcasing an added feature of your property to those who are visiting: Having a concierge is like having a ‘man about town’ in your pocket. That person knows the lay of the land, and can help with reservations, excursions, and other tourist items where having a local is key. This should be considered an added feature and should be highlighted on your property website, including what services the concierge can offer guests. Helping your guests think outside the property box: Speaking of what the concierge provides, this is also the digital place to talk about placing flowers in a room, putting together a gift basket for a VIP guest, or any other ideas that can be provided by the concierge. This can also be changed seasonally (think Halloween, Christmas or Valentine’s Day). If your concierge does something visually engaging, make sure to share it on Instagram. Your hotel concierge may be physically in your lobby or reception area, but should also reside digitally. Feature the good deeds of your concierge through your digital communication.

4 Must-Attend HITEC 2018 Talks

by
Kayla Rowen
2 years ago

If you haven’t been to HITEC yet, you are missing out on the biggest hospitality industry technology exposition and conference of the year. 2018’s HITEC kicks off on June 18th in Houston, where C-level hospitality executives and the top technology industry experts will gather for four days of in-depth demonstrations and networking.   The 2018 conference speaker line-up is full of great options for hoteliers and technology professionals, but with so many talks, on such a wide variety of important hotel topics, it can be hard to know where to go at any given moment during the conference. For anyone that needs help with choosing the right talks, panels, and workshops, we picked some of our favorites:   Opening Keynote: Reinventing Leadership for the Age of Machine Intelligence Monday, June 18th 4:30 - 5:45 PM Level 3, General Assembly B Keynote Speaker: Mike Walsh In HITEC’s opening keynote, Mike Walsh will walk through the impact of automation, algorithms, and AI on the industry and how leaders can leverage these technologies to improve their hotel performance.   These accelerating technologies raise interesting challenges and questions for hoteliers such as to what extent will automation change the way they run their hotels and manage guest expectations. Fresh off Google’s Duplex innovation, which shows a store-owner unwittingly having a conversation with a robot trying to book a hair appointment, we’re on edge when it comes to the role of AI in our lives. Mike Walsh will deliver a fascinating presentation about the degree to which machine intelligence will change our lives as well as the business of hospitality.       Concurrent Session: Guest Facing Technology Tuesday, June 19th 4:00 - 5:00PM Level 3, Meeting Room 351-D Moderator: Ted Horner - Owner of E. Horner & Associates Pty Ltd., member of the HITEC Houston Advisory Council and an inductee to the HFTP International Hospitality Technology Hall of Fame. Panelist: Andrew Arthurs, SVP and CIO for Two Roads Hospitality and Thomas Fangar, VP of Multimedia for MGM Resorts International   Learn how innovation being embraced by consumers is putting new pressures on hoteliers to deliver cutting-edge guest room experiences.   We’re personally interested to see how much the idea of “future-proofing” guest rooms is discussed in this talk. The pace of technology innovation is rapid and sometimes the shiny new thing can become outdated in a flash (think charging ports for the only-five-year-old iPhone 5). At ALICE, we believe strongly that the burden to “choose the right technology” is lifted when you first focus on establishing a technology for your hotel that is open and integrated and future-proofed through APIs. ALICE’s Open API, for example, allows for integrations with innovative guest-facing technology like Percipia, Zaplox, Volara, and Alta, to provide our hotel partners comprehensive solutions to transfer guest information seamlessly to staff and vice versa, regardless of the hardware of the moment. We look forward to hearing what these industry leaders have to say.   Concurrent Session: Independent Hotel in a Big Box World Tuesday, June 19th 4:00 - 5:00 PM Level 3, Meeting Room 360-A   Discover strategies for independent or boutique hotels to compete against bigger hotel brands that have larger staff and budgets.   Boutique and independent hotels offer guests a unique way to immerse themselves into a local community while providing unique amenities for a memorable stay. This hotel segment is quickly growing in popularity, giving hoteliers the opportunity to set themselves apart in myriad ways, including through the experiences they offer (via a stellar concierge program) and exceptional service (aided, we like to think, through technology).   Concurrent Session: Monolithic vs. Best In Class Thursday, June 21 9:00- 10:00 AM Level 3, Meeting Room 351-D Speakers: Dmitry Koltunov, CTO and Co-Founder of ALICE and Jim Fedigan, Group CEO for Jonas Club and Hospitality Divisions at Jonas Software, A Constellation Software Operating Group   This discussion will dive deep into the ongoing debate between hotels using best-in-class solutions versus monolithic suites.   The talk will present a vivid portrait of the ideas put forward in the recently-published “Hospitality Communication Platform” white paper from HTNG (co-authored by ALICE’s CTO Dmitry Koltunov) and how hotels can leverage the new cloud communication framework to optimize cost, time, and exceed guest expectations. If you’re looking for technology to improve your hotel’s performance during HITEC, stop by Booth 2319 to meet the ALICE team and see a live presentation of our technology. Hoteliers interested can book a meeting in advance, for a personalized demo of ALICE. Not planning on heading to HITEC this year but want to learn more about ALICE’s suite of products? Visit https://info.aliceapp.com/ to request a demo.

How to Improve Your Hotel Operations With Text Messaging Automation

by
Kayla Rowen
4 months ago

Texting has emerged as one of the most popular ways for hotels to communicate with their guests. However, the time-consuming nature of one-on-one text messaging makes it seem at times at odds with the busy atmosphere of the front desk and hotel concierge. A tool such as guest messaging automation increases employee productivity as it enables hoteliers to spend less time doing the actual sending and more time communicating. In recent beta testing, hotels that have adopted guest message automation as a part of their communication strategy have seen an increase in their guest engagement by over 25%. By using automation to help their communication with guests, pre- and at arrival, during the guest stay, and at departure, hotel staff are applying the time they save to have more meaningful interactions with guests, thus streamlining staff operations and improving the guest experience. Here are three benefits of incorporating elements of automation to your text messaging program:   1. Efficiencies for hotel operations Text messaging is a powerful tool to drive guest loyalty and engagement, but proactively reaching out to guests requires a lot of time hoteliers may not have. One of the biggest benefits of text message automation is that it saves staff from sending the same welcome message or WiFi password again and again, thereby giving staff more time to have meaningful conversations with guests.   2. Speedy replies The convenience of text messaging as a way to get in touch with a hotel is increasingly expected by guests who are growing accustomed to texting with businesses. But texting is only convenient for guests if they can count on quick responses.  In a previous ALICE study, guests expect a response sent by text message in 12 minutes or less, compared to 18 minutes with mobile applications and 25 minutes with email. Automating responses to frequently-asked questions makes an immediate response easy, and lets staff focus on responding to other texts in a more timely fashion.   3. Improved engagement across all phases of the guest journey Performing multiple tasks simultaneously comes with the territory of the front desk. Automation allows your hotel staff to complete multiple tasks while amplifying their personalized reach before the guest even arrives on the property.   Pre-Arrival: Help your guests plan their stay   With automation, hotels can communicate a welcome message before guests check in to convey a pleasant check-in experience and memorable stay: “We are so excited to have you at the hotel in X days. Is there any way we can assist you before you arrive? Just text this number to let us know.” Hotels, such as the Holston House in Nashville, Tennessee, are embracing this communication method. “Text messaging automation ensures all guests feel welcomed before they step foot onto the property,” Ernesto Gonzalez, Director of Rooms, emphasizes. “Given how busy the desk can be at peak times, it’s difficult to expect our front desk agents to have the time to welcome every guest. Automation with ALICE improves the guest experience we offer at Holston House while saving valuable time for our team. It’s a win-win.”   At Arrival: Welcome your guests When hotels use text messaging automation, hotels can set up campaigns to welcome every guest the day of arrival: “We are delighted to welcome you as our guest this evening. Please reach out to us at the Front Desk by simply replying to this text message, should you need any additional amenities for your room or have any questions during your stay.”   During the Guest Stay: Continuous open conversations with your guests Once your guests are settled into their room, text message automation continues the open conversation at the guest’s convenience. Template responses to guests’ frequently asked questions such as “What’s the WiFi password?” and “What time does breakfast start?” can make your guest feel as if their needs have been met at any point of their stay.   At Departure: Improve guest feedback   With text messaging automation, hotels have the ability to be proactive in resolving guest issues before they checkout from the property. Sending departing surveys privately through automated text messages resolves issues before they reach review websites and hoteliers can capitalize on these complaints as insight to adjust standard operating procedures.   ** With automation, hotels can leverage text messaging to engage with their guests before they even arrive on the property, and save time while texting throughout a guest’s stay. With text message automation, guest engagements will come across more personal pre-, during- and post-stay, heightening guest satisfaction to lead to increased brand loyalty and revenue.

13 easy steps to make your hotel GDPR compliant

by
Kayla Rowen
2 years ago

1. What’s the GDPR and why should I care? In essence, the GDPR was brought into effect to strengthen and unify data protection for all individuals within the European Union (EU). Building upon the 1995 Data Protection Directive (Directive 95/46/EC), the GDPR was approved by the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union, and the European Commission on April 14, 2016. After a two-year transition period it will become enforceable across the 28 member states on May 25, 2018. The GDPR gives power back to the consumers by forcing companies to become transparent in how they are collecting, storing, and sharing their customers’ personal data information. Although the GDPR applies to any organization or business collecting data on EU citizens, the nature of hotels and the various data holding sources such as OTA bookings and PMS systems escalate the regulation for travel and hospitality industries. As ALICE grows and expands to new markets, we are complying with the GDPR to ensure our privacy settings are being adequately integrated, allowing our partners to adapt at every stage of the life cycle of customer personal information data.   2. Which hotel staff need to know about the GDPR? Decision makers and key people in EU and EEA-based hotels should be aware that the law is changing to the GDPR. This would include at least the following roles, if they exist: General Manager, Head of Marketing, and the Revenue Manager. Each of these roles deals with a significant amount customer and employee data. These leaders should read this FAQ and look further into how to comply within the areas they are presiding over.   3. What kind of information should a hotel be cautious with? All data about persons in the EU are covered under the GDPR. This includes both guests and employees. Hotels should document what personal data they hold, where it came from and with whom it is shared. Hotels may need to organise an information audit. “Personal data” is any data about an identifiable person. A person can be identified by their name, phone number, email address, reservation number, IP address, or any information that allows them to be uniquely identified. The GDPR grants extra protections for “sensitive data.” This includes personal data that reveals any of the following: trade union membership, which may be revealed by event attendance biometrics for the purpose of uniquely identifying someone, such as a fingerprint stored for opening doors health status, which may be disclosed in guest requests sex life or sexual orientation, which may also be disclosed in some guest requests The following are less likely to show up in hotel systems, but should still be understood to be sensitive in case they do show up: genetic data racial or ethnic origin political opinions religious or philosophical beliefs All of the above types of sensitive data can only be handled with explicit consent. If this kind of data is collected incidentally, it should be removed immediately to avoid undertaking new obligations for the protection of that data.   4. How does GDPR affect the software hotels can use? All rules that hotels must follow also apply to the software they use. If a hotel uses a product to process its data, that product must adhere to all the same obligations that the hotelier has. Every single vendor who receives personal data from a hotel must share a Data Processing Agreement (DPA) with the hotelier to confirm that the vendor is compliant with the rules of the GDPR. The DPA must dictate the purposes for which the processor is processing the data.   If a hotel is using a software given to it by its brand or flag, it may not be in complete control of how the gathered information will be used. In that case, as joint controllers of the data, the hotel and its brand would need to draw up a contract that explicitly states their relationship with regards to managing data. Both parties would need to communicate the relationship to both guests and employees.   5. Can EU hotels use software vendors or software on servers based outside the EU? Yes, but there are limits to how data can be transferred outside of the EU/EEA. Most major cloud service providers and many other companies, such as ALICE, have systems in place to address these rules. To confirm that a cloud service is compliant with the GDPR, hoteliers need to make sure: They have a Data Processing Agreement in place. These agreements are required for all data processors, not just international ones (GDPR Art.28[3]). There is a lawful basis for transfering the data (GDPR Rec.39, 40, 41; GDPR Art.6[1]), which can be through the service provider’s membership in the Privacy Shield, signed standard contractual clauses, or other mechanisms allowed under the GDPR. Most companies will be relying on the GDPR’s standard contractual clauses. The transfer is mentioned in the hotel’s privacy policy and the purpose of the transfer is explained.   6. What do hotels need to do about their vendors? For each vendor that processes guests’ personal information, a hotel needs to do the following: Determine the type of data the vendor processes. Determine the purpose for which the processing is happening. Obtain a Data Processing Agreement. If the vendor is outside the EU, sign the standard contractual clauses (usually part of the Data Processing Agreement mentioned above), or confirm that the vendor is a member of the Privacy Shield. Mention the vendor in the hotel’s privacy policy, along with the purpose of the vendor and how the data will be used. Confirm that the vendor can handle data rights requests with a SLA under one month (e.g. 25 days).   7. How should a hotel communicate privacy notices to guests? You should review your current privacy notices and put a plan in place for making any necessary changes in time for GDPR implementation. You should review how you seek, record, and manage consent and whether you need to make any changes. Refresh existing consents now if they don’t meet the GDPR standard. Hoteliers may need to speak with customers at check-in if explicit consent is required for any forms of data collection that require it, such as consent to marketing communications. All loyalty programs need to be examined for similar requirements if data is used in a way that requires consent.     8. Do hoteliers or vendors need to encrypt their databases? It depends. The GDPR recommends that companies take steps to protect all personal data, but it does not specify what those steps have to be. Instead, companies are asked to identify the risks to personal data and do what is appropriate for those risks. Encryption is one of many options available to protect data, but it is not specifically required by the GDPR. Article 32 of the GDPR gives the following options, none of which are strict requirements, but which should be considered for their benefits to your guests’ data privacy: the pseudonymisation [obscuring the identities] and encryption of personal data; the ability to ensure the ongoing confidentiality, integrity, availability and resilience of processing systems and services; the ability to restore the availability and access to personal data in a timely manner in the event of a physical or technical incident; a process for regularly testing, assessing and evaluating the effectiveness of technical and organisational measures for ensuring the security of the processing.   9. How can hoteliers make sure they are able to honor requests for data portability, correction, or erasure, a.k.a. “the right to be forgotten”? Customers, employees, or anyone whose personal data is stored at a hotel may request that their data be erased. They can also ask for a copy of all of their data (right to data portability) or for their data to be corrected. There are cases in which this does not need to be honored, for example if there is an ongoing contractual or legal requirement to retain the data. But in most cases, the request will need to be honored. Recital 59 of the GDPR requires these requests be answered within one month. This period can be extended under exceptional circumstances, by requesting for another month. In order to be able to handle these requests in time, hotels need to plan in advance how requests can be honored. Each location where data is stored should be mapped out with a plan on how to address the rights request for data in that location. Each vendor also needs to be vetted to confirm they have a similar plan in place. Vendors should have an SLA that is less than a month (e.g. 25 days), in order to give time for communication between you and the vendor on each end of the process when a request happens. For data portability requests, the law requires the data be given to the customer in a standardized format for transfer to other companies. Since at the moment there is no industry standard for this kind of data to be transferred from a hotel, you must use a generic but easily transferable format, such as text files with headers and comma-separated values.   10. How should hotels handle children’s data? Within the EU/EEC, a “child” is defined as someone younger than a country-defined age between 13 and 16. For most cases, hotels will not need to rely on children’s’ or parent’s consent to process guest information, since the primary basis for data processing is handling reservations. However, in cases where consent is the basis for data processing, for example, for marketing purposes, children’s data needs to be handled with extra care. You should start thinking now about whether you need to put systems in place to verify individuals’ ages and to obtain parental or guardian consent for any data processing activity. Children’s data can only be handled with explicit consent when consent is required. Best practice is to avoid collecting and storing data about children unless it is legally required or absolutely essential for handling a reservation.   11. Do hotels need to hire Data Protection Officers (DPOs)? You should designate someone to take responsibility for data protection compliance and assess where this role will sit within your organisation’s structure and governance arrangements, even if you are not formally required to have a DPO. You should consider whether you are required to formally designate a Data Protection Officer, and this designation depends on the volume and sensitivity of the information. At the chain and large group level, a DPO is almost certainly required, but for individual hotels, the law is not yet clear and you should seek guidance from your local counsel as to whether it is required.   12. Do hotels outside the EU/EEA have to do anything to comply with the GDPR? According to Article 3 of the GDPR, the regulations cover activity happening within the EU or data processing by organizations based in the EU. When an EU citizen travels outside the EU, their activities outside the EU are no longer protected by the GDPR unless the organization processing the data is based in the EU. However, a booking process that happens between a person in the EU and a hotel outside the EU is considered covered by the GDPR. Data that is collected in the EU during that process is an activity happening within the EU. So hotels outside the EU do collect data that is covered by the GDPR as part of the online reservation process. This data needs to be protected with the appropriate safeguards dictated above. 13. What are the consequences for not complying with GDPR? Businesses can have fines of up to 4% of annual global turnover or $24.6 million (€20 million), whichever is higher for not complying with the GDPR rules.