As staff shortages reap havoc across the hospitality sector due to Brexit and the pandemic, it seems like it could be an impossible task for businesses to cope with growing demand and full occupancy whilst also working with skeleton staff. So, with one of the busiest seasons approaching, many hoteliers and hospitality professionals are asking how they are expected to stay afloat. Key to success will be the adoption of new technologies. Technology has already played a key role in the sector’s recovery so far, but business owners must recognize its potential not just to assist with online bookings or table service, but to enhance the guest experience, streamline operations, manage post-Covid-19 protocols and improve communication between staff and guests.
Change for the better
There is no doubt that despite the challenges Covid-19 has inflicted upon the hospitality sector, it has also been a time for companies to innovate and adopt new systems. Not out of want, but out of necessity. Hoteliers have been forced to adopt automated methods in order to keep both guests and staff safe in recent months, but as we come out of the pandemic the benefits of automated methods remain apparent. And it isn’t just food and drink ordering that can be automated, daily operational services such as housekeeping, cleaning and hygiene procedures are high on a hotel's priority list. Utilizing new systems and technologies can enable front desk teams to check room status, assign housekeepers, and record notes, along with managing maintenance issues, lost property and suppliers all in one place.
Technology is essential for facilitating communication – especially within the hospitality industry where many hotels are large and staff can be dispersed. Sophisticated communication platforms are used by many hotels to allow different departments and members of staff to stay connected and respond to guests more efficiently. By providing a way for all staff to stay on the same page with real-time updates of work completed, and the ability to track any guest requests on a single platform, businesses can run a lot more smoothly resulting in a more engaged workforce.
And it’s not just for communication between staff either. By adopting new technologies, businesses can improve the guest experience by making it easier to access all of the information they might need. For example, guests can access reservation details, restaurant opening times, and room service via a text message or app, which is easier and ultimately saves them time.
Every business owner knows how important collaboration and teamwork is for an efficient workplace. Today’s technology can enable the consistent, fluid flow of information which improves productivity and means that staff can spend more time on the guests themselves. Think carefully about what technology may suit an under-staffed business and where it can be best employed. Clear examples of where it might increase productivity in hotels are using property management systems, channel managers, or point-of-sale systems to reduce the number of hours spent on overseeing these processes manually. New software can alleviate management of the time spent on admin, allowing them to spend more time on providing an experience worth talking about. For customer-centric businesses like hotels, this is ideal.
Convenience is key
Customers want the check-in experience to be quick and painless. Most airports allow passengers to check-in online or go to kiosks where they can check-in themselves and print out baggage tags without needing staff help. In many fast-food restaurants, customers can place their orders and pay via a tablet or kiosk. In cinemas, they can buy or collect tickets at a digital kiosk.
Guests want that same kind of seamless, technology-driven, contactless experience in the hotel industry, especially as contactless hospitality becomes more and more prevalent. Whether it’s checking in at an automated kiosk by scanning a QR code or ordering room service on a tablet, there’s no need for guests to stand in a queue or have to leave their room to make an order or inquiry. Customers want an easy and smooth experience. Technology allows this to happen.
People crave convenience and hotel guests are no different. They want everything to be easy and within a metaphorical arm’s reach. Many hotels have created guest apps where guests are provided with useful information such as nearby entertainment venues, restaurants, bars, medical facilities and more inside an app. Guest messaging also allows guests to connect with the hotel through SMS messages or online chat rooms.
It is also important to note that the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated some behaviors, especially with regards to hygiene. This has had a particularly strong impact on contactless payment technology and mobile check-ins as such systems minimize direct human-to-human contact, leaving guests feeling assured that everything is being done to preserve their health and safety.
Keep a finger on the pulse
Although the skills shortage is no secret, customers still expect the same levels of service as they enjoyed previously. This means that it is critical to not only keep track of the latest technology trends in the hospitality industry but to move with the times because the industry is highly competitive and those who do not adopt modern methods run the risk of being left behind. Keeping a finger on the pulse is especially essential within the context of Covid because customer expectations and requirements are continually shifting and demands are getting more difficult to meet, particularly when also considering the shortage of staff.
Clearly, as new trends emerge and technology becomes more widely used, customers are starting to expect a certain level of service. This makes adopting new technology crucial to a business’s recovery as it allows owners to gain a competitive edge over any rivals who have not adopted new tech. Contactless payments and mobile check-ins have grown in popularity simply because they help to reduce friction and cut waiting times. So, if competitors are offering heightened convenience to customers, don’t run the risk of losing out by failing to stay ahead of the game.
Richard Drummond, COO, Hop Software