Back-of-house hospitality technology innovations are fast becoming the cornerstone of improved customer service and consequent guest satisfaction, says Eric Rogers, vice president EMEA, FCS Computer Systems.
My career in hospitality started two decades ago, when I joined the largest manufacturer of guest room telephones.
Pricing was based on the number of buttons each device offered back then… budget hotels would opt for three guest service keys, mid-scales would select five, and luxury hotels would select models with 10 keys along with speakerphones, two lines, even cordless.
Over the years, I witnessed a shift in the type of telephones demanded. Instead of units having buttons for each department, luxury hotels wanted cordless high-end speakerphones with only perhaps three buttons.
The revolution was upon us, it was the birth of the guest service centre.
Several years later, I found myself on the other end of the phone when I joined FCS – a leader in hospitality technology and guest services. By that stage, things had changed considerably.
Engaged tones, long rings and diverts were no longer the norm. Operations staff were equipped with language skills and jobs could be dispatched directly to a handheld device in the care of the person who would carry out the task by the time the call was concluded.
It was a significant improvement, a giant step from where we were a few years earlier. Jobs were acknowledged and closed in a set timeframe. If this was not possible, they were escalated. Guest satisfaction, if not guaranteed, was certainly improved.
The efficiency that a guest service centre offered was compelling. In January 2010, when I joined FCS, technology was already in place to send tasks via a variety of methods, including DECT and SMS using mobile phones.
However, there were inherent challenges due to the size of the messages being limited, also the reliance of SMS on external forces (mobile phone companies) and costs associated with usage.
Then things changed again. Smartphones fell in price, and sector-specific, intuitive apps were being developed at a rate faster than ever before. The challenges we had been experiencing literally disappeared overnight.
Today, things are different. A hotel plumber can receive a job on his device with a picture of the offending leaky tap enabling him or her to make a single visit with the replacement device.
A general manager who is walking the property can, instead of phoning his assistant, simply tap a few buttons on his smartphone to create a job to have a lightbulb replaced on the fifth floor room corridor. Housekeeping staff can automatically send a photo of any room damage directly to the relevant person so they arrive to fix the issue – saving time and money, and ensuring the room is released as soon as possible.
With job dispatch technology under control, engineering was the next target. Armed with a desire to ensure that all items that needed preventative maintenance were correctly maintained, and records kept, the days of spreadsheets were over.
Further solutions have now been developed in areas such as hotel glitch management and concierge resources.
However, the biggest solution to have had an impact on back-of-house efficiency is arguably electronic housekeeping apps. Cleanliness of the room is critical to guest satisfaction.
Traditionally, housekeeping has been paper-based with a typical 300-room hotel using approximately 1.5 tons of paper a year. In the morning, rooms are allocated, but things change throughout the day, guests arrive early, rooms take longer to clean. It doesn’t take long for the paper to become outdated.
Thankfully, technology has caught up with housekeeping, rooms are auto-assigned based on criteria such as VIP status, ETA, room mix – all amendable by management. Additional tasks can be easily assigned and VIP requirements can be recorded with data arriving on the smartphone as soon as the room attendant logs in. No paper, no delays, no fuss.
On housekeeping apps, supervisors see attendant progress, current tasks or activities. Rooms are inspected, checklists filled and there’s no paper or multiple calls.
Furthermore, it offers an opportunity to reward top housekeepers to ensure the quality of back-of-house services grow from strength to strength.
About the author: Eric Rogers has been involved in the hospitality technology industry since 2000 when he joined Teledex to look after the EMEA region. After nine years of solid growth, Eric left to join FCS as its regional head EMEA, responsible for all aspects of the company’s operations in the region. His role is to support hotel partners, manage channel partners and to find new ones as the company continues to grow.