Can IT really help hoteliers compete in a disrupted market?
Hoteliers have no choice but to use IT more effectively.
Back in April I wrote a blog about the state of hotel Wi-Fi – The Shocking Truth About Hotel Wi-Fi Networks. The blog discussed the poor quality Wi-Fi found in many hotels. You can read more here.
A few days ago one of my colleagues sent me a link to a brief but interesting article relating to the lack of IT investment stunting business development for hoteliers. The article highlights the results of a survey of hoteliers completed by Avenue9 (part of the Jones Laing Lasalle Group) a specialist leisure and hospitality sector IT Consultancy.
“…some very forward thinking hoteliers and leisure organisations that have capitalised on IT to support their business development. “
It was particularly interested because I have spent a considerable amount of my working life delivering IT services in the hospitality industry and I had always considered the industry to be very customer focussed.
Having read the article, I realised that I have just been lucky enough to work with some very forward thinking hoteliers and leisure organisations that have capitalised on IT to support their business development. So, I thought I would just share some thoughts along with the link to the article.
I have always been encouraged by my hospitality industry customers to focus my IT efforts on delivering solutions that support or enhance the customers experience, from smoothing the flow of check-in, check-out and points of sale through to guest IT services in bedrooms, bars, restaurants and other guest and public areas.
“All with the ultimate aim of improving the customer experience.”
On occasion this has stretched our technical imagination and capabilities to the limits (and sometimes our stamina) at opposite ends of the scale, and country. Our teams have dug trenches to lay ducting and higher capacity cables between buildings to improve performance and ultimately the ‘customer experience’. At the other extreme we have even distributed inter-site data traffic via space when terrestrial WAN Service Providers were unable to meet our customer’s bandwidth requirements. We designed an overlay network using a low cost satellite broadband network to carry the low priority traffic via space away from the existing over-stretched terrestrial lines. All with the ultimate aim of improving the customer experience.
All of this obviously comes at a cost but using technology to improve the customer experience improve customer loyalty, it will increase referrals and it increases the potential for hoteliers provide add on services during the stay and attract new business with offers and special promotions after the stay.
“Hotels could really tailor their offering to the preferences of their customers.”
Beacon technology can be used in conjunction with a loyalty app (for example). Beacons will identify when guests are in their room or congregating in other areas of the hotel. Offers can be made automatically, appropriate to the customer, location, time of day and even temperature.
Smaller hoteliers could establish relationships with other local restaurants or attractions to improve their customer’s experience while improving their own bottom line. There obviously needs to be a balance between providing appropriate content at the appropriate time versus blitzing customers with endless offers. But, as a regular hotel user I would certainly be interested in anything that would enhance my stay.
Beacon technology combined with a hotel’s wireless network and some data analysis could enable smaller hotels or hotel groups to compete on the customer experience stakes with their larger counterparts. Hotels could really tailor their offering to the preferences of their customers. Beacons placed in strategic places would enable staff to greet their customers by name and even offer them a cup of their favourite type of tea or coffee on arrival.
Maybe all this sounds like the stuff of Harry Potter but it is purely a coincidence that this is Halloween. If hotels want to compete in a severely disrupted market where room rates are unlikely to sustain their business, they must do all they can to gain some competitive advantage.