In the pursuit of contactless service delivery, contact tracing and automation, hotel tech stacks have bloomed over the past year. But even as travelers surge back, we will continue to look at other ways that hardware and software can help to innovate and improve our operations in various ways.
Firstly, consider the current labor shortage that may hotels are facing in certain territories that are at the vanguard of the recovery. Not just at the shift worker level, managerial succession planning and organizational structures have gone by the wayside with all the furloughs. This makes tech and integrations all the more critical to fill in the gaps and enhance the productivity of skeleton crews.
Consider the following labor challenges we are facing and how technology might help:
- We have no precedent to accurately forecast well in advance when exactly this travel surge will occur, so we can’t start planning our recruitment drive
- Travel behavior in 2020 has seen a vastly decreased L2B cycle, and this trend will likely continue into 2021 with many staffers brought on for shifts at the last minute
- Furloughing many of our team members at the outset of the pandemic has resulted in a loss of on-property expertise as well as a decrease in the overall labor pool as many of those furloughed have permanently exited the hospitality industry
- Hotels may be widely deemed as places of high contact and thus relatively unsafe for work, which may detract new candidates from entering the industry
- There is no going back to normal; contactless is here to stay, and as such all guest-facing operations will come with a myriad of new SOPs that may slow down service delivery as well as require additional resources devoted to onboarding
Taken together, these five factors may mean that we are largely unable to effectively manage service delivery if demand heads in the direction that we all want it to go. This is especially true for housekeeping whereby – in advance of a busy late summer weekend, for instance – we may be incapable of finding enough room attendants to turn inventory on time for check-in.
Now here are some ways that technology can help, for which I’m sure you can research vendors:
- Full integrations between all sources of customer data so that you can develop rich guest profiles to target markets according to TRevPAR (that is, high-utilization customers)
- Management software that can automatically connect various departments with messaging apps for a seamless communication stream from guest request to service rendered
- Digitized training including contactless checklists for easier onboarding and accountability
- Smart analytics tools to granularly define the temporality of customer behavior (for example, when are people calling, what’s the most likely arrival time, when are maintenance issues most common and so on) to better forecast labor needs as well as upsell opportunities
- Guest sentiment monitoring and analysis tools that both look at what your guests are saying about you and can let you react in the moment to prevent negative word-of-mouth
- Outsourcing your phone reservations or customer inquiries to a bespoke call center that can handle any surge in call volume without requiring you to increase your own labor requirements
- Using forward-looking market data analysis so that you have at least some idea of when this V-shaped recovery will occur
- Mobile check-in, check-out and folio settlement platforms to thereby reduce the overall burden on the front desk
- Housekeeping optimization software to reduce the load on managers or supervisors and to identify time-saving opportunities
- Secure payment platforms that can ensure contactless transactions without introducing a bunch of additional labor steps or cybersecurity vulnerabilities
- Online and automated networks for hiring and verifying shift-based employees
- Content parity tools that, beyond only rate parity across all the OTAs, can ensure your brand messaging, latest COVID-19 safety measures, flexible cancellation policies are also all uniformly disseminated to every third-party hotel room seller
- Developing an internal bulletin board for your team to share news that may hint at a recovery so that the entire organization can prepare itself
- Keeping the culture strong by using videoconferencing platforms, but not too often as to overload people with too many meetings
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