Tech Checks in @Indian Hotels
The emerging hospitality sector has many folds in terms of development and growth. The hospitality industry is much broader than most other industries. The majority of business niches are composed of only a handful of different businesses, but this industry applies to nearly any company that is focused on customer satisfaction and meeting leisurely needs rather than basic ones. While this industry is very broad, there are some defining aspects that are important to understand. The key note is that this technological advancement are there to enhance, not to replace, the core offerings of a hospitality business.
One of the most defining aspects of this industry is that it focuses on customer satisfaction. While this is true of nearly every business, this industry relies entirely on customers’ being happy. This is because these businesses are based on providing luxury services. Very few hospitality businesses provide a basic service that people need, like food or clothing.
Another defining aspect of this industry is its reliance on disposable income and leisure time. For this reason, the majority of these businesses are for tourists or rich patrons. If disposable income decreases due to a slump or recession, then these are often the first businesses to suffer because customers won’t have the extra money to enjoy their services.
The use of information technology in the hospitality industry has grown tremendously over the past 20 years. This journey has not always
been smooth, but it has become clear that information technology is now a critical competitive weapon in the industry.
If we talk about Information technology it was first used in the hospitality industry in the 1950s, when multinational hotel chains began experimenting with the developing field of computer science. As in most other industries, the majority of the initial applications focused on accounting and automating repetitive and timeconsuming tasks.
However, such conversions were usually only partially successful, and a large number of changes to business processes and procedures were often needed to accommodate the requirements of the computerized system. Moreover, the expense and technicality involved in both developing and running systems made the use of computerization economical only for the largest companies.
Despite these problems, the hospitality industry at large has pioneered many information system innovations. Airline reservation systems, for example, were completing electronic commerce transactions long before the commercialization of the Internet and the dot-com bubble of the late nineties. In the early 1970s, the Hotel St Jacque in Paris introduced software that automated reservations, check-in, guest billing and various aspects of management control. Punched cards were issued to guests, allowing charges to be instantly posted directly onto their ‘electronic’ bill.
There are a number of solutions that have already begun to change the way that business is done, or the way that it will be done in the near future. The common attribute that they all share is the fact that they allow businesses to have a more convenient, informed and valuable relationship with their customers.
Ashish Khanna, Assistant Vice President, Corporate IT, The Oberoi Group added, “Technology has been a driver in hospitality industry forever since our guest travel from different geographies and a lot of time are exposed to much latest technologies than we currently use in this part of globe. This factor keeps all IT hoteliers on their toes to stay ahead of the curve. We as a group were the first ones to bring VSAT in India and later wireless technologies to keep our guest feel at home away from home and stay connected.”
Technology is advancing at a faster pace than ever before, and this is changing both the expectations of patrons as well as the way in which the hospitality industry conducts its business. Some of the trends in industry are leading to great improvements and savings for hospitality industry companies; while some are changing how hotel developers plan their buildings, infrastructure, management structure and staffing requirements.
Kadam Jeet Jain, Co-Founder, Treebo shared how technology has boosted the hospitality sector and brought a terrific change in the industry. He added that technology has played a significant role which has leaded the hotel owners to automate the hotel and run the hotel in a more significant manner with the advent of so many cloud based property management systems.
An effective CRM makes it easier to build ongoing relationships with customers, as well as making important details easily accessible to all staff via a cloud-based application, talking about CRM practices Kadam Jeet Jain added, “CRM is essential to provide a delightful experience to the customers and for a hospitality brand it becomes really important to personalize the experience of the guest, to do that you need to know more about the guest preferences and store it in the CRM and later recheck it when the guest visits the hotel the next time this way a customer gets a personalized experience altogether.”
Another aspect in the hospitality sector is the turning of the computers and register format and picking the smart way of managing the data entry. Clunky computer hardware has become virtually extinct from most modern homes as desktop computers get replaced with more mobile tablets and smart phones. Many hospitality related businesses find that mobile devices fit their strategic vision, operational methods and budgets better than traditional computers in many cases. Professionals can engage guests from anywhere on the property and take care of their needs in real time when hotels replace the stationary desktops with fast, mobile computing devices.
Sanjay Wadhwa, General Manager Radisson, Udaipur, shared that, “Fraction of business is almost 10-15% from the online booking concept; it is making a huge difference and also bringing a factor of convenience
to book a room in a hotel and get altogether a personalized experience from the your booked place.
Ramendra Pratap Singh, General Manager, Park Plaza, Noida believes that technology has changed the hospitality sector in a vast manner, talking about concept of online booking he said, “Online booking has connected people from far of places and made their travel easy and chaos-free. He also claimed that 30-35 fraction of business of Park Plaza comes from online booking.”
Trending concept of electronic point of sale is a computerized equipment that performs all tasks of a store checkout counter. It allows payments by bank or credit cards, verifies transactions, provides sales reports, coordinates inventory data, and performs several other services normally provided by employees.
Electronic point of sale (EPOS) systems are becoming more and more sophisticated, allowing hospitality venues to operate more efficiently and provide better customer service. By integrating with CRM, inventory management and other tools, information on capacity, reservations, stock, loyalty programs and more is accessible at the touch of a button. In addition, cloudbased POS applications are becoming more common, which means that staff can process, orders, bookings and payments directly from a tablet. This affords them greater mobility and adds another level of convenience for the customer
Ramendra from Park Plaza added, “EPOS helps in entertaining the customer needs better by looking back to the customer history while jotting down the order.”
“EPOS is the future. Today guests are not only available physically to the outlet but they are omni-present. One can do online ordering using web, Mobile Apps etc. Hotels need to gear up to tap all these consumers demands and deliver it anytime anywhere,” added Ashish Khanna from The Oberai.
“In our understanding EPOS systems are replaced by mobile apps post invention of touch based I-PAD and tablet (2010) onwards. Our selected hotels have started deploying I-PAD and tablet in place of traditional F&B menu cards. This helps guests understand the F&B items in a much interesting way using visual communication with details of a dish supported by a Video and pictures, Calorie content, preparation method and serving time etc. It is becoming very popular among Generation Y and Generation M guests,” said Harish Chandra, General Manager- Information Technology, Sarovar Hotels.
In the largely customer driven hospitality industry, the use of technology to speed operations and gather detailed customer information is not optional. This rings true about technology in the hospitality industry for large chain establishments as well as little known, mom and pop hoteliers, restaurants and transportation companies.
“These days, people are 24*7 online. As such they are always looking for everything on their mobiles. If a hotel has an app, that can be installed by a customer and thereby he can receive customized offers and discounts which others may be unable to receive. So, this is again a motivating factor to invite more people into our hotel and experience the sophistication and delight by staying there. Plus with smartphones, people can actually enjoy, have a look at the property and book hassle-free.” Added Harish Chandra, General Manager-Information Technology, Sarovar Hotels.
The proliferation of smartphones is yet another opportunity for hospitality businesses to improve customer service. Hilton Worldwide has taken advantage of this by offering guests the ability to check in and out, select their room, check maps and make extra requests or purchases all from their smartphones. And an even more revolutionary service will soon be made available, using security technology that allows smartphones to function as room keys.
In many airports, it’s no longer necessary to stand in a queue to check in and people are expecting the same kind of easy, technologydriven check-ins at hotels. Guests want to be able to do everything from checking in at a venue’s automated kiosk to ordering room service with a digital device instead of standing in queues and moving around the hotel premises to order food.
Hotel industry without IT is not possible starting from the property management system to the billing system to the Wi-Fi to the cameras every where there is a presence of IT. Time where things are happening with a single touch, customers are placing orders without any hassles, check out facility has been made easy with the emerging concept of mobile apps where you can check-in, check-out any time of the day or night without bothering the staff, added Anirban Chatterjee, Assistant Manager- Systems, The Sonnet Hotel, Kolkata.
Thanks to digital innovation and social media, guests also expect digital interactions with the hotel to be personalized. When investing in digital apps for check-ins, room service and other customer-oriented digital interactions, hotel operators are investing in systems and technologies that can personalize the experience for guests, including a guest’s name being displayed on the welcome desk at a digital check-in station; their food preferences or past purchases being displayed in a digital room-service order system; and similar.
J P Aggarwal from Jaypee Residency, commented on the emerging concept of IT in hospitality and mentioned that, “IT is setting a benchmark by giving both the staff and customers an excellent service of taking an experience and providing it at the same place.”
Like many of the other technology trends in the hospitality industry, investing in a check-in requires a small initial investment and can lead to greater efficiency and savings as hotel staff are able to focus on customer service and property developers don’t have to create large static reception desks at each entrance and hotel location.
“Smartphones opens up lot of new and exciting channels for hospitality consumer apps are now available to be offered on guest phones to watch their own content on guest room tv’s, Guest can receive their room key much before they arrive at the hotel, They can order food or
book a spa using hotel apps before their arrival at the hotel. These are very few to name but opportunities are much on both Guest and Admin side of hotel,” shared Ashish Khanna, from The Oberai.
Marketing professionals are trained to follow the money, and this means engaging customers where they naturally congregate. Currently, the internet is that place. One the fastest growing tools for internet marketers today is social media. Any hospitality business that wants to continue staying viable uses social media to forge deeper relationships online with its potential customers. Instead of using outdated outbound marketing campaigns that go largely ignored, these hospitality industry marketing professionals provide valuable information about updated amenities and special promotions to site visitors who are actually interested in what the marketers have to say.
However, this newly exploited relationship building tool can be a double edged sword if customers want to complain about a poor product or service in a very public way. The hospitality industry business that exploits social media for marketing purposes must be prepared to answer their new friends appropriately and promptly. The ease and speed of modern internet technologies offer corporate social media marketers a way to hold themselves accountable for customer service issues.
Technology has infiltrated almost every aspect of our lives and hotel developers need to realize that almost any person checking in at a hotel, resort, spa or lodge, will have a smartphone in their pockets.
Many companies in the hospitality industry are already using social media to their advantage as guests check-in on location-based social media apps, tweet about their experience on Twitter and share their holiday photos with friends and followers on Instagram and Facebook. This trend will continue and hotels can expect to see even more social media engagement from guests who use these platforms to give feedback about their experience, complain and give compliments about their stay. Hotel staff is also expected to provide feedback and address and complaints or queries from guests in realtime.
From an online, reputation management perspective, this is a trend that marketers and hotel management need to manage proactively. Consumers don’t make decisions about where they’re going to travel to or book a stay in a vacuum – they turn to community-developed content and rating systems such as Trip Advisor and social media to make decisions about holiday destinations, hotels and leisure. This shift has led to many hotel and leisure groups developing active social media monitoring and communication strategies in order to stay on top of what’s being said about them online and making sure that both marketing and operational staff address feedback that has been given online.
An additional way in which operator can take full advantage of technology in this space is using it to communicate how well they are doing (in real time) with respect to their various environmental initiatives (such as real time electricity/water usage reporting, etc.)
Harish from Sarovar Hotel chain said, “We are more prominently spreading our wings of brand awareness through Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and Google plus. This is because these platforms are very happening and invite a lot more people. The best advantage of using these social platforms is that we get traffic from both organic and referral links. Plus contests, quizzes, intriguing pictures etc. are a way of interacting with people. One on one way interaction through replies and comments is a better way to stay connected with people even when you are not physically present.”
Advances in smart appliances and home automation are beginning to reach the hotel industry, and will no doubt have a greater influence in the future. Lighting, temperature, blinds, alarms, TV, radio and room service will all be controlled from a single tablet device, or from a single app that guests can download and login to from their own device.
Ashish Khanna from Oberai Group stated about giving a personalized experience, “We have developed a bouquet o services bundeled as Oberoi enhance which is offered at our Oberoi Brand of hotels. The services are delivered on IPAD and the guest can control all equipments in the room using this ipad right from in room lighting, Air conditioning, curtains, tv and door lock etc. Guest can watch movies on demand using this service and also order their food inroom and monitor their overall spends in the hotel by looking at their invoice. This has taken the guest experience to a different level.”
Despite the many changes that are being brought on by these technologies, the truth is that they are there to enhance, not to replace, the core offerings of a hospitality business. Top quality food and customer service are still the fundamental pillars of the industry, but the technologies discussed above can make it easier for you to consistently deliver a memorable experience to your guests.
Harish further added that, “Guest prefers simple electronic & technology systems and wishes to experience a ‘home away from home’. In this view we prefer to use KISS principle -‘keep it simple and silly’ - instead of overdoing or over playing with technology.”
“Today’s traveller carries many Wi-Fi enabled electronic gadgets. They wish to use them with the same ease in a hotel guest room the way they uFse them at their home or office without any training or human interventions. Mobile apps and solutions are being deployed in hotels where guest can automate room completely i.e. controlling A.C., setting lights as per time automatically or guest can set it as per his\her mood, playing music and video from their personal device etc.
Hotels will increasingly install smart room access systems that allow guests to unlock their doors by simply swiping their phones
across a keyless pad on the door. Starwood (owner of the Sheraton, Weston and “W” hotel chains) has already upgraded 30,000 room locks across 150 hotels with this system and Hilton will be implementing a similar system at 10 of their US properties. In 2016, they will be deploying the smart room key technology globally. This technology will mean that guests don’t have to worry about picking up keys and front desk staff won’t have to issue new keys in the event that a guest loses their room key. Another innovative way to offer a keyless experience is through fingerprint-activated room entry systems and retina scanning devices. Retina scanning is even more accurate and secure than fingerprint scans.
Talking about serving the guest with a personalized experience, Arpana Singh, Assistant Manager- Information Technology, Radisson, Udaipur commented, “We have corporate policies involved in all the Carlson hotels which are required to maintain guest data in a very private manner. We are in a practice of maintaining everything in a very safe environment so that guest gets a personalized system experience. The guest will also get a beautiful interface in terms of our website and also in terms of offerings.”
A generic technology doesn’t mean that customer experience can only happen online and through devices, check-ins and online comments. All of these experiences need to be part of an integrated, dynamic system so that the guests’ experiences are at the forefront of the marketing and operational team’s mind. If a guest leaves a comment about their stay when they check-out of the hotel, for example, the right people need to reply and acknowledge this type of communication. If a guest leaves a complaint about not being able to stream mobile content during their stay, then processes should be put in place to ensure the right person follows up by communicating with the guest and solving the problem at the hotel.
“These days’ people are looking to connect to hotels which are smart in a manner where they can provide an experience to the customers which they never forget. For that we need to put all the services in place whether in terms of security, data entering, and know- ing guest with innovative style. Talking about the young generation who are connecting to hotel chains are tech-oriented, they love to work in a more tech-savvy environment than the older concept,” added Dhiraj Trivedi, CEO, Immense Hospitality.
The hospitality industry’s backbone is comprised of customer service, a concept shared by all segments of the industry. Your small business may focus on one or all facets of hospitality. How accomplished you and your staff are at serving others will determine your business’ level of success. You may find it easier to excel in just one category of the hospitality industry. However, though costs and challenges will increase, owning or managing several facets of hospitality can provide you with many more opportunities to generate success.
The hospitality industry is one that is primarily focused on customer satisfaction. For the most part, it is built on leisure or is luxury-based, as opposed to meeting basic needs. Hotels and resorts, cruise lines, airlines and other various forms of travel, tourism, special event planning, and restaurants all generally fall under the realm of the hospitality industry.
This service-based industry thrives on the leisure activities of patrons. Some of the business that the hospitality industry garners is transient and intermittent, but collectively, it accounts for a large source of its revenue. For example, a vacationing family may fly from one country to another, book a hotel room for the duration of their visit, dine at local restaurants, and tour theme parks or other area attractions. All of these activities involve the services provided by various areas of the hospitality industry.
Exceptional service is usually very important for all of these businesses. Customer satisfaction usually leads to consumer loyalty, which helps to ensure the success of a company in the hospitality industry. For example, if an individual chooses a particular airline and has a positive experience, he or she is likely to use it again in the future. Alternatively, if the flight is unpleasant, the airline attendants are rude, or the customer is otherwise displeased with the service, he or she is less likely to return to that airline the next time the opportunity arises.
“Technology has been a driver in hospitality industry forever since our guest travel from different geographies and a lot of time are exposed to much latest technologies than we currently use in this part of globe. This factor keeps all IT hoteliers on their toes to stay ahead of the curve. We as a group were the first ones to bring VSAT in India and later wireless technologies to keep our guest feel at home away from home and stay connected.”
Ashish Khanna, Assistant Vice President, Corporate IT,
The Oberoi Group
“IT is setting a benchmark by giving both the staff and customers an excellent service of taking an experience and providing it at the same place.” J P Aggarwal from Jaypee
“CRM is essential to provide a delightful experience to the customers and for a hospitality brand it becomes really important to personalize the experience of the guest, to do that you need to know more about the guest preferences and store it in the CRM and later re-check it when the guest visits the hotel the next time this way a customer gets a personalized experience altogether.”
Kadam Jeet Jain, Co-Founder, Treebo
“Fraction of business is almost 10-15% from the online booking concept; it is making a huge difference and also bringing a factor of convenience to book a room in a hotel and get altogether a personalized experience from the your booked place.”
Sanjay Wadhwa, General Manager Radisson,
“In our understanding EPOS systems are replaced by mobile apps post invention of touch based I-PAD and tablet (2010) onwards. Our selected hotels have started deploying I-PAD and tablet in place of traditional F&B menu cards.” Harish Chandra, General
Manager- Information Technology, Sarovar Hotels
“Online booking has connected people from far of places and made their travel easy and chaos-free. He also claimed that 30-35 fraction of business of Park Plaza comes from online booking.”
Ramendra Pratap Singh, General Manager, Park Plaza,
“We have corporate policies involved in all the Carlson hotels which are required to maintain guest data in a very private manner. We are in a practice of maintaining everything in a very safe environment so that guest gets a personalized system experience.” Arpana Singh, Assistant
Manager- Information Technology, Radisson, Udaipur
“These days’ people are looking to connect to hotels which are smart in a manner where they can provide an experience to the customers which they never forget. For that we need to put all the services in place whether in terms of security, data entering, and knowing guest with innovative style.” Dhiraj Trivedi, CEO, Immense Hospitality