Or why it pays to read the man­ual

Hotelier Middle East - - COMMENT & OPINION -

How much do you know about ovens? I have to ad­mit that other than that you open the door on the front, light the gas or switch on the elec­tric­ity, put the food in, close the door, ad­just the di­als, and wait, I re­ally don’t know too much about ovens.

Oddly enough, though, I found my­self dis­cussing ovens with a kitchen sup­plier at a re­cent hos­pi­tal­ity black-tie do. Turns out that to­day’s ovens are tech­no­log­i­cal mar­vels that can do more magic with a piece of meat than Harry Pot­ter with his wand. Also turns out most peo­ple don’t re­ally know how to use them to their full po­ten­tial – or at least that’s what I gath­ered from talk­ing to the kitchen chap. He es­ti­mated that, in many places, his ovens are used to less than half their true po­ten­tial, which re­sults in en­ergy, time, and food wastage, and end prod­ucts that aren’t per­haps as good as they could be.

It’s not just ovens, of course, but also print­ers, TVS, and just about any piece of soft­ware we use in ho­tels. I do en­joy tech­nol­ogy and I’m some­what of a gad­get freak, but even I ad­mit that a) I usu­ally don’t read the man­ual, and b) I of­ten don’t use gad­gets to their full po­ten­tial. On a per­sonal level such be­hav­iour prob­a­bly causes mild an­noy­ances at best, but on a pro­fes­sional level, the mat­ter’s slightly dif­fer­ent and you quickly stand to lose a lot of time and money.

This is where PEBCAK comes into play. Don’t know what PEBCAK is? Ask your IT man­ager, they will know. PEBCAK stands for ‘prob­lem ex­ists be­tween chair and key­board’. In other words, the in­abil­ity of peo­ple to han­dle a piece of tech­nol­ogy or soft­ware cor­rectly. There’s also PEBMAC (prob­lem ex­ists be­tween mon­i­tor and chair) and the very kitchen-com­pat­i­ble PIC­NIC (prob­lem in chair, not in com­puter).

Long story short, it’s us who get in the way of tech­nol­ogy, which then causes un­told mis­ery. There’s a lot of talk about new tech­nol­ogy at in­dus­try events, but let’s face it, very few of us make sure that we use the ex­ist­ing tech­nol­ogy in our ho­tels to the max­i­mum. Go back to the oven chap for a sec­ond. He told me that his ovens are made to be pow­ered up quickly and can be set to cook just about any­thing at the op­ti­mal tem­per­a­ture and with the least amount of en­ergy, pro­vided you press the right but­tons. He also told me that in far too many kitchens he walks in, his ovens sit there fired up to 180 de­grees al­most 24/7. Who’s re­spon­si­ble for the re­sult­ing en­ergy wastage? Cer­tainly not the oven or the oven man­u­fac­turer.

I don’t know how many times I have had hote­liers come to me and say things like “This new <in­sert what­ever soft­ware you can think of here> sys­tem re­ally is a bit rub­bish. It doesn’t even <in­sert what­ever the thing ap­par­ently doesn’t do, but was sup­posed to do here> and it cost us a bun­dle!” Pro­vided I know the sys­tem a hote­lier is talk­ing about, I usu­ally go “Wait, it does that, you just need to do <in­sert what­ever re­ally should have been done in the first place here> and that’s it.”

Some­times, if I don’t know the sys­tem a hote­lier is talk­ing about, but I feel that it’s my lucky day, I press a ran­dom but­ton and, hey presto, cof­fee! Also, I look like a wiz­ard then. On the other hand, I once crashed a well-known PMS man­u­fac­turer’s en­tire ex­hi­bi­tion dis­play that way. You’ve never seen a wiz­ard run that fast!

Se­ri­ously, though, whether it’s ovens, prop­erty man­age­ment sys­tems, rev­enue man­age­ment soft­ware, or the lat­est in­room en­ter­tain­ment gad­get, we would all be bet­ter off if we ac­tu­ally spend more time read­ing the man­u­als and en­sur­ing that we, or the team-mem­bers we en­trust with the tech­nol­ogy, un­der­stand what the tech­nol­ogy can or can­not do.

You wouldn’t buy a con­vert­ible and then not bother to find the but­ton that opens the roof af­ter all, so why put up with this kind of be­hav­iour in your ho­tel?

It’s no good to put the blame on the sup­pli­ers, at least most of the time, or on con­sul­tants. We try our best, but

A reg­u­lar tech­nol­ogy au­dit, car­ried out at least once a year, is a good idea and will quickly es­tab­lish any knowl­edge gaps, sys­tem re­fur­bish­ment or re­place­ment needs”

like guests on check-in, who are ea­ger to set­tle into their rooms, ho­tel folks of­ten don’t lis­ten to ev­ery­thing we say. In case of the guests that leads to the well­known calls to re­cep­tion ask­ing things like “What time does the five o’clock shut­tle leave?”, while in the case of hote­liers, it leads to money and time wasted and un­due blame be­ing put on sys­tems and sys­tem providers.

A reg­u­lar tech­nol­ogy au­dit, car­ried out at least once a year, is a good idea and will quickly es­tab­lish any knowl­edge gaps, sys­tem re­fur­bish­ment or re­place­ment needs, or sim­ply throw up a num­ber of ques­tions to ask the lo­cal sys­tem ven­dor or sup­plier.

Trade fairs are also great ways to find out what sys­tems and tech­nol­ogy can re­ally do, with­out look­ing like a to­tal fool. Just ask the sales per­son to demon­strate what­ever it is that you also use in your ho­tel and pre­tend to be in­ter­ested in pur­chas­ing it, then lis­ten care­fully.

Cour­tesy dis­claimer: My wife has asked me to point out that the is­sues out­lined in this col­umn wouldn’t ex­ist if all ho­tels were run by women, be­cause women have no prob­lems read­ing user man­u­als or ask­ing for di­rec­tions. She also pointed out that, dis­agree­ing with this point of view, would be diplo­mat­i­cally un­wise for me.

What­ever you do: RTFM! (That’s “Read the [pause] man­ual!”, in case you didn’t know al­ready.)


Martin Kubler is the founder of Icon­sultho­tels and the CEO of sps:affin­ity. Icon­sultho­tels is now sps:ho­tels — a lead­ing ho­tel man­age­ment con­sul­tancy that pro­vides its clients for­ward­look­ing busi­ness strate­gies, keep­ing them ahead of the mar­ket. Email: [email protected]­saffin­

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